Pearls of IB Wisdom

By Rebecca Lally

With another set of students going into the IB, The Update turned to members of La Chat’s class of 2017 for advice on managing workloads, succeeding in a variety of subjects, and for words of encouragement! Some quotes edited for clarity and concision. 

Dominic Borghino
Studying Law at University College London

How can students make the IB more manageable?

“Keep on top of your work from the start – you’ll soon find it piles up. Break things down into manageable chunks – everything is doable, you just have to take things step by step. Celebrate your achievements – it’s easy to be overwhelmed by what you still have to get through, but it’s important to admire yourself for what you’ve already done. Get some sleep – this will literally save your IB grades and will definitely keep you happier and less psychotic”

What do you think is important for Y12 students to know?

“The IB is not as nightmarish as everyone makes it out to be. Don’t listen to the memes. Everyone that works hard at the IB gets to where they want to go, or if not ends up somewhere where they’re happy. And if you don’t, it really doesn’t matter. No matter how you do in the IB, there are so many pathways after school that will lead you onto great things in your life.”

Eibhlin Birkett
Studying Sciences and Engineering, and Societies at University College London

What were the biggest challenges you faced in the IB?

“For me the biggest challenges of IB really were emotional, because I’ve always been rather nerdy and known how to study, but I struggled a lot with stress and anxiety which I feel is only enhanced in a system as intense as IB, and of course go on to affect academics too.”

What do you wish you had known at the start of the IB?

“To invest time into keeping myself calm. It’s very easy to get caught up in all the stresses of the IB and university applications, but I know I work better and more efficiently when I’m calm. Take everything a day at a time, don’t waste time worrying on the future, and trust everything will work out.”

Emma Raven
45 points at IB, studying Biology at University of Oxford

How can students set themselves up for success?

“Work consistently at a sustainable level. The IB is a time game so setting good habits from the start is important. It’s also super important not to get consumed by numbers; don’t slip into the grade driven mentality where all that matters is your points total, but really work at a level that’s sustainable to you. And don’t give up everything for work, it’s possible to have a social life and do sports too. If you plan ahead you’ll have time to do all the things you want to do.”

What advice do you have for the academic side of the IB?

What helped me was making sure I understood everything as I went along, even if it meant asking loads of questions, or staying after class to work things through. There’s nothing worse than realising the week before the exam you didn’t understand anything. Realistically you can’t learn the whole syllabus in the weeks leading up to the exams. You’ve got to play the long game.”

Alex Jones
Studying Natural Sciences at University of Cambridge

What do you wish you knew at the start of the IB?

“It’s not all about the work. It is very easy to get caught up in all of the IAs and exams but it is also important to give yourself a break. Find a sport or hobby that you enjoy doing, and try and see friends outside of school and have a bit of fun. If you manage to do this then your IB years become much more enjoyable. I wish I knew from the beginning about the free online resources. This page has just about any IB document you could need.”

What advice do you have for doing well in HL sciences?

“Especially for maths, the best way to improve is through practice. If there is a topic you don’t understand as well read through that topic in your textbook and then do practice questions until you are getting them right. Write revision notes before every topic test, this means you don’t have them all to write when it comes to final exams. Before exams do as many past papers as possible: you get used to the style of questions, recognise recurring questions, and it gives you practise.”

Minaa Nawab
45 points at IB, studying Medicine at University of Geneva

What advice would you give for the IB overall?

“The IB isn’t as hard if you work a little each day. I started revision well before exams started and did a little every day. With assignments it’s important to have a basic outline; if you do a little each day it’s less overwhelming. It’s also important to have a work life balance. I used to go out once or twice every week in IB and would watch TV, play guitar, do sports. If you’re studying for long periods of times you’re going to be miserable.”

What advice do you have for doing well in HL Biology and Medicine?

“Periodic revision is crucial – I revised every topic once we had finished it and made notes. Pinpoint your weaknesses and consistently work on them. For chemistry – the labs, although annoying, are vital because you apply those basic techniques often. For Biology – the details could make or break you, so using anecdotes is really helpful because you’re more likely to remember not only the big things but small words. good practice of past papers is definitely going to give you an edge – questions are often repetitive over the years;.”

Eamon Farhat
Studying Material Science and Engineering at Imperial College London

Are HL Math and Physics as impossible as people say they are?

“These are hard subjects, but they are by no means impossible. Anyone who wants to do a science or engineering should take Maths HL and maybe Physics HL not just because they are probably going to be requirements but also they are so useful when you go into your first year university.”

What advice would you give to students wanting to do well in these subjects?

“The best thing to do is to always ask for help whenever you are stuck understanding something because things can move very quickly. Also know that if you don’t understand some concept or chapter, sometimes when you come back to revise it for a test or exam it will make sense!”

Hazel Ferguson
Studying History at University of Oxford

What advice do you have for students who want to do well in the Humanities?

“Make essay plans as you go along, so they accumulate throughout the year – this is so much easier than having to do them all at the end during revision. Take your time to plan out the essay – even if you don’t remember much content, having an organised piece of writing will be rewarded. Make sure you answer the question in your essays and each paragraph and point you’re making is relevant – the easiest thing to do is relate your analysis back to the title at the end of the point you’ve made. It can be surprisingly easy to actually not answer the question and be penalised for it in your marks when you’re so focused on using all the information you remember and don’t take time to think it through in your head.”

Catherine Lally
Studying History and Politics at University of Cambridge

What advice do you have for meeting university offers?

“I would say to work really hard on your coursework. You can spend as much time on it as you want, and you can get advice from teachers, so take the opportunity to make it as good as possible. You want your coursework pulling your grade up, so meeting your offer is less dependent on how you do on exam day.”

How can students make the extended essay a less daunting task?

“Don’t put it off. I spent two weeks of my summer holiday reading and writing, so I had a full draft of my extended essay by the start of the year. This was a big help at the start of Y13; I was able to save myself a lot of stress and start focusing on university applications while many people were still worrying about their extended essay.”