Step Four – Including Diagrams.

IB Economics.

Diagrams are essential to economics. When you draw a diagram to explain or illustrate an economics situation, you are demonstrating your ‘ application’ skills – applying the theory we learn in class to explain or illustrate an economic situation. If you want top marks for your coursework, your diagram have to be excellent.

The following are a list of rules to follow:-

1)  Diagrams should be large –  around one-third of a page in size.

2)     Always label the axes appropriately – eg  “Price of Cars” , not just “Price”  and “Quantity of Oil (Barrels per Year) ” not just “Quantity”.

3)    Indicate the equilibrium points with dotted lines to the axes, with notation on the axes such as Q1 to Q2 or AD1 to AD2

4)   You must use ARROWS to show the direction of any change i.e. a shift in a curve, an increase or decrease in price.

5)    Do not confuse Macro and Microeconomics in your labeling! Eg it is ” Price” in Microeconomics and  “Price Level” in Macroeconomics.

6)    Most of your diagrams should be dynamic not static (i.e. they are illustrating some process of economic change). In other words curves must shift, prices change etc.

7)  Do not BEGIN or END your commentary with a diagram. They must be located in the main body of the commentary.

8)  Always explain and describe your diagrams, with explanations / descriptions coming AFTER the diagram. You must refer to specific lines and points AND you must use the diagram labels!

9)  Label your diagrams “Diagram 1”, “Diagram 2” or “Figure 1”, “Figure 2” etc so that you can easily refer to them in your analysis.

Here is an example of an excellent diagram with a good explanation:-



Step Three – Writing Up Your Commentary

IB Economics.

The maximum word count for each commentary is 750 words. It is vitally important to write as close as possible up to this limit i.e. 749 words! In order to maximize your marks, you will have to do a lot of things – write an introduction and conclusion, draw one or two diagrams, explain and describe each one, define some economic terms and concepts that you are using, directly refer to the article etc. All of this takes up a lot of your word count! For this reason make sure you use as much of your word count as possible.

I give my students the following diagram to help them:-

Commentary Structure Diagram.

In this case the commentary is two pages long and is made up of 8 paragraphs of writing. It includes 2 diagrams and each diagram is explained and described underneath. There is an introductory and concluding paragraph. (You don’t need to give them these subtitles, bye-the-way. Indeed, your commentary should not include any subtitles. It should just be composed of  series of paragraphs, like a mini-essay).

Step One – Finding a Good Article.

IB Economics.

One of the first mistakes students new to economics make is to choose an inappropriate article for their commentary. So the first thing that you need to do is to find a good one.

I give my students this checklist to help them, when they are looking for articles:-


When looking for commentary articles, you need to take the following into consideration:-

  1. Is the article a recent one? It must be no older than a year old from today’s date. (I am even stricter with regard to how recent the article should be – see the checklist!)
  2. Is the article from a news media source? The article must be ‘ contemporaneous ‘ i.e. recent, and it must come from a news website or from a news source. For example, this source would be inappropriate because it is an educational website, not a news media website.
  3. Is the article not too lengthy? About a page or a page and a half of A4 writing is about the right size.
  4. Is there economic language and  terminology in the article? For example, does it mention demand, supply or price? Does it mention exchange rates, appreciation, depreciation or government intervention in the foreign exchange markets? These are concepts contained in the economics syllabus, so the article must mention or talk about, two, three or four of these concepts.
  5. Is the article too ‘ business’ orientated? Business and economics are very similar subjects, but be careful not to choose an article that only talks about one company, it’s business strategies, it’s revenues, profits, losses etc. For example, this article,  is too ‘business’ orientated. It mentions issues related to business ( workers rights, treatment of workers etc.) but hardly mentions anything linked to the economics syllabus.  The only exception  is if you are a HL student who is wanting to do a commentary on the Theory of the Firm topic. In this case, a business article could be appropriate.
  6. Has the article got too much politics in it? Economics and politics are two closely related subjects, but if your article talks a lot about political parties, their strategies, elections etc., then it probably has too much politics in it. This article, for example, although it is about the EU, a trading bloc, which is on the syllabus, has probably too much politics in it and should therefore be avoided.
  7. Could you draw one or two economics diagrams to illustrate what the article is talking about? This is vitally important if you want to maximize your marks.
  8. Is the article interesting to read? There are a lot of quite good article with economic content in them, but they can be quite dull. Does your article contain an interesting twist in it that makes it stand out from other articles?