Global Politics Paper 2
Deconstruct the question to discover an underlying debate
Often the question will be constructed like “Examine the claim that sovereignty is an impediment to the promotion of human rights”. At heart, the question is asking you to recognise the key debate on sovereignty vs. human rights. The underlying debate, then, is also one between realism and liberalism, in the sense that realists would argue that states would maintain sovereignty over their pursuit for an ideal such as Human Rights, whereas liberals would argue that IGOs such as UN agencies, NGOs, and the international community as a whole often promote Human Rights in spite of sovereignty.
Throughout my Mock Exams and practice exams at school, I discovered that some common debates are between:
- Sovereignty vs Human Rights
- Sovereignty vs Global Governance
- Sovereignty vs NGOs, IGOs, MNCs
- Hard Power vs Soft Power
- Economic Development vs Human & Sustainable Development
- Codifying vs Promoting and Protecting Human Rights
- Military intervention vs Non-military measures (eg. sanctions)
When you get a question you don’t recognise very well, don’t panic, and try to set up a debate between two terms found in the question and try to connect these to a larger debate between, for instance, realist and liberalist schools of thought.
Construct a nuanced thesis that acknowledges complexity
Almost without exception, my Paper 2 thesis was written in this format: “Although it has been argued by [Liberalists/Realists] that [side that I don’t want to agree with] because [best reason I can give for the other side], it must be duly noted that [my own argument]”
No matter how you write your thesis, bear in mind that the rubric for Paper 2 states: “Counterclaims, or different views on the question, are explored and evaluated”, meaning that it is necessary that you talk about two or more points of view. A strong thesis will already allow you to acknowledge the complexity of the question and allow you to draw out a larger debate from the question. Also, you ensure that you sound much more balanced, as you address the other point of view first and then dismantle it.
Memorise compelling examples to support your argument
I memorised about 30 case studies with many case studies overlapping several times to cover 2 or more units. This made memorising so much more efficient and so much easier to make connections in the exam room. Try to make a running list of case studies throughout your 18 months, so that when the time comes, you have a bank of case studies that you can use to really shine in IB exams.
Make sure your case studies include all the learning outcomes, but also try to make them include several different countries. Remember, it is the International Baccalaureate and it is Global Politics, so to make your arguments seem more compelling and universal, try to include several countries from across the globe.
When you use your case studies for Paper 2 essays, remember that they are only examples. You don’t want the examples to overpower your main point. For what it’s worth, the structure of each paragraph shouldn’t be too complex - just have a main point you want to make, then use a case study to support your point, justifying how this case study applies to your question and how it may or may not be limited.
Finally, a good use for case studies is to trade with friends - remember you’re all on the same side - so try to share some case studies with each other to maximise your content - especially if you’re in an international school with multiple international perspectives.
I will make my Global Politics Quizlet available for Patreons so please consider joining up to help my work in cultivating the next generation of IB students, as well as to gain access to high level content, such as my study Quizlets
Macro-level evaluation - evaluate theories
The rubric very clearly states that you need to explore and evaluate different perspectives to the question. It also states, “The response demonstrates a very good grasp of the key concepts of the course.” - I suggest that a “very good grasp” entails that you need to know not only what the key concepts and theories are arguing, but also where they are limited. Especially for students aiming for that 6 or 7, you will need to evaluate the theories you use.
In my essays, I would make my counterargument as my first pagragraphs and really try to make a compelling argument. I’m naturally more realist leaning (I would classify myself as a classical realist, as I believe more that it’s human nature, not structure that leads to the lurking of conflict and power struggles between and within states). However, I would make a long argument in favour of liberalism and then write, “However, it must be duly noted…” then give a limitation to the opposing theory.
In my practice exams at school, I would even write pretending, as it were, to be a liberalist, to grow my appreciation for the theory and to be able to write strong arguments in favour of the theoretical perspective, and to be able to evaluate the realist framework, which was much more natural for me.
Micro-level evaluation - evaluate case studies
To show that “in-depth understanding of global politics is applied”, you need to have strong case studies. However, to give something in-depth as the rubric states, you need to also show detailed knowledge of each case study - so much knowledge that you can also show the limitations of the case study. It need not be extensive. For instance, I had a really strong case study, where China is beginning to build dams along rivers that flow into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc, thereby causing potential for conflict (according to Mearshimer). This study links to all 4 units, so I used it a lot. I often wrote something like, “Although this example is a significant example in favour of the view that conflict is inevitable, many have argued that this is only a hypothetical cause of conflict, as significant violent conflict is yet to be caused. However, this case study is only one of many examples of a shortage of resources, causing the potential for conflict.”
Global Politics Paper 2 is the longest IB exam
2 hours and 45 minutes is a really long exam, but writing 3 full essays within that time is really hard, so speed and stamina are both required.
I suggest that you build up stamina for the exam by studying with the timer on your phone. Ask Siri to set your timer to 25 minutes at first when you study case studies, then progressively build on that time until you study for 2 hours at a time. This will really help your brain to adjust to thinking at long terms.
Another good way of building stamina, which I found useful was doing some practice essays. Global Politics Paper 2 is not a subject where you necessarily need to take past papers on - just have a Global Politics IB guide on hand and ask yourself questions using the learning outcomes - this is something I did. If this is new for you, you can also follow me on twitter, where I post different questions about current political issues. Look on the “Global Politics” page for my Twitter feed, in which I often ask questions - so to prepare for P2, this could be a useful resource. These questions are not IB questions, but ones I made on my own whilst looking on my Twitter feed.