With just under one month until the start of IB May Exams (which I took last year, in 2017), i thought it would be the perfect time to bring you a post about how I prepared for them and hopefully share some tips that you can implement into your revision to help you ACE the exams.
Plan – revision timetables and checklists
For me this is crucial. I know some people like to throw themselves into revision with no plan and just focus on whatever they think is most important at that point in time. This has never worked for me, as I find myself constantly thinking about another topics that I need to study and I worry that I won’t manage to cover everything before the test date. That’s where timetables and checklists come into the picture.
I begin by outlining when I will have time to study by drawing up a timetable in Excel or opening up Google Calendar to fill in the gaps in my schedule. Here it’s important to fit your studying around your other activities, rather than trying to move your activities to fit your studying. Of course, when it comes to how many activities you’re doing, you should keep it within reason – you don’t want to be doing 20 hours worth of extracurriculars in the lead up to exams (unless you’ve already studied all year and now it’s just a matter of refreshing your memory – not the case for most of us).
Next, I write a comprehensive list of every single topic I want to study before the exam. Then I write down exactly which exercises and practice problem sets I want to do to prepare for each checkpoint. Once I have this list, the next step is to work out exactly how much I need to do each day so that I finish studying about 1-2 weeks before the exam date. I simply count up the number of topics and divide by the number of days I have left. Then, these get put into my calendar so that I can’t avoid doing them.
Get motivated and stop procrastinating
Motivation can come from anywhere. Ideally, your motivation should come from within – whether you’re motivated because you need the grades to get into university or simply because you want to prove to yourself that you can achieve them, you need to find your WHY and work from there. This is how I stop myself from procrastinating too – if my reason for studying is strong enough, every time I find myself getting distracted or putting studying off, I just remind myself of my motivation.
This is the single BEST piece of advice I can give you, especially when preparing for big exams, whether it’s your final IB exams or A Levels. There is nothing worse than realising one day before the exam that you don’t understand something or haven’t had time to study it yet. To avoid the madness of cramming, start early. For me, early means giving myself about 1-2 months of solid, focused studying. You might need more or less, but this is what I try to aim for. So, if your exams start in May, you should aim to start studying sometime during March.
Making notes and flashcards VS practicing
The method you use to study will depend on the type of person you are and what subject you are studying. Personally, as a kinaesthetic and visual learner, I prefer to make notes/mindmaps, use flashcards and do practice questions over watching videos or listening to someone explaining a concept. I recommend doing a quiz or reading up about the different types of learners and figuring out where you fit long BEFORE you start studying. I’ve broken down each subject below and which methods I used to study, but this is just MY method. Yours could be completely different and you should stick to what works for you.
- Maths: notes, practice questions (LOTS of practice questions)
- Biology: notes, mindmaps, diagrams
- Chemistry: notes, practice questions
- Geography: mindmaps, reading the news
- English: mindmaps, condensed notes
- German: Quizlet for vocabulary, reading books
Should you make notes for Maths/Science/English etc.?
Maths – you don’t need notes, but I made them and they were so so useful
Many people say that you don’t need to make notes for Maths and you don’t, but I made summary sheets with the most important information from each chapter and relied on them SO much. As a Maths HL student, I did a lot of Maths over the two years of IB. I found that although practice questions were the best way to get good at Maths, it was important to have a solid understanding of the concepts first. I did this using flashcards so that the formulas and theories were presented in ‘bite-sized’ chunks.
English (any language A) – ESSENTIAL
In my opinion, English relies almost entirely on a good set of notes (and essay plans). Whether it’s a book you’re studying or an article you need to annotate
Geography – not essential, but case studies are
For Geography, I found notes to be extremely important too, but my notes were a bit more creative than for other subjects.
Sciences – make sure to include the correct key words
Each study session: mostly learning new concepts and a bit of revising old topics
80% learning new topics
20% revising old topics that link to the new topics
Textbook questions and revision → QuestionBank → Past papers