How to complete an effective IB Economics IA Portfolio

By IB ++tutors Jon P. 

For the New Syllabus Examinations 2022


The IB Diploma Economics course requires a compulsory Internal Assessment that is both an integral part of the course and enables students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge and to pursue their personal interests without the time limitations and constraints associated with the external examinations.

The Portfolio is a requirement of both SL and HL schemes and represents 20% of the overall assessment for SL and 30% for HL.  Both SL and HL econ students will produce a portfolio of three commentaries based on articles from published news media.

The 3 chosen articles and corresponding commentaries must focus on a different unit of the syllabus (excluding section 1:  Introduction to economics) 2: Microeconomics 3: Macroeconomics 4: The global economy.   Each commentary must also focus on one of the 9 Key Concepts of the DP economics course:

scarcity, choice, efficiency, equity, economic well-being, sustainability, change, interdependence, intervention

Word Limit

Students must produce a portfolio of three commentaries.  Each commentary must not exceed 800 words.  Moderators will not read beyond 800 words for each commentary.

The following are not included in the word count.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Contents page
  • Diagrams
  • Labels (5 words or fewer)
  • Titles on diagrams (10 words or fewer)
  • Tables of statistical data
  • Equations, formulae and calculations
  • Citations (which if used must be in the body of the commentary*)
  • References (which if used must be footnotes/endnotes and referenced fully)

*Citations and definitions must be included in the body of the work and are included in the word count.

Rubric Requirements

Each article must be based on a different unit of the syllabus.

Students must use a different source for each commentary.

Students need to look for articles relating to current events and these must be published no earlier than one year before writing the commentary.


5 Tips for finding a good article

#1.  Generally speaking, a big article is not a ‘better’ article, it may provide too much analysis for the candidate and cover multiple topics which reduces the ability to keep focus to key concepts and may require application to too much economic theory to be covered in 800 words.  A short concise article focusing on one specific section of the syllabus and a clear connection with one key concept is ideal.

#2.  Try to find an article that includes quantitative data that can be included and analyzed in the commentary.  This helps with the application and can also be used to convey more meaning and application to the diagrams.

#3.  Be sure to use reputable news sources and refrain from choosing opinion pieces and published economic papers.   General news should have more layman descriptions and allows the candidate to more easily apply and analyze with economic theory as a criteria of the commentary.

#4.  Use news aggregators to search for topics, if one article about a specific topic is too big or lacks focus, there are likely many other articles which depict the ‘real world’ current event you are hoping to cover.

#5.  Don’t be afraid to search news outside of your home country (especially for the macro section).  There are always plenty of current events pertaining to economics and lastly it is my belief that the longer you search for an ideal article, the easier the writing of the IA itself.


See the syllabus for a breakdown of the descriptors for each criterion

Criterion Commentary Section Marks
A Diagrams 3
B Terminology 2
C Application and analysis 3
D Key Concept 3
E Evaluation 3
Total for each commentary 14 Marks
F (3 marks) Total for the portfolio (3 IAs) 45

How to score full marks for each Criterion:

Criterion A:  Diagrams

A minimum of 2 diagrams should be included in each IA. These need to be constructed by the candidate and should be titled to match the IA specifically and include as much quantitative information as possible.  Along with a fully correctly labelled diagram there must be an explanation in the body of the commentary which explains the diagrams fully.  Be sure to label and reference intercepts in your explanation.

Criterion B: Terminology

Throughout the IA consistently should have use of economic terminology.  Whenever possible economic key terms from the syllabus must be included in your discussion.  Also avoid use of vague terms to describe relative change or comparisons, be as specific as possible.

Criterion C: Application and Analysis

The Application criterion is usually not difficult to receive full marks. If the article is about inflation, using a macroeconomics aggregate supply/aggregate demand diagram is correct application; using a macroeconomic diagram for a single market would be inappropriate application. In other words, the correct and appropriate economic theory must be chosen.

It is also important that facts and ideas in the article are referred to with the economic theory. This means that the commentary you write will only apply to that article you chose. Many times students write “generic” commentaries; ones where if you replaced the article with a different article, the commentary would still make sense. These types of commentaries potentially would lose marks on “application” because the student did not apply the economic theory specifically to the article.

Be sure before you write your IA that you plan and identify the economic concepts that you will address.  This should be done as part of your selection process for your article.

The Analysis criterion is usually the one most students understand the best on what to do (as they usually have practiced it many times in class), but often a challenging one for two reasons:

Students “over” analyze. They analyze everything in the article, which is not necessary. Part of the reason is the poor choice of article: the article is too long and has too much information. Students can also go off in tangents when analyzing. Make sure that the analysis is on the most important aspects of the economic event and one that will lead to your evaluation.

Students don’t write concisely. Most students have the idea that “longer” is better when it comes to writing and this is completely wrong. You should use the exact words that is necessary to convey what you want the reader to understand. Use professional writing (not like a literature piece or a diary) and avoid unnecessary words. The rule of thumb for unnecessary words is: “if I took out this word, would it make any difference?” If the answer is “no”, take it out.

DO:  The demand for contact lens increased because the price of glasses increased in July.

DON’T:  As one can clearly and obviously see, the demand for contact lens in the contact lens market increased significantly due to the fact that there was an exponentially high increase in price for glasses in the glasses market one month ago in July.

Analysis is a discussion of the effects of the change or problem identified in the introductory paragraph of your IA.  The economic explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of your topic.  No evaluation should be presented rather analysis should be used as the evidence to support your evaluation.

Criterion D: Key Concept

Explicitly identify the one of the 9 key concepts in your opening paragraph.   This should act as an underlying theme of your discussion.  Review your prose and ask yourself it this applies and supports the key concepts with your statements.

Criterion E: Evaluation

Here are some considerations to help you evaluate your article:

  • How accurately does the economic theory apply to the article? How does the theory not apply?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to the economic situation, government’s decisions, firm’s decisions, and other economic solutions/options?
  • What are the merit and demerit to the stakeholders? Cost benefit analysis
  • To what extent (are there any conditionals?) would the government’s solution work or not work?
  • Balanced (both good and bad are presented/ both sides of the story are weighed)
  • Weighing alternative solutions.
  • Future forecast – what can we expect to see in the future?
  • Assumptions on which the theory under considered is based and not based
  • Long term and short term consequences/effects
  • Prioritize solutions and arguments
  • Include any ethical stand that merits consideration with respect to the article

Evaluation is not simply a concluding summary of your previous analysis.  You have identified a problem and the evaluation is the effects, solutions and not solely your opinion.  Your evaluation must be balanced and presented with reasoning and evidence.

Criterion F:  Rubric Requirements

This last criterion is for the portfolio as a whole.  3 points awarded when ensuring:

  • Each article is based on a different unit of the syllabus
  • Each article is taken from a different and appropriate source
  • Each article was published no earlier than one year before writing the commentary

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