About International Baccalaureate (IB) Geography

What is IB Geography? 

IB Geography is an important subject in our modern world of globalization and pressures upon cultures and resources. The ability to view issues from a wider perspective is appropriate for working in many different career paths. The nature of peoples’ working lives is changing. It is less likely that someone will spend all their life in one company or organisation. If your career path is to be varied you will need to develop transferable skills and be flexible. IB Geography fosters these qualities and provides a firm base for life-long learning.

IB Geography is part of the challenging two year IB programme administrated by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). IB Geography can be studied at Standard and Higher Level. IB students are required to study six subjects. IB Geography is a group 3 'Individuals and Societies' subject

Course content - H/L Geography

Global Interactions – 60 hours of teaching time

  • This is a wide ranging course looking at the impacts of the shrinking world and the increasing variety of international interactions and transactions. We look at how the work has been shrunk by technology and the impacts that this has on our economies, the environment, our socio cultural exchanges and the political relationships between countries.

Optional Unit A - Freshwater & Issues & Conflicts – 30 hours of teaching time

  • Covers the water system, drainage basins and flooding, management issues and strategies and competing demand for freshwater (water wars)

Course Content – S/L Geography

Core Unit – Patterns & Change (70 hours of teaching time)

  1. Populations in Transition– Population growth, global fertility, migration, gender disparities (20 hours)
  2. Disparities in Wealth & Development – Measuring disparities, disparities in Zimbabwe, reducing disparities using the Millennium Development Goals, aid & fair trade. (20 hours)
  3. Patterns in Environmental Sustainability & Quality – Atmosphere, soil, water supply issues, effects on biodiversity and sustainable management schemes (20 hours)
  4. Patterns in Resource Consumption – Population v’s energy supply, geopolitics of oil production and consumption, sustainable energy management schemes. (10 hours)

Optional Unit D - Hazards & Disasters – Risk Assessment & Response – 30 hours of teaching time

  • Covers types of hazard (human & natural), vulnerability, risk and risk assessment and adjustment and responses using the Japanese & Haiti earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina & Cyclone Haiyan, drought in the Horn of Africa and California and the AZF Toulouse explosion as case studies.

Optional Unit E - Sports, Leisure and Tourism – 30 hours of teaching time

  • Covers tourism at an international and local scale and is the focal unit for the Internal Assessment based in Spain. International sporting events such as the Grand Prix and Olympic Games as well as a study of a local league, participants and spectators and changing leisure tastes and influences in and around Toulouse. 


  • Internal Assessment is based on a residential fieldwork visit to Spain. This visit normally takes place in April or June of Year 12 and costs around €250.00. We will be visiting two contrasting tourist resorts and comparing their levels of sustainability. The resultant fieldwork is a written report of no more than 2500 words and is completed by September of Year 13.  Students have structured instructions and have one chance to improve the work before final submission.
  • Paper One is the 'Core' IB Geography paper which both Higher and Standard Level students take. The 'Core' unit is Patterns and Change and includes Populations in Transition, Disparities in Wealth and Development, Patterns in Environmental Quality and Sustainability and Patterns in Resource Consumption.
  • Paper Two is the Optional Themes IB Geography Paper. IB Geography Higher Level students complete three Optional Themes. IB Geography Standard Level students complete two Optional Themes. At IST we study Hazards, Freshwater and Sport, Leisure & Tourism.
  • Paper Three is the Extension Paper for Higher Level IB Geography Students. The HL Extension unit is called Global Interactions and includes Measuring Global Interactions, Changing Space - the Shrinking World, Economic Interactions and Flows, Environmental Change, Sociocultural Exchanges, Political Outcomes and Global Interactions at the Local Scale.

Teaching & Learning

The Geography Department is also supported by a website developed specifically for IST students which include updated learning activities and resources to support students at IB level –

Future Studies and Careers 

Geographers look at wide range of issues spanning the social and physical sciences. By doing so, they develop a breadth of skills which are attractive to a very diverse range of future employers. Research highlights that geography graduates have a better than average chance of finding work and that they are amongst the least likely to be unemployed. One of the reasons for this is the flexibility a geography degree offers in terms of future career paths. As a recent article in the UK Guardian newspaper highlighted, “if you're not sure what to do, you can't go wrong with geography”. Geography doesn't have a set career path like the disciplines showing the highest levels of unemployment”. Many employers prize the knowledge and skills that studying geography can provide and geography in higher education is thriving”. 

