Surviving IB: Geography EE

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What do you feel about (subject) EE?

The purpose of this article is neither to persuade you nor discourage you from pursuing a Geography EE. Depending on your interests, this EE can be extremely rewarding, or it may not be. Nevertheless, I do think that regardless of how intellectually (and emotionally) fulfilling you might find the process, scoring well for this EE is achievable if you are willing to think creatively, work hard, and be extremely meticulous.

I was told by teachers that EEs focused on Human Geography topics (e.g. tourism) are risky, which is a reasonable claim. The data obtained from such research are usually secondary data (i.e. obtained through interviews with people, or data published by the government), as opposed to primary data (i.e. data you obtain through your own means, such as by measuring something yourself). EE markers generally give less credit for such data and hence you will definitely be marked down, no matter how brilliant your analysis might be. Hence, Physical Geography topics (e.g. urban geography, climate) are less risky as you can collect such data yourself.

Thus, I would advise you to think carefully about whether you’d be willing to spend months investigating such a topic. If you are to decide on a Physical Geography topic, consider if you’d be willing to commit hours possibly wandering around the grounds of Singapore collecting data on surface temperature, or measuring traffic flow in the CBD. If you enjoy researching Physical Geography, I am happy for you and I hope you do great!! J If your aims of doing an EE are to score an A, I think it is possible to give it your all and secure a good grade (Disclaimer: I’m not guaranteeing anything, except for the fact that Geography EE markers would probably be more predictable in comparison to, say, Literature EE markers). However, if you are someone who might prefer Human Geography topics and you need a sense of fulfillment in order to give it your best, please think it through carefully, and consult your teachers.

Three to five most vital survival tips to (subject) EE?

If you can, construct your own apparatus. Geography EE markers really like it when you prove yourself to be an independent researcher. If you are unable to find a certain kind of apparatus to carry out your investigation, don’t hesitate to improvise and construct your own apparatus! IB markers like to see that you are innovative and not simply reliant on already-made apparatus. For example, my EE was an investigation on soil infiltration rate. I modelled my own apparatus (infiltration rings) after the actual one, using recycled milk tins.

Your maps should be self-drawn (and impeccable). It’s inevitable that you’ll have to include maps in your 20 to 30-page report. Even if geographical location may not be, intuitively, the most relevant to your topic, you must have at least one map in your report to orientate your EE markers, and show that you are conscious of the importance of geographical orientation. Do not use a map you found online. Your maps must be self-drawn. Perhaps you are bad at drawing maps – that’s okay. You can trace your maps over maps you have found online, and that way you’ll definitely get well-drawn ones. I spent hours on digitally drawing my maps (which is not advisable if you’re short on time), but IB markers will accept neatly hand-drawn maps as well!

Be thorough in your analysis. By this, I mean account for every trend within your data set. When analysing any data set, perhaps a rule of thumb would be to analyse them in this order: first, state the overarching trend (e.g. increasing, decreasing). Then, identify the extremities and explain why they are so (e.g. highest, lowest). Finally, account for anomalies and explain reasons for why they may exist (you may attribute them to limitations of the experiment or certain antecedent conditions that may have caused them). Do not be afraid to acknowledge limitations in your experiment, but when you do, be sure to give constructive solutions to them.

Look through seniors’ EEs. The library has so many of them, so go take a look! While looking through them, look out for the following:

  1. Their introductions/ geographical backgrounds – identify what kind of information is most salient in a Geography EE’s intro, and take note of the kind of graphical data presented here (e.g. maps, diagrams).
  2. Their methodology – take note of the precision with which they describe their methodology, and how apparatus are presented in the report (e.g. organisation of photos and descriptions etc.)
  3. Their data sets – presentation is very important to take a look at what kind of data they include and how the data is organised! Also take note of the type of graphs used to present this data
  4. Their analysis – if you’re feeling lost in how to analyse data, perhaps this should give you a better idea!

Plan ahead. Obtaining data for a Geography EE can be one of the most time consuming (more than a Science EE even!). You should start data collection during your December holidays in Year 5 (don’t wait till Year 6 or you’ll be drowning in work). Be prepared to have to do several drafts, and might have to re-do parts of your data collection throughout Year 6.

One thing to look out for

If you’re doing research based on rather obscure formulas or theories, you might have to refer solely to academic journals. Never construct your hypothesis based on one journal you have read, try to diversify your sources of information so that you get a more balanced viewpoint.

If I could turn back time…

I would have tried to get my measuring apparatus from the Physics lab earlier… Because I couldn’t get it in time (limited stock!), I had to wait for others to use it first the whole of December and I started data collection very late! 🙁

Don’t let Sarah’s giggly demeanour fool you. This 45 pointer and President of EFG also topped the standard for Geog not once but twice, in both 2015 and 2016. In her spare time, she can be found reading up on the intricacies of black holes.

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