The ultimate IB prep guide

Top tips on how students can ace their fast-approaching IB exams this May

Just ahead of International Baccalaureate exams, discover students’ biggest concerns in each subject and get teacher advice on how to tackle them


Where students get caught up: tricky wording
‘The most intimidating part of preparing for the exam is anticipating the different types of questions that will be asked. Even if I am familiar with the concept, the manner in which a question is phrased can initially make me feel like it is unfamiliar.’
-Yeping Zheng, year 13, YCIS

Teacher advice? Pay attention to command terms
‘For example, a question that requires you to ‘write down’ an answer requires no computation, while a question that asks you to ‘calculate’ an answer may require a lot of computation. Full marks are only given if the student logically demonstrates how their working of a problem lead to the answer that is given in the question.’
-Damion Walker, standard level mathematics teacher, YCIS

Language and Literature

Where students get caught up: not knowing the material

‘The most intimidating part is not knowing the exact material that will show up on the exam. In English, there are so many possible things that may show up in the exam. I will not only have to understand the core material, but also expand upon it to be familiar with other novels, articles, poems and so on.’

-Derek Liu, Year 12, WAB

Teacher advice? Learn to annotate

‘The limited time allowed on the exam means that students need to practise annotating previously unseen texts under strict time constraints. Students should read each course text at least two times before the final exams, but their annotations must be detailed and well organised. Setting up a format for their notes and practising the annotation of texts is a vital skill for both papers.’

-DJ Rix, English teacher, WAB

Individuals and Societies

Where students get caught up: finding real-life examples

‘The most intimidating part of preparing for an exam, in my opinion, is to remember accurate and valid data points to support my arguments. Studying Individuals and Societies has been relatively easy and interesting for me these past few years. Living abroad has helped me understand the topics better.’

-Julia Torres Del Pra, year 13, BSB

Teacher advice? Read the news

‘Students struggle with the fact that all the topics covered in Individuals and Societies classes are interconnected. Finding real-life examples through analysing the media supports their knowledge and understanding of this course. The BBC News app is a great resource, along with an app called Flipboard and documentaries that can be found on YouTube. Accessing a wide range of media is a wonderful practice to get information fixed to memory.’

-Eurin Morgan, geography teacher, BSB


Where students get caught up: too many concepts

‘The most intimidating part of the IB Chemistry exam is the sheer volume of content the exam covers. I spend a lot of time reviewing and doing practice questions but the IB exam encompasses so many topics. Although it’s pretty time-consuming, writing everything out really helps me absorb content. Studying involves a lot of memorisation and counterintuitive concepts.’

-Alex G, year 12, ISB

Teacher advice? Learn to make connections

‘A good study challenge is for students to use the course material to create their own exam questions. By identifying connecting concepts throughout the course, they’ll begin to see how topics weave together and where links can be identified. The IB does a good job of testing students understanding at a deeper level by asking them to make connections between different parts of the course.’

-Les Hussack, chemistry teacher, ISB

Language Acquisition

Where students get caught up: unknown vocabulary

‘The scariest part of preparing for the exam is learning how to understand the text when unknown vocabulary pops up. In the two short years of the French AB course, it’s not possible to learn every word I am expected to see on the test. Knowing only a third of the words on our final test makes it difficult to answer questions. The key is practising how to make educated guesses.’

-Adam Sun, year 12, CISB

Teacher advice? Practice makes perfect

‘Even though the French IB course is for beginners, vocabulary can be very challenging. A language must be learned bit by bit; students can’t cram a whole language a few days or weeks before an exam. In order to help my students practise a little every day, I have started a WeChat group. I ask them one question a day that initiates a group conversation. I encourage students to use Duolingo, an interactive language app for smartphones and tablets.’

-William Saulnier, French teacher, CISB


Where students get caught up: staying on schedule

‘The most stressful part of preparing for the IB Visual Art final would have to be the fact that the number of school days left is quickly decreasing. Up until this point the course has been about creating pieces that we can use for different aspects of the class. Now it is down to the final stretch and this is where it requires the most focus to finish off the year strong.’

-Sean Williamson, year 12, BCIS

Teacher advice? Plan well. Otherwise, speak up!

‘Preparation and planning are key. The IB Visual Arts doesn’t have a final exam per say. The culmination of two years hard work is manifested in the form of an art exhibition, showcasing the students’ best and most carefully selected studio pieces. Organising your time and knowing when to prioritise and plan for your work is essential. If students are finding themselves behind, my advice is to tell your teachers before the deadline.’

-Arvind Bangay, head of art, DCB

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