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IB Environmental Systems and Societies

IB Environmental Systems and Societies is an interdisciplinary course that studies the structure and function of the environment, as well as the way that human societies need and use that environment. It requires students to apply the knowledge and methodology from both the human and natural sciences in their study of sustainability. At the moment, students can only study the subject at Standard Level (SL). However, as of August 2024 the subject will be offered both at Standard Level and Higher Level (HL).

Course Structure and Content

Both IB Environmental Systems & Societies courses are usually completed in two years, with time spent on theory and on practical investigations. Eight topics are studied: Foundations of Environmental Systems and Societies, Ecosystems and Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation, Water and Aquatic Food Production Systems and Societies, Soil Systems and Terrestrial Food Production Systems and Societies, Atmospheric Systems and Societies, Climate Change and Energy Production, and Human Systems and Resource Use.

Practical investigations allow students to investigate environmental issues. Towards the end of the course, students embark on their own practical investigation, which, together with the final exams, result in their level of achievement for ESS.

Exams at the end of the course consist of two papers. Paper 1 is a case study where students answer a range of questions about the use and protection of the environment in a given geographical area. Paper 2 consists of data interpretation questions, short answer questions and extended response questions. The papers assess student knowledge as well as their critical thinking skills and the application of knowledge and skills.

Coming soon! New ESS SL and ESS HL coursest

The new IB Environmental Systems & Societies courses will be launched in August 2024, with the first exams set for 2026. The current syllabus has been revised and updated for ESS SL, and a new ESS HL course has been created. Both courses include the same topics; Higher Level students will be presented with additional material as they study the topics in more depth and breadth. They will also consider the economic, ethical, and legal aspects of the environmental issues that are at the core of both courses, thus laying a sound foundation for further studies at the university level. RV will support both the current and the new courses.

Any further relevant information

IB Environmental Systems and Societies is an interdisciplinary course that is nestled in both the IB Group 3 and Group 4 subject groups. As such, it requires students to apply the knowledge and methodology from both the human and natural sciences in their studies. Students can study ESS as either a Group 3 or a Group 4 subject, or even both. This allows for maximum flexibility as students can then choose to study an extra course, e.g. another language or arts course.

Tips for success

  1. Sustainability is the most important key concept in the courses. Make sure you know what it is, how it relates to each environmental issue studied, and how it can be achieved in each case.
  2. Read or watch the news. Many of the environmental issues studied in the IB ESS course will be covered in the news during the time you are studying it. Think about the concepts that are related to the news item and consider what you think about the matter. You may even see some of the items pop up in our RV questions.
  3. An IB course is like a marathon - you need to start at the right pace and keep it up throughout. Get organised. Read the textbook, take notes, maintain a vocabulary list, do practice questions and ask about things you do not understand yet. Start on day one. Use RV questions.

Revision Village Environmental Systems and Societies supports all students as they study the courses, both ESS SL and ESS HL, as well as the current and the new courses. A range of questions and tools is available for all parts of the course and for use at different times. Whether you are working steadily on your terminology, want a quick revision quiz right before a test or are in the final leg of the course and are preparing for your exams, RV has the right questions and the right tools for you to succeed.