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  • Zain Asif

Scoping The Subject 🎯

I always used to get lost in the details. It is so easy to get caught up in a specific topic and get carried away