PART II: GENERAL STUDY HACKS TO ACHIEVE A HIGH SCORE IN IB – MANAGEBAC IS YOUR SNAPCHAT
You study 6 subjects in the IB Diploma – 3 subjects at Standard Level and 3 subjects at Higher Level. You also have to complete the Core components – Theory of Knowledge, CAS and a 4000-word Extended Essay – which are mandatory for all students. These were my choices:
- HL: Mathematics, History, Biology
- SL: English Literature A, Spanish Ab Initio, Chemistry
- Extended Essay in History
The highest possible score for any IB subject is a 7. I achieved 7’s in all of my subjects, and a 6 in English Literature SL. Below are general pieces of advice that could be (and should be) applied to every subject. These are roughly arranged in order, with 1 being the easiest and most fundamental. You do not need to practice all of these all the time, but it is important that you are able to do all of them.
- Manners Maketh Men, And Women: Act like you care, and be explicit about it. This is an important trait that prevents the pressure and workload from driving you crazy. This simply means verbally and loudly participating and asking questions; finishing lesson tasks with excitement and asking for more; or chatting with your teachers about your EE. Do show the entire school that you want to be there. Positivity makes your life and those of others around you so much easier.
- Finish homework on the day that it is set, one extra task today means one less task tomorrow: You will thank yourself later. Usually you have 1 week to finish homework, be it a whole essay or a tiny worksheet. Finish homework during the weekday, and save the weekend for longer-term, more important things (EEs, CAS logs, university application/research). Push yourself to work with full capacity during the weekdays, and try to do one more piece of work each night.
- Optional homework is not optional: Let’s just make one thing clear – homework of any kind is important and please do not skip it even during the busiest times. IB teachers know the pressure that you are going through, and they won’t set the homework unless they think that it is necessary. And when they do set something – do it, and remember that you are doing it for YOU.
- *****IMPORTANT - Managebac Calendar: Go to your Managebac Dashboard → Calendar. On the right hand side of the Calendar, click “Subscribe to Calendar”. This will open a dialogue box where you could link the Managebac Calendar with your laptop’s and iPhone’s calendars. This means that you receive a notification on your phone every morning of upcoming deadlines and meetings. You can add your own deadlines and meetings with teachers as well!
- Make a timetable for the PCT period: This is a must. Failing to plan your revision is planning to fail your exams. You have 5 PCT periods:
- For PCT 1 & 2: you start revision at least 2 weeks prior to the first exam
- For PCT 3 & 4 & 5 (the January Mock): you start revision at least 1 month prior to the first exam
This means that you need to finish time-tabling your revision BEFORE you start the actual revision. I recommend at least 3-4 hours of revision each evening after getting home from school, and another 4 hours in the morning (during the weekends). I have included a sample schedule of my own, for your reference.
- Be organised:
- Have a separate binder for each subject to store notes and worksheets
- Buy new binders at the end of each term so that the notes for previous terms are safely stored at home – you do not want to lose 2 years’ worth of notes when losing a binder.
- Have 2 binders for Maths (absolute must if you’re doing Maths HL): one for official note-taking & answering questions & doing homework in class, one for doing extra practice and exam-style questions at home. I have attached a photo of my own binder for your reference.
- Use lined papers (size A4) for note-taking, and dividers to separate each topic
- Use school diary for noting down homework and general admin things, and Managebac Calendar to remind you of formal IA/EE deadlines and teachers’ meeting
- Surrounding your study desk: Textbooks, Class binders, Revision Notes, IAs in SEPARATE shelves (see a sample that I have included).
(If possible) Buy your own copy of the official textbooks so as you don’t have to carry them from home to school.
7. Read your textbooks, not exam guide: Exam guides are helpful, but only for summarising the content. To make sure that you have covered every single bullet point in your syllabus, read and make notes from the textbook. You will soon find out that due to time constraints, the teachers will not be covering everything you need to know for your exams during lesson time. It is therefore essential that you learn to self-teach yourself certain things, and the safest place to get IB-standard knowledge is the textbook itself.
8. Take PCTs (Progress Check Tests) seriously: The majority of you will be applying to university using predicted grades, which will be given based on your most recent PCT’s score. PCTs are an extremely helpful replica, and you will become so used to a cycle of continual revision that the real exams would feel ‘natural’. My final IB score was exactly the same as that of my Mocks, just saying...
9. Managebac is your Snapchat: Assign a specific day of the week on which you will be updating CAS reflections. Mine was Sunday evening, after finishing all academic work of the week. Take a photo of every single CAS-related thing that you do, and upload them on Managebac the moment you get home, like you do your Snapchat streaks.
10. Lean on your teachers: You are not alone. Your teachers are your best source of advice to any academic or stress-related problems. Teachers at BIS are incredibly caring and devoted, but they are also humans with a private life of their own – this means that, you can make it much easier for them to write you a decent reference letter, or even to have your back if you get into trouble. Show a considerate attitude when you ask them to help you with something, by using ‘Would you mind…?’ instead of ‘I need… Can you do…?’ One of my CAS experiences was gardening, and I actually harvested the vegetables that I planted to give to teachers as a gift. My CAS coordinator was in absolute delight.
11. Late-nighting is a no-no: Wake up at 5am to study if you need to, but do not stay up all night. If you have followed my advice so far and organised your work efficiently, you should never find yourself in a situation where late-nighting is needed. Remember, IB is a bottomless pit of work; it is cardinal that you save energy for the long run.
Hanh Tien Ngoc Nguyen
BIS Hanoi Class of 2018 Alumna
London School of Economics
(To be continued)