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Alumni Q&A: Study Techniques, IB Options and More

What’s the best way to study in college? Can you earn credits for IB? Twelve alumni recently visited to answer questions from students about high school and higher ed.

Hailing from universities across the globe, including University of Chicago, College of William and Mary, NYU and Queen Mary University of London, the alums are currently pursuing majors in international relations, mechanical engineering, graphic design, biology, business, theater and economics.

Check out highlights of the discussion below!

  • British International School of Chicago, South Loop | Private School Chicago
  • British International School of Chicago, South Loop | Private School Chicago
  • British International School of Chicago, South Loop | Private School Chicago
  • British International School of Chicago, South Loop | Private School Chicago

What are your tips for high school freshmen?

  • Do your best to start strong academically. Maintaining solid academic results all four years of high school is important for college admissions.
  • Balance hard work with fun! Enjoy the first two years of high school because the IB program your junior and senior year requires a lot of time and effort, but pays off in college.
  • The sooner you visit colleges, the better. Start your visits now.

What's the best way to study?

  • Experiment with different techniques and learn what works best for you. Going into college with solid study habits will help a lot.
  • In college, take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Teachers are so accessible at BISC, and they are in college, too. But you’ll have to seek them out more.
  • Try studying solo and avoiding your room – changing locations can help.
  • The concept maps taught in Mr. Howland’s Science class are awesome study tools for all subjects and come in handy in college, too.

How should I approach selecting IB courses?

  • Before you choose IB options, research course prerequisites at colleges you’re interested in attending. You want to try to fulfill these prerequisites in high school.
  • You’ll have the greatest success in IB if you are passionate about the subjects you study. So, choose options that you like. At the same time, leverage your talents. If you know you’re great at English, take it for IB.
  • Taking a language is a huge plus. If you take a language at Higher Level, you can get college credits. Standard Level language will enable you to take a placement exam at some colleges and test out of language requirements.

Do I need to study for standardized tests?

  • Yes, studying is a must. But there’s no need to prep super early – wait until junior year.
  • See your class teachers for prep help.
  • Remember that practice tests are just that – practice. The score is a benchmark to help you prepare.
  • Take your chosen standardized test more than once; your score is likely to go up.

How many college credits did you earn for IB certificates?

  • 16 credits including history and English.
  • 4 credits including English and biology.
  • A whole semester’s worth!
  • I earned enough college credits that I don’t have to take any electives, which means I can focus on classes for my major.
  • Enough credits so that I don’t have to take English, history, a non-lab science or a language.

How did the IB program help you prepare for the rigor of college?

  • The analysis skills you learn in IB definitely help with all the long essays you have to write in college.
  • The IB prepared me perfectly for college, especially with writing.
  • Science courses in college are challenging, but lots of topics are similar to what I studied in IB, so that’s helpful.
  • I’m coasting through college math because I took Higher Level Math in the IB.
  • The Extended Essay we wrote in the IB program has helped me create outlines and conduct research in college.
  • Taking Higher Level Geography in the IB prepared me to pursue a geography minor in college. I’m so far ahead in my  coursework, that I’ve now decided to double major in Geography.

Compared with peers who studied American curriculum in high school, what adjustments have you made in college?

  • Not much! I think the British curriculum and IB program really prepared me for college.
  • The major adjustment is social. BISC has such a close-knit community, so in college, you’ll need to really step outside your comfort zone to make connections – join a service fraternity or club.
  • At BISC, the teachers are really accessible and often seek you out to guide you through coursework. In college, you have to seek out the professors for assistance.

Do you have a question about how our school prepares students for success at university and beyond? Contact the Admissions Team at or (773) 998-2472.

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