IB Business vs. IB Economics

From the point of view of an IB alumnus who took both Business and Economics at Higher Level

By Chris Li

(Economics & Business tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

Why IB Business?

The IB Business syllabus includes the following units:

1) Business Organisation and Environment;

2) Human Resource Management;

3) Finance and Accounts;

4) Marketing;

5) Operations Management.

In comparison to IB Economics, IB Business gives you a foundation of knowledge and understanding for each of the five units covered. It deals with matters within firms, and you will find yourself learning practical knowledge through case studies. Students tend to build their knowledge in IB Business more efficiently than in IB Economics, as much of the information actually revolves around daily living, allowing students to draw comparisons. IB Business focuses more on analysis, writing style, and case studies.

For students applying for Mathematical and Economics related subjects, going for IB Economics may be more appropriate in showing your interests and strengths in graphical and Mathematical skills. In fact, many people suggest that admissions officers prefer to have Economics students over Business students. Arguably, IB Economics may be an easier way to score good points, mainly because there are more definite and objective exam answers. IB Business and Business Management in general include a certain degree of subjectivity in marking exam answers. Despite the subject itself being considerably easier, a correct answer for the student may not necessarily be correct in examiners’ point of view. This is why full explanations are very important when answering Business exam questions. Overall, IB Business is recommended for students who are not aiming for Mathematical and Economics related subjects. The concepts are not difficult to understand, and the knowledge is highly practical regardless of your future career.

Why IB Economics?

The IB Economics syllabus includes the following units:

1) Microeconomics;

2) Macroeconomics;

3) International Economics;

4) Development Economics.

In comparison to IB Business, the major difference is that IB Economics requires a good application of graphical understanding and analysis. It leans more towards a theoretical and conceptual understanding of models. Arguably, admission officers tend to value IB Economics over IB Business for students who are applying to Mathematical and Science based courses. However, if you are looking to do Business Management, Human Resources, Marketing, Finance, Languages, or Humanities for the university, choosing between IB Business and IB Economics will not make a significant difference. If you consider yourself to be a Languages or Humanities person, where you often find difficulties when studying graphical and Mathematical models, choosing IB Business may be more suitable. Meanwhile, if you are a person who enjoys graphical models and understanding concepts and theories, IB Economics could be your choice.

The New Higher Level IB Economics Syllabus:

The new Higher Level IB Economics syllabus is arguably tougher and more challenging than the old curriculum. Previously, IB Economics was mostly about the graphical application and written analysis. However, students are now required to explain models through functions, plotting graphs, and doing more Mathematical calculations. Thus IB Economics has changed its focus towards a more Mathematical based subject. Students who do not have a solid Mathematical background may find difficulties in scoring good grades. In light of this shift, there is an increasing tendency for IB schools to encourage students to take IB Business instead of IB Economics. IB Business is considerably more timeless and easier to master. It is generally a more “friendly” subject selection that is suitable for students from different backgrounds.

Useful Links:

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Subject Brief: Economics— Higher level

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Subject Brief: Business management—Higher level


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The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained acceptance to schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, Brown, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018 Admissions Results!