SUCCEEDING IN THE IB DIPLOMA PROGRAMME

The IB Programme is a rigorous yet rewarding 2 year course. Through my own experiences in the course I have learnt a few tips and revision tricks that I would love to share with you as they ended up helping me achieve a 45.

Below you will find my top 10 tips about the course in general. If you would like more specific advice in relation to the subjects I took, click on the desired subject below:

My Top 10 Tips

Tip 1: Discover what motivates you

The IB is a two year course that can be very demanding for students and it is inevitable that you will experience difficult and stressful periods of time where all the deadlines for every subject are coming at you at once. Therefore, it is imperative that you find something that keeps you motivated throughout the two years. 

For different people this may mean slightly different things. Personally, the biggest motivating factor that influenced me was the end goal. From the beginning of the course, I knew what I needed to get into the university and course I wanted to study. Consequently, I used this as motivation and worked towards achieving it. 

However, at the same time, I also had smaller things that influenced me along the way. Whether I wanted to do something on the weekend or go out somewhere, I had to ensure that I completed the work I needed to before I went, thus it pushed me to work smart and effectively throughout the week to keep this time free.

Tip 2: Get in the right mindset

I cannot stress the importance and difference that having the right mindset has on your performance in the IB.  The worst thing you can do at the beginning of the programme is to cap your target grade or score at a certain level. You need to come into the programme with an open mind and knowing that you will have to work hard for your successes, if you do so... anything grade is attainable with this mindset.

The easiest way to keep a positive mindset is pick subjects that you actually enjoy! Even if some subjects may seem easier, getting through two years of content in a subject that you dislike or find boring will just make it more difficult for you to want to sit down and revise for it.

However, with that being said, there will definitely be subjects that you may not be as good at. In this case, you need to have the mindset that even though you may not be naturally talented in this subject, if you work hard at it and constantly use the resources around you (e.g. your teachers, other students etc.) YOU can get better at it and do well. Don't straight away think that achieving a 6 or 7 is impossible, if you put in the effort, anything is possible!

Tip 3: Create the right revision schedule

Tip 4: Maximise your use of past papers

Getting into a routine is really important not only leading up to your final exams but throughout the entire two years. 

At the beginning of year 1, I suggest that you write up a timetable where you schedule in when you are going to revise the content for each subject, this can be easily done on excel. Start by writing in the days of the week and the period of time from after school until you go to sleep. Then you will want to break this time up into certain intervals (e.g. 30 min, 1 hr etc.). 

I recommend putting in your extra-curricular commitments or exercise time first because these activities are just as important to your wellbeing and should not be neglected! Then, I like to schedule out 1-1.5 hours every day for homework or catch up. During the time when IA's, TOK and EE all come at you, this can be substituted to work on those coursework elements. 

As for the rest of the time slots, fill in the subjects you wish to study and revise for that day (I suggest doing 1-2 subjects per day... don't try and do all 6 everyday). When it comes closer to the exams or as you venture into year 2, this schedule can be adjusted to suit your own weaknesses and strengths. For example, if you are finding one subject particularly difficult, schedule that in a few more times throughout the week. 

The main goal of creating the right revision schedule is to get you used to sitting down and revising for your subjects throughout the entire course. At the same time, the more consistent you are with your revision, the more likely you will be able to cover all the content STRESS FREE (without too much cramming). But whatever you do, be realistic so that you can stick to your timetable!

Past papers are like the greatest revision tool no matter the subject as they simulate the exact style of your final exam. They allow you to understand and practice answering how the style of questions under which the content will be tested and quite frankly it doesn't change too much from year to year!

When you use past papers, do so effectively. This means:

  • Ensure you practice some under timed conditions 

  • Sounds quite obvious, but use the mark schemes once you are done to see where you went wrong

  • DOCUMENT your mistakes - write down the questions you got wrong, what the correct answer is and how you arrive there

  • Track your progress to see whether your improving. If you are not.... then go back and revisit sections of the content you keep getting wrong

  • Look for trends (but do not rely on them). Typically, if a subject is verging towards the end of its syllabus course, then there may be topics that haven't been covered before or in a long time and are likely to appear. Also, the more papers you do, you will discover that certain content or style of question always gets asked!

Tip 5: Consistency is key

"The IB is not a sprint, it is a marathon" - This is something you have probably heard a million times but if it is your first time hearing this... then listen to it because it is definitely true!

If you want to end the course on a good note, then you have to start working hard from the beginning. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of content to cover and you want to make sure that you keep revisiting it often so that it doesn't all pile up closer to the final exam (this is how stress builds up!).

The best way to stay consistent is to do your homework... sounds simple but by doing so you are consolidating your knowledge of each topic before you move on to ensure you have full understanding of everything the syllabus requires you to know. And when you are nearing the end of the course and have covered most of the content, start doing repetitions of past papers when you do not have homework! 

Do keep in mind that as you get closer to your final exams, gradually build up the intensity of your revision but do not do this too early or you will just burn out! Therefore, breaks are important too :) 

Tip 6: Use the resources around you!

Utilising the resources around you is crucial to your success in the IB. This is not the first year the IB has been running... therefore there are so many well-established resources that you can use. There are multiple websites online that have past papers, textbooks and revision notes (like this one!) which you can make full use of.

