How to Easily Prepare for your Final IB Exams: Study Smart, not Hard

Written By: Rashi S

Congratulations, this is the last mile! You will be done with the IB as soon as you pass your final exams. I would like to give you some ideas, advice, and tips for your final DP exams which I am sure will help you to pass them with flying colors.  

 Start Planning Early 

Starting to plan early for your IB Exams is vital because it will largely determine how much time you have for studying and your study strategies. You must have mastered the skill of being organized due to your internal assessments and essays deadlines by now. You should apply this skill to make an exam schedule (highly recommended) as well; it will help you manage your time better and will put different elements into perspective. Make a schedule that will give each subject the right amount of time. Not every subject will require the same preparation (e.g. HL vs SL subjects and subjects you find easy vs. challenging), so know which ones you need to focus on the most. Some students prefer to start preparing for the exams they have first, whereas others prefer to start preparing for the exams they have at the end and finish off with the ones they have at the beginning. In short, formulating and following an exam schedule is recommended, and consider the elements discussed above when making one. Additionally, manage your time effectively in and out of exams. Make sure to have small breaks in between your study blocks in your exams schedule. Your mind cannot focus the whole time and you need to de-stress and clear it every couple of hours, to regain focus and recall information. Set a time limit for your break, a ten-minute break every 90 minutes or 1 hour 30 mins is effective and sufficient. Use the break to do something that will re-energize you without leading you to procrastinate, such as a short walk. You should go back to studying directly after your break without any excuses to putting studying off or thinking of how much is left. I like to use Google Calendar to make my schedule. Overall, be organized and manage your time well to have an effective review period before your exams. 




 Study Techniques 

Use the study techniques that you have found helped you in your previous exams and try the ones that I discuss here to help you retain the information that you are reviewing. First, now is not the time to study every topic as if you are studying it the first time. Trust yourself and that you have learned the topics several times enough, for you to do a quick review covering all topics of the subjects. Focus only on the topics which you find challenging. If you already finished your MOCK exams, use that feedback on them to see which areas you still need to improve and focus on them. Try the SQ3R Method, which is useful in helping you understand and absorb information faster. Moreover, ensure that you are doing spaced repetition. Several studies have consistently illustrated that spacing out learning is more effective than cramming. You can use tools such as flashcards to help you do this and most importantly, starting early is crucial, like the first section emphasizes. Next, dedicate time to solving exam papers. Utilize the question bank and ensure that you solve every paper (tip: focus mostly on the past papers of the last seven years from the current year; the IB syllabus changes every few years and thus, if you try and solve very old past papers, you may come across command terms and content that the IB no longer uses/teaches). Furthermore, solve past papers like your external exam with time constraints and resources you are allowed to take in for it, such as the formula booklet and calculator. Doing past papers makes you more familiar with the format of the questions, consequently making you speedier in solving them as well. This ensures that you have a clear understanding of the demands and implications of the question, along with effective time management skills needed to finish a paper within a limited duration. To summarize, use the study techniques that you have observed have worked successfully for you in the past, do spaced-out learning, and dedicate time to solve exam papers under conditions similar to those of the actual DP exams. 

General Top Tips 

It is necessary to take care of your mental and physical health especially before and during the exams. I recommend keeping the option of getting a tutor always open. When I was doing the DP, particularly in Y2, I often felt anxious due to the university application deadlines, the increase in the difficulty of the content, and so on. Therefore, I got many tutors at distinct periods of my DP journey to help myself with different subjects and for mentorship as well. Looking back at it today, they taught and gave me useful strategies and tips that contributed to the score I achieved. Getting a tutor before or during the exam period can be particularly helpful as he or she can teach and give you game-changing techniques and tips. This will aid you in clearing all your doubts, boost your confidence, and will help you maximize the points you score in your exams. Next, try and relax the night before your exam (e.g. with deep breathing exercises and positive self-talk). Although you may do a quick review or solve some questions, do not overdo the past papers the night before or last-minute. This can affect your self-confidence, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and panicked, which can negatively affect your performance on your exam. Ensure that you get enough sleep (6 – 8 hours) the night before your exam and that you have a good breakfast before you leave for it the next morning. This will help you perform better on your exam as sleeping well daily aids in strengthening memories that you have formed. Moreover, ​​take it one exam at a time. Give every exam paper its share of focus, and do not dwell too much on an exam that you think you have not done well on (although, admittedly, this is easier said than done). Even though it is normal to feel upset when you do not do that well on one paper or subject, this should not consume your time and effort. You will still have other exams that will need your full attention. Stay motivated and give it your best. Remember that the grades will not be fully allocated based on the external examinations only, you will have your internal assessments as well. In brief, take care of yourself especially before and during the exam period by exercising, eating well, getting good sleep, do not overdo the past papers last minute as this can negatively impact your performance on the exam, and take it one exam at a time. 

 I would like to wish all candidates the best of luck in their upcoming IB examinations! Know that you have a bright future ahead of you if you believe in yourself and genuinely work for it. Keep calm and carry on! 


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