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  • Zain Asif

Top Tips to Ace the IB 2021 ๐Ÿš€

These are the secrets to acing the IB in a pandemic. All May 2021 IB students have been in a uniquely difficult position. But follow these verified top tips to maximise your grades.

You've been studying at home for most of the IB. You've struggled with online classes, assignments and had limited support during the pandemic. Your school may or may not be opting to do the final exams. Either way, you need to be smart about your work. Don't forget your goals and follow these tips to be as prepared as possible.

Disclaimer: Go and read the changes made to your exams in 2021!! Papers have been cut off and content from your syllabus has been modified so take the time to properly understand what you're required to study.


Upfront Summary

Aim for full marks on your IA
  • You're not constrained by time. You can make them perfect.

  • Read the criteria, pick ideas specific to your identity and learn to design your research.

Hack your mock + class tests
  • Your school teachers will use questions from past exams to create the papers.

  • So, you MUST practise as many of these questions as possible. Be clever.

The EE + TOK are NOT bonus points
  • You need to get an A and a B to get 3/3 marks, it's not impossible.

  • I got an A in my EE within 4 days.

  • Engaging with the EE +TOK + IAs is underrated

Be Prepared: Scope each subject out
  • Before starting to study the subject, make a bullet list of all the topics you're learning.


Aim for Full Marks on your IA

Your internal assessments are a major factor in shaping your final IB grade. Treat them as a luxury 20%-30% that can be secured to alleviate some stress before you walk into the exams.

You're not constrained by time. You can make them perfect. Focus on improving every aspect of each IA. Why not aim for the best grades possible?

We, as students, never prioritise the right way. We give home works and school assignments more importance than the actual final IAs during most of the 2 years! Only after the deadlines are near, do we panic and start scrambling to do them. Even those that do start early, rarely max out on the work they do for their IAs. We half-ass them and fail to recognise their importance until the end.

Unlike your exams, which depend on the questions and your mindset on the day, these IAs can be confirmed full marks. But regardless of whether or not you're giving the exams this year, treat them with importance. Focus on really improving every aspect of each IA.

Follow these tips if you feel stuck:

  1. Download, read and understand the grading criteria for each subject's IA. All examiners will assess your work based on the criterion band it fulfils. Therefore, keep it with you whilst evaluating your plan and structure for EACH component of your investigation/essay.

  2. Pick topics and ideas that are specific to your identity. "Think Global, Act Local". Whether you are a student in Texas, India or Dubai, there are things about you that make you unique. Use that to your advantage and address local issues. IB looks for personal engagement. It's very underrated.

  3. Learn to design your research, especially for the sciences. It's your first time working on an original research approach so you are going to hit roadblocks. When this happened, I used to analyse example IAs that achieved top grades and then critically assessed my research method. Talking to an experienced teacher is highly beneficial too. They will be able to direct you.

Hack your Mock + Class Tests

This is extremely important if your school isn't offering IB exams and choosing to base your grades on teacher assessment.

Remember, your school teachers create your mock exams. They will primarily use official questions from IB past papers to make the papers. Therefore, you MUST practise as many of these questions as possible to maximise the chances of getting the same questions in the mock papers.

Yes, the obvious reasons for doing these questions are to get familiar with the actual papers, find your weaknesses and accelerate your learning. However, it also seems logical to practise as many MCQs and prepare as many essays plans as possible in the case that these same questions end up appearing in your mock exams. These grades will play a major role in your final IB grade if your school has opted our of doing IB exams this year.

All in all, doing these questions is essential regardless but be clever. Realise that teachers are likely to use past questions in your mock exams and class assessments. Think like the examiner ie. your teacher and prepare accordingly. Use question banks, do full papers and thoroughly review with the mark schemes.


The EE & TOK are NOT 'bonus' points

Its the core of the IB for a reason.

The amount of students that miss out on their diploma because of their EE or TOK points is astonishing. It is 3 full marks up for grabs. Students treat these components inferior to their 6 other subjects whilst also making too big of a deal out of them. In reality, these 3 points are the difference between getting into your dream university and not meeting your offer at all.

You need to get an A and B to get 3/3 marks, it's not impossible. In a time when you feel like you don't have much control, these core points and the quality of your work are things you have complete control over. You should maximise these three marks and improve them as much as you can.

I got an A in my EE within 4 days.

The EE's 4000 words seem overwhelming but this essay is honestly very doable. I started and finished my extended essay in 4 days during DP1. Obviously, there were edits later but my point is that I set myself with the goal of finishing it and I was very committed. After agonising about choosing an idea for months, I got tired of stressing and just started writing.

I'm not recommending that you to aim for 4 days as it is a long process for most subjects, especially with data collecting and designing your experiment. However, sometimes we put off the task because it seems too difficult and unenjoyable. You need to be mindful of its importance. It's worth it just to get the first draft on the page, even if you have to rewrite bits of it later.

Engaging with the EE +TOK + IAs is underrated

Some of you struggled a lot with the IB during the last year and lost hope. Let's be honest, it's been hard to enjoy school from your room. But don't forget, the EE, TOK and your IAs are what make the IB different from all other curriculums out there.

No one else that is your age gets to engage themselves in this unique independent process.

I wish I valued all of it more. All of them are so different from your classic textbook learning. So immerse yourself in them and treat them as an opportunity to explore your enthusiasm.


Be Prepared: Scope Each Subject Out

There's no doubt that the quality of your learning suffered this year. Online learning is just not as effective as face-to-face. We're all aware of this now. Most students I know have major knowledge gaps in their respective subjects. Some haven't even started studying or doing their IAs!

The problem is that w.e won't be able to use this as an excuse for the exams or mock tests coming up. The IB will still expect you to know everything on the syllabus of your subject guides. It is our responsibility to be prepared and the way to start doing that is to scope the guides for each subject.

Before starting to study anything, grab a blank piece of paper and make a bullet list of all the topics and sub-headings for each subject you're learning.

Use the official syllabus from the subject guides to make this list and while you do so go through every understanding, application and guidance bullet point on the guide. Make sure you understand every piece of information on there. If not look it up, ask a friend or drop me a message. ๐Ÿ˜Š

This is a priceless practice. You must get familiar with all the topics you need to know about for each subject. Once you do this, you will form a bigger picture of your subject and start to fit anything you learn into this framework. I still do this in university or before I take on any big challenge. Scoping my subject always helps identify my weaknesses and makes me feel less overwhelmed.

As mentioned before, don't forget to check the changes to your subjects and exams for 2021 because your subject guide may be outdated!

Your grades are in your control. Don't forget your goals. You are perfectly capable of taking responsibility for your work.
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