Written by: Birgitte J.
Your teacher will tell you to start early, and we concur! The IB Programme is a 2-year curriculum accumulating in two to three externally assessed exams in each course. The externally assessed exams are conducted at the end of the two years in May or November, depending on which hemisphere your school adheres to, and is a significant source of stress for students, but there are ways to prepare that can greatly improve your test day experience and outcome. Here are some general tips for how to lessen your stress and achieve the results you are hoping for:
1-Nerves may be the most common obstacle you can face on exam day. You know yourself best, but whatever normally helps you become and remain rested and calm, do that. Exercise, sleep, meditate, breathe, or relax in whatever way you have found works for you and if you don’t have any practice with calming your nerves, try out some techniques on test days in advance to see what works.
2-Start preparing early by practicing with past exams. Every teacher will say this and if you are being well-prepared in your school, you will have taken several practice tests, both as take-home assessments and in a controlled setting, such as your classroom, under the same conditions as the IB exam. Many IB Plus Plus tutors can provide you with previous years’ exams in your subjects to practice with and you will be graded on the same IB rubric the examiners are using. Some of IB Plus Plus tutors are also examiners, and we can explain to you in detail the specific subject requirements in each course.
3-Understand the expectations in your course syllabus for both content and skills heavy courses. What content do you need to be familiar with, for example, in your social studies or science course? Which skills do you need to successfully analyze a text in literature, or measure speed or distance in Physics? Know the syllabus and the specific texts you are required to know for your course. Review this in advance.
4-Be familiar with the specific requirements for each of your subject exams so that you are not surprised by anything the day of the exam, when you may already be feeling a little nervous. Page 4 and 8 lists the items needed for each subject exam, what is provided by the school, and what you have to bring yourself. Bring several of your own black and blue pens (red and green pens are not permitted) for your written exams. Pencils are generally only allowed for scrap paper or some of the multiple choice portions of your exams. The IB does not address erasable pens, a potential loop-hole, especially if you are a messy writer and you feel you need to erase and correct during the writing process. We also suggest you write on every other line (skip a line) on the lined paper exams to more easily edit, if needed, when you read through your exam towards the end.
5-Make sure you know the time allotted for each exam and pay close attention to your teacher’s recommendations about how to manage your time during the exam too, such as reading time, outlining, and recommended time for each section of your exam. This varies greatly depending on the subject. It may be useful to create a digital document or physical folder with specific exam recommendations for each of your SL and HL courses that you can review beforehand.
Keep in mind that it is completely normal to feel a little anxious on the day of the exam and during the IB exam period in general. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to familiarize yourself with your syllabus, the requirements, rubric and exam conditions and get some rest before the big day. You’ve got this!