Most IB guides and bits of advice mention a lot of the obvious and generic stuff, so I tried to do the opposite. Below are some hopefully unconventional pointers that other websites may not have mentioned. Enjoy!
1) Not all revision is made equal:
It’s often happened that I have revised for 4 hours and completely bombed a test, yet other times after only 1.5 hours of revision I’ve aced an even more challenging assessment. The reason behind this incredible anomaly is that not all revision is made equal. Reading and taking notes isn’t enough: you must practice by solving relevant problems. To do so, the question bank and past papers are a gold mine, and your most useful tool.
There is a science behind using past papers and the question bank most effectively. Firstly, be sure to attempt the problems thoroughly; don’t give up only after a few minutes of trying. The harder you try the more you’ll learn and remember. You should also do problems in smaller chunks. Once you are done reading a chapter get a few relevant problems from the question bank and attempt them. Once you’ve attempted a set of problems mark yourself using the mark schemes provided by the IB. Remember, be harsh on yourself and analyze where you lost marks so that in the future it won’t happen again. It is imperative that you understand how IB Markschemes work and what exactly is it that is required of you.
2) Discipline trumps motivation:
Motivation is your ally, but when the dark times come, motivation will not be by your side. Your best friend should be discipline; it’s what keeps you working through the toughest times, when all your senses are telling you to give up and watch some YouTube videos. I love YouTube.
Doing subjects that genuinely interest you also helps with staying committed and exhibiting good work habits, so if you’re Pre-IB be sure that you are doing what you really want. If you haven’t read already, click on the button below to take you to a highly useful article about building discipline.
3) Feedback, Feedback and Feedback:
The fastest way to move from a level 5 to a level 7 is to listen to feedback and implement it vigorously. I’ll probably have to write a whole article on this (when I do the link will be below) as there is so much to cover, but here are the fundamentals.
Get feedback on your work from both your teachers and peers (hopefully someone who is better at the given subject than you) and be sure to use it. To get feedback from peers, it’s important that either you are close friends with them (basically you will be calling in a favor) or that you are better than your peer in a different subject and can offer them the same services there. Business is business.
Getting feedback from you teachers is even more important. There are different ways to get this done; firstly, you could show your teachers the work beforehand, and trust me they will be very likely to help (teachers enjoy having committed students who put effort into their work, makes them feel like what they’re doing is appreciated). I don’t suggest leaving your work with the teacher so that they only give written feedback; instead, you should set a meeting with them and go over you assignment together. This will make the process more dynamic and you will be able to truly understand what is wanted from you. Another interesting thing is that you don’t have to get feedback from your teacher, ask other teachers (ones that don’t teach you) for some help.
4) You Are Not a Zombie:
Yeah this is a rather obvious one, but surprisingly many of you don’t do it. I’ve seen people who couldn’t function on a lack of sleep and a diet of coffee (they were really good students too) and it’s not pretty. Make sure that you are getting on average 8-9 hours of sleep. I know this sounds ridiculous but it’s so important for your health and cognitive abilities, so please do it. Below are some reasons why you should sleep the suggested amount:
- Lack of sleep can reduce memory retention (if you don’t sleep enough you can forget what you studied the same day).
- Lack of sleep can cause health issues (like tons and tons of issues that will only manifest themselves at the worst moments).
- Lack of sleep can cause performance issues (during tests that is….) lol
It obvious that you won’t be able to sleep 9 hours every day, but be sure to sleep enough before tests and to catch up on missed sleep during the weekends. Maybe improving your time management could also help against those last minute all-nighters?!
BTW (another cool tip): When you sleep, try to do so in blocks of 1.5 hours (that’s how long the sleep cycle is). So it means that 7.5 hours of sleep is better than 8, as you will not wake up in the middle of a cycle feeling tired and grumpy.
5) Develop relations:
Developing a healthy relation with your teachers is very important. Firstly despite all that you have been told, teachers will treat and grade you differently based on their personal opinion of you (they can’t help it, they will always be influenced by their opinions… even if it’s slightly). Having better relations with your teachers could result in any of the following (hopefully all):
You can hand in you work late (Sometime…. If you’re usually respectful, do your work on time and do it well, your teachers will understand that there might be reasons behind your late submission)
You can get better grades in general (if teachers think that you put a lot of effort into your homework they are likely to mark you generously, as they believe you will show progress over time)
You will be able to get better predicted scores (same logic as that from above)
You will receive better feedback (if the teachers think you will listen to their advice and their work will not be wasted, then they are likely to invest more effort into giving you better feedback)
Teachers are humans too, and usually they are rather interesting people, getting to know them and joking around are an integral parts of all high school experience (btw….your mutual hate of the IB is a great point of conversation).
6) Stop Day-dreaming:
It’s time to snap back to reality and understand your true abilities. Don’t take this call to action as an invitation to give up and under estimate yourself, use it as an opportunity to understand your abilities and improve them. To be able to do well in the IB, you need to know what your working abilities, strengths and weakness are. The more information you have the better you will be able to organize yourself and perform well, take the examples below:
If you know you are level 5 student at Mathematics SL, yet you also know that you haven’t been studying much lately and that in general you are both productive and have a mathematically inclined mind. This information tells you that with relatively little effort you could score a 7 instead of a 5, hence you should start revising regularly (investing effort will give you a very visible outcome). However If you are a level 5 student without a particularly mathematical mind, you know that you will need to apply even more effort to reach the level 6 or 7, hence you could invest said effort into subjects which require the least effort to improve (apply your energy effectively, target easily improvable subjects first to maximize your grade relative to the effort you put in). This is a simple example, but it’s meant to highlight how you should invest time revising.
Another example could be as follows; say you believe that you can work 5 hours a day, and that your English assignment will only take 4 hours to do, this means that leaving it to the last day won’t be a problem. But what if you over estimated your abilities and that in reality you only ever get 3 hours of work done a day, BAM! We have a problem, you won’t be able to finish your English assignment to your desired quality. However if you had known that your daily output never exceeded 3 hours you could have split your work over 2 days. I wrote an interesting article on procrastination and output, it’s linked below.
7) Work the system:
Understand the IB, don’t try to brute force it, be more meticulous and invest time where it needs to be invested. Look at marking rubrics and grading criteria (understand command terms and how exams or assignments are made), consistently look at syllabus guides and talk with your teachers about marking and your grades. We have even written an EBook explaining how to beat the system, you can purchase it using the following link if you wish.
Be sure to check out our exam revision guide (its free):