Careers which particularly utilise the skills developed by geographers include:

  • Physical Systems - hydrologist, weather forecaster, flood protection manager, earth scientist, geomorphologist
  • Geographical Techniques - GIS specialist, location analyst, surveyor, aerial surveyor, cartographer
  • Development & Global Issues - civil servant for DFID, economic adviser and analyst, NGO worker
  • Travel, Tourism, Leisure and Culture - expedition leader, leisure centre management, heritage site manager, travel writer
  • Environment & Sustainability- conservation worker, estate management, environmental consultant
  • Place Policies - housing manager, town planner, transport officer, urban regeneration, local government officer


IB Geography & CAS

IB Geography and CAS are closely interlinked at IST. Over the two year study period students have the opportunity to:

• Develop their sense of empathy and compassion for each other
• Consider their personal response to risk and unfamiliar situations on fieldwork
• Develop their independence and courage
• Evaluate and reflect on their personal and group performance in and out of the classroom. 

We cover a huge amount of ethical issues in IB Geography such as social impacts of migration, infanticide, the global distribution of aid projects, vulnerability and responses to hazards & disasters. 

IB Geography & CAS Ideas

Could you create and lead an IST school environmental club to the next level?  Whilst making efforts to create a more sustainable school environment, could you be inspired to take useful technology into a rural area in a developing nation to help a village school without electricity? With a few simple recycled materials and a little knowledge of science, could you lead your classmates in the installation of solar bottle lights to brighten up the educational space of local children? 


Could you use the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as a guide to your CAS work? Perhaps, working with peers to bring environmental sustainability education to rural areas of a developing nation or more widely in your local community?  

IB Geography & TOK

Students of IB Geography study individuals and societies. This means that they explore the interactions between humans and their environment in time and place. As a result, these subjects are often known collectively as the “human sciences” or “social sciences”.

As with other subject areas, there is a variety of ways of gaining knowledge in Geography. For example, archival evidence, data collection, experimentation, observation, and inductive and deductive reasoning can all be used to help explain patterns of behaviour and lead to knowledge claims. Geography students are required to evaluate these knowledge claims by exploring knowledge issues such as validity, reliability, credibility, certainty and individual as well as cultural perspectives.

The relationship between each subject and theory of knowledge is important and fundamental to the Diploma Programme. Having followed a course of study in group 3, students should be able to reflect critically on the various ways of knowing and methods used in human sciences. In doing so, they will become “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people” (IB mission statement). During the Diploma Programme geography course, a number of issues will arise that highlight the relationship between theory of knowledge and geography. Some of the questions that might be considered during the course are identified below

  • Are the findings of the natural sciences as reliable as those of the human sciences? What is the meaning of “a scientific law” in each area?
  • To what extent do maps reflect reality?
  • Do regions have boundaries?
  • To what extent might it be true that geography combines the methods of human and natural sciences?
  • Some geographical topics, such as climate change, are controversial. How does the scientific method attempt to address them? Are such topics always within the scope of the scientific method?
  • What scientific or social factors might influence the study of a complex phenomenon such as global warming?
  • Often in geography a model of reality is created. What does this mean? What are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a geographic model? In what areas of geography are models most common?
  • Arguably, while some aspects of geography can be measured, others cannot. Is this the case? What is it about a quality that means it cannot be quantified?
  • If humans are individual and unique, does this mean that there can be no reliable laws in human geography?
  • Many geographers and others value diversity in human affairs. Is globalization therefore a bad thing?

Geography has links to TOK at relevant points on the teaching site They are called TOK Talking Points. Look out for them and be prepared to bring TOK to life in the subject. 

Mr Podbury also delivers two specific TOK sessions to Y12 on maps and the Geography of place. Click here for more information.