IB exam preparation tips and story
As I wrap up my last two mock exams today, I reflect on how far I have come on my journey in the International Baccalaureate diploma.
In primary and middle school, I was always a high achieving student. I never needed to study for tests because I found school easy. I know what you’re thinking; here’s another story of a high achiever bragging about how school was a breeze while his peers struggled. Well, I got what I deserved.
I signed up for the IB (International Baccalaureate) diploma at the end of Year 10 to satisfy this challenge I had been seeking. Needless to say, my GPA has suffered tremendously ever since.
I realised that relying on my talent was no longer effective and that I had to commit to working hard in order to get the grades I was aiming for.
This realisation came when I received the lowest GPA in three years after my first term of the IB.
So over the last 20 months, I have been developing and refining my study techniques for exams in order to achieve the highest marks possible.
IB exam preparation tip 1 – Set a realistic and specific goal for the grade you want to get before each practice test
It is important to be realistic and specific before starting so that you don’t put in too much effort and time with no extra significant gain in the end.
IB exam preparation tip 2 – Practice past papers
I cannot stress how helpful past papers are for exam revision! When revising through this method, set a timer and do them under exam conditions. This is very helpful for exams where you need to write essays – it helps with time management.
My one tip though is not to do past papers in the week leading up to your mock exams or the exams you have throughout the course.
This is because the questions from recent past papers are most likely to appear in the mock exams so if you have already attempted the question and the solutions are fresh in your memory, you’re not doing yourself a favour.
If you’re truly desperate to do a past paper, do it and have someone else mark it for you without telling you precisely what you did wrong. They only let you know what area of the syllabus you should work on.
IB exam preparation tip 3 – Active recall
I learned this tip from YouTuber, Ali Abdaal.
He mentioned active recall was the most effective method of studying and I have to say, I agree. Active recall is where you practice recalling information from memory because this is what you have to do during exams.
Doing past papers is also considered to be active recall. I use a flashcard app called Anki which I use on my desktop and phone. All the cards and decks sync which is great!
Flashcards are very effective when studying for subjects requiring definitions, key facts and key ideas. However when it comes to Mathematics and Chemistry, I find it’s easier to revise just by doing questions out of the textbook or past papers.
IB exam preparation tip 4 – Mind maps
Mind maps are excellent for subjects like English Literature: A. I have found it difficult revising for this subject because you need to have a good understanding of the texts studied in class.
Therefore, mind maps are a great way of mapping out the connections of characters, interactions and settings for example. For people who are great at spatial recognition, adding colour and shapes can also very helpful.
IB exam preparation tip 5 – After each exam
There are many exams that you’ll have across the two years in preparation for your finals. My advice is to reflect every time you receive your exam results back:
– What did I do well?
– What do I need to improve on?
– What strategies will I take to improve my grade for next time?
The best part about setting realistic goals in the beginning is that you can raise your aspirations next time.
Being realistic means that you don’t have to go backwards in terms of setting the grade you want to achieve but instead, you’re more likely to go forwards.
Once you have reached the grade you want to achieve for that subject, it is important to keep doing the strategies you listed last time to maintain that grade.
IB exam preparation tip 6 – How you (probably) shouldn’t study
– Don’t read and highlight. It’s just not effective at all (from my experience)
– Get out of your bed! Sit at a desk where you’re forced to sit upright which keeps you awake and more alert
– Stop checking your phone so often. Use it as a reward after studying for a set amount of time rather than a distraction
– Don’t study in areas where there are distractions all around you – relocate yourself somewhere your mind can focus on the task at hand
– If you listen to music, try listening to music without lyrics – especially when you’re trying to read something.
My Final thoughts
The IB has been a great learning experience for me – beyond what is taught in the syllabus. Doing CAS has allowed me to realised the problems in the world which need solving.
I have also learned the hard way that not everything in life will be easy. Sometimes, you have to work hard in order to be where you see yourself in the future. This has been the biggest lesson I have learned and that I will take away from the IB.