Ask your teachers for help when you need it! This may seem like an obvious tip, but your teachers are trained in their respective courses and will have more experience than anyone else. If you are unsure about the content, ask them to explain it again, if you don't understand the mark-scheme or question, your teacher will probably be able to help you or if you have any practice essays that you have done, run them by your teacher and ask for feedback. This is how you will improve.

Apart from your teachers, the other students around you can be useful for help on questions or revision of content. You can organise study groups, where you teach the content you are best at to your friends and they can do the same for the subjects they are best at. Additionally, ask ex-students for their advice on how to approach the revision for particular subjects because they have been through exactly what you are experiencing.

 

(Feel free to email me and ask me any questions you have and I will do my best to help!)

Utilising the resources around you is crucial to your success in the IB. This is not the first year the IB has been running... therefore there are so many well-established resources that you can use. There are multiple websites online that have past papers, textbooks and revision notes (like this one!) which you can make full use of.

Ask your teachers for help when you need it! This may seem like an obvious tip, but your teachers are trained in their respective courses and will have more experience than anyone else. If you are unsure about the content, ask them to explain it again, if you don't understand the mark-scheme or question, your teacher will probably be able to help you or if you have any practice essays that you have done, run them by your teacher and ask for feedback. This is how you will improve.

Apart from your teachers, the other students around you can be useful for help on questions or revision of content. You can organise study groups, where you teach the content you are best at to your friends and they can do the same for the subjects they are best at. Additionally, ask ex-students for their advice on how to approach the revision for particular subjects because they have been through exactly what you are experiencing.

 

(Feel free to email me and ask me any questions you have and I will do my best to help!)

Tip 7: Discover what works best for you

There isn't a bulletproof formula that every person can follow to be successful in the IB. Every person has a different way of revising and after two years in the course, you should know what works best for you.

Working out how you best retain information is important, do you remember things best by:

  • Reading it

  • Writing things down

  • Applying your knowledge through past papers

  • Teaching others

  • Or verbally saying the content to yourself

 

At the beginning of the course, try a bit of everything and by the end of first year, you should know which methods work best for different subjects. Once you discover this, your revision will be more effective and you are likely to get more things done in less time!
 

Tip 8: Plan ahead and make goals

This tip applies to everything you do in life. Ensuring that you are organised and plan ahead is great for time management and reducing stress.

At the beginning of year 2 (your final year of high school), things can definitely get a bit hectic with exams, IA's, TOK/EE and any other commitments that you have outside of your studies. To effectively time manage all of these things, I would recommend that you get a planner! When year 2 started, I made it my mission to actually use my planner consistently and stay on top of everything. Our coordinator gave us an "assessment booklet" that had all of our assessments, mock exams and IA's written out for the entire year. Once I received this, I wrote it all down in my planner so that I had a rough idea of which weeks would be super busy and hectic.

If you have a rough idea of when major things are due like IA and EE drafts, then I would plan your revision around this and also plan when you should be starting to write up your draft so you have enough time to complete it to the best of your ability (do not leave it for the night before!). Also, in regards to your exams, it is imperative that you leave enough time so that you can cover all of the required material beforehand. If it helps, write out a checklist and a deadline as to when you should have covered that content by!

Finally setting goals sort of ties in with the planning ahead. At the beginning of the year, I wrote out my long-term goals of what I wanted to achieve at the end of the year. On top of that, every time I had an exam block of trials, mocks or even just topic tests, I would write out what mark I wanted to achieve. By writing goals, it provides you with a clearer idea of what you are working towards and it can also be quite motivating once you achieve them. 

Tip 9: Do your best on your internal assessment drafts

Your internal assessment make up an important part of your final grade, where in some subjects it can be worth up to 50%! Some people may disregard the significance of these tasks and leave writing their drafts or final products to the last minute. 

Personally, for a lot of subjects, one of the most difficult parts was finding the right topic to write about. Whilst it was a challenging process to find something original and appropriate to the task, take your time to pick the right topic as it can make a huge difference to quality of the final product.

Once you have chosen your topic for the IA's, then start your research as soon as possible and gather all the relevant information and advice from your teacher. Many students underestimate the importance THE DRAFT. Your draft is the one opportunity for your teachers, who are experienced in doing these IA's, to give you feedback. The better quality your draft is, the better feedback you will receive, as your teachers will have to be more specific on things you need to fix. Therefore, work as hard as you can to produce the draft like it is your final product!! Also, if your draft is final product quality then you will probably have less to fix as well and more time to revise for your exams :)

Tip 10: Take every test seriously

My last tip is to take every test seriously! Whether it is a topic test, assessment or mock exam, they are all opportunities to cover the content and pick out your weaknesses before the final exam. Take the time to properly prepare for each topic test or assessment because covering the content on a regular basis will help you stay familiar with content from year 1, also it gives you a chance to test out which revision methods work best for YOU!

Before each test:

  • Write or review your notes for the topics as you go (this way it doesn't pile up)

After the test:

  • Document your mistakes

  • Write out the topics you are weaker in 

    • then once your final exams come, you can start with these ones!​

  • Analyse what you did well in terms of the revision process

    • continue doing this for future tests​

I'm wishing you all the best with your revision and journey in the IB 

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

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