Extended Essay Ib History Command

This second part in the series of blogs of preparing for examinations – understanding Command Terms. The Command Terms for ITGS are found on the last two pages of the ITGS Guide as a reference. However, their importance places them as a top priority. All assessments both internal (Projects) and external (Paper 1, Paper 2 and HL Paper 3) rely on understanding these Command Terms.

What are Command Terms?Command Terms are verbs that are used used to state questions on an examination paper. The word usually appears at the beginning of a sentence to ‘set the scene’ for the type of response that is expected.

For example, let’s compare two common items: a tennis dress and a party dress.

There are 17 Command Terms (see chart below) for ITGS.   Consider what questions could be asked about these dresses using these Command Terms.

Questions may include:

  • Identify the two types of dresses.
  • Describe the tennis dress.
  • Outline where the party dress would be worn.
  • Explain how the design of  tennis dress is suited to the purpose for which is it used.
  • To what extent is the design of this tennis dress suited to the purpose for which it is used.

There are several points being made in these examples:

  • there is a hierarchy in the demands and thinking required in the Command Terms in the table.
  • questions are allocated a varying number of marks depending which Command Term is used.
  • the level thinking skills required varies from recall at the lower end with the word ‘Identify’ and increases when we reach the Command Terms “To what extent”, ‘Discuss’, ‘Evaluate’, and ‘Justify’.
  • ‘Formulate’ is only used on HL Paper 3.

The hierarchy from lower level to higher order thinking skills is shown in the diagram below.

It is important in preparing for examinations to understand the requirements of each of the command terms and organize responsesaccordingly. For example, carefully read the definition of ‘describe’ and ‘explain’. ‘Explain’ needs to meet the same requirements as ‘describe’ , but with  ‘reasons or causes’ also added. ‘Explain’ means ‘describe’ the situation and also provide the reasons ‘why’.

Three command terms that need to be considered together are: compare, contrast and distinguish. For example, consider the question ‘distinguish between the kind of online marketing that may be used to by a shop owner to advertise  tennis dresses and to advertise party dresses’. The response requires clear references to boththe tennis dress and to the party dress in the response. The differences in the advertising for tennis dresses and for party dresses must be clearly presented.

The Command Terms ‘Discuss’, ‘Evaluate’, ‘To what extent’ and ‘Justify’ are more demanding because they appear in the last part of questions on ITGS Papers. They require in-depth responses which address a range of considerations and  balance by looking at different sides of the situation. At the end a conclusion must be reached that is consistent with the argument that has been presented and is not simply a restatement of what has already been stated earlier in the response.

In a similar manner all of the command terms need to be carefully reviewed by looking at specific scenarios where they are used. Past examination questions are useful for this purpose.


The Extended Essay is an individual project of 4000 words.

It is a chance to study a topic that interests you which is not covered by the syllabus.
It can cover any historical topic of your choice from within the past 10 years.
It is supervised by your History teacher, but marked by the IB board.
It will involve an emphasis on personal research and the use of primary sources.

Click on the following headings to get guidance in choosing a question and writing your study.

After the first batch of studies are marked according to the new criteria in Summer 2018, I hope to upload some particularly good studies to this website to share with everyone.

It gives you a chance to study in real depth a topic that you have an interest in.
It can relate to any period and any topic within the last 10 years.
It gives you the chance to work closely with your History teacher to 'fast-track' your historical skills with one-to-one tutoring.
As such it is a great opportunity to produce a mature academic study on something that you might never again have the chance to research.

Both the IA and the EE in History award students who choose an interesting question which they research thoroughly and answer coherently through critical evaluation of evidence.

The IA is only 1500 words long; the EE is 4,000 words.
The EE requires a much heavier emphasis on the use of primary source material than the IA.
The IA is structured into specific sections; the EE is structured more flexibly.
The IA markscheme grades each section separately; the EE markscheme grades each criteria across the essay as a whole.

You will select which of your IB subjects will form the basis of your EE in the Spring Term of the first year of IB. This will usually (although not always) be one of your Higher Level subjects. The supervisor will set a series of internal deadlines and meetings for each student to ensure the completion of the study in a timely fashion.

Start by considering if there is a period / place / person / issue in history that would like to investigate further. Maybe this is something you have read a little about, watched a film about or are interested in from your other studies / hobbies. The only strict rule is that anything that happened in the past 10 years is not allowed.

The three main focuses of study tend to be focused on

  • EITHER Causes of an event / situation;
  • OR Consequences of an event / situation
  • OR Relevance of particular evidence about an event / situation (e.g. a painting, novel, film, biography).

The following resources may help you in your quest for a topic:

Online archives:

Other resources:

  • History Department Magazine collection
  • History Department DVD collection

Once you have settled upon a topic, you have to then turn this into a question - a problem that your study will solve, in other words.

The following table could help you get started

To what extent was...[Event]

responsible for...

the most important result of...
How useful is...the Novel...
the Album...
oral testimony...
the painting...
the film...
to the historian studying...
How successful / significant was...[Individual] (e.g. politician / sportsperson / entertainer / film director / etc)in the context of...

The following list of past Extended Essay questions from the IST will also be helpful:

  • How has politics influenced Berlin's architecture over the 20th century? (Predicted 'A')
  • To what extent was World War Two a catalyst for British Decolonisation? (Predicted 'B')
  • How decisive was Spanish intervention in World War Two? (Graded 'A')
  • How far did Nietzsche's ideas influence the Third Reich? (Graded 'B')
  • How reliable is Hogarth's 'The Rake's Progress' as evidence of 18th century London? (Graded 'A')
  • How and why do Historical sources disagree about the life and career of Bonnie Parker? (Graded 'B')

You are now ready to complete the Initial Proposal Sheet and hand it to your teacher.

Make sure that this is a detailed, considered proposal. Your supervisor will schedule a meeting with you to talk about how you plan to structure your essay in particular.

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