In November 2014, I graduated from the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program — an international curriculum that prepares 16- to 19-year-old high-school students for tertiary education.
I achieved a perfect score of 45 points for my IB Diploma. Less than 1% of IB candidates achieve an IB 45 world-wide.
In this blog, I share my tips and advice on achieving academic success.
First, some IB basics
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7 Tips to get a Perfect 45 in the International Baccalaureate
1. Study with a routine.
An effective study strategy is a must. In an ongoing blog series, I explain in detail the exact steps you can take to develop an efficient and productive study routine:
- Part 1: How to revise for IB
- Part 2: How to learn new material for IB
- Part 3: Coming soon
- Part 4: Coming soon
- Part 5: Coming soon
How did I handle my routine it?
Here’s my strategy that you can use as well:
- Balance your time across multiple subjects. The #1 rookie mistake students make is throwing all their time on one subject per day. Every subject needs a bit of love and attention.
- Let’s get more specific: time. Spend one hour on thee to four different subjects per day, every day. For your weaker subjects, 2 hours would be required. This means around 4 hours of regular study every day if you want to do extremely well in the IB.
To help organise my study schedule in the IB, I used the Calendar app. Below is a recreated version of what my timetable once looked like. Please note that the schedule is a recreation and it is too organised. The point is to give you the idea that a routine schedule for study is extremely important.
Benefits of an organised timetable
- It ensures that you study a healthy range of subjects every evening
- It ensures that you give equal attention to all subjects. I made sure I did 3 x one-hour study sessions for each subject every week.
A lot of students don’t use calendars because they feel restricted.
Of course, it is hard to stick to rigid guidelines.
What if an urgent assignment is due this week? What if I need to spend more time on this subject because I can’t understand it?
No problem. The time at which a subject is allocated is flexible and should evolve depending on your daily needs. Simply move the block of time to another time or another day. Add time to a block. Shorten a block of time. Do whatever you want.
The purpose of a calendar is not to enslave yourself. It’s meant to give you a well-planned but flexible guide for how you should be spending your time. It also relieves the invisible stress of having to organise your day in your head.
2. Stay ahead
We are successful when we are prepared. One way to excel in the IB is to stay ahead of the class material. Hey, no one said getting an IB 45 is easy.
Staying ahead means preparing early. Don’t wait for your teacher to cover the content in class. Use holidays to begin learning new content independently. When the new semester arrives, you can use class time as clarification, revision, and consolidation. Early preparation also reduces stress during the academic term-a big plus.
3. Running the long distance
Don’t be the guy who makes notes for two years’ worth of IB content in the month before finals. You won’t get good results.
Learning is like marinating a chicken.
For knowledge to seep into the deep crevices of your brain, you need to consistently and regularly immerse yourself in the subject content for two years — not a few weeks!
The IB is a triathlon (yes, I avoided the pedestrian marathon metaphor, pun intended), not a 100m sprint. If you treat the IB as a sprint, you’ll die (academically-speaking)!
It’s also a very stressful experience.
IB: “Do you want cortisol with that?”
Me: “No thanks. Ketchup is fine.”
4. Use the subject syllabus, aka train tracks
The IB outlines exactly what you need to know for your exams. This magical information is all contained in the corresponding subject syllabus. It’s pretty much a train track. Follow it and you’ll get to where you need to go (the Land of 45).
A word of warning: Syllabi change every couple years; make sure you use the correct one.
Note-making with the syllabus
I made all my notes based on tips from paper writing service and the syllabus points for each subject.
- This keeps my notes organised, concise and neat.
- I know exactly what I need to know by sticking to the syllabus.
Do not be lazy and just rely on the textbook. Textbooks are made by third-party companies. These textbooks like to add redundant information and do not stick to the syllabus. Of course, good textbooks are also extremely important, which brings me to my next point.
5. Textbooks: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
As you go through your IB journey, you encounter the good and the bad. There are some textbooks that are indeed quite bad to learn from, not just because they contain glaring mistakes and misprints in both questions and answers, but also because they babble on and on about irrelevant content.
I have yet to write more textbook and learning resource recommendations for different subjects. You can read the textbook and resource recommendations for IB Chemistry.
6. Be proactive and ask for help
Never leave problems unsolved.
Deal with problems in your understanding immediately. Knowledge is like a house of cards. You need a solid foundation (basic skills, SL) before you can build the beautiful arches and domes at the top (advanced skills, HL).
If you build on a weak foundation, everything you learn later in the course will not be able to hold itself up. “London bridge is falling down…”
Avoid these troubles by ensuring your complete understanding of course material when it is being taught.
- Ask your teacher.
- Consult YouTube.
- Ask a friend.
- Sell a kidney and trade it for wisdom (not really, although…).
Don’t let problems fester and come back to haunt you.
7. Get to know the IB-with QuestionBank
How do I realise that I don’t understand a concept properly?
If you can teach a concept to a friend or peer, then you understand the concept.
We don’t always have a convenient friend that we can just steal and force upon them with our teachings.
QuestionBank is a collection of past IB questions collated officially by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO). I recommend that you ask your IB teachers about QuestionBank first because it is expensive.
Anyway, after I made my notes and felt that I understood the theoretical concepts, I used QuestionBank to test myself. Success in IB exams requires you to be familiar with the style of IB questions.
After working through a question, I check the Mark scheme (Official answers key) which conveniently pops onto my screen. I then compare my answers with the Mark scheme and adjust how I answer that type of question.
This will maximise your exam score, GUARANTEED.
8. Do an Anticipated subject (Bonus)
Doing well in the IB is mostly about being organised and consistent. But there are also times when the IB can be made, strategically, into a mad sprint-for your own benefit.
Doing Anticipated subjects is a great way to minimise stress and academic workload in your final diploma year, when TOK, CAS, EE and countless IAs are all due in a conveniently squished period of time. I talk about the benefits of doing Anticipated subjects in the IB in my recent article.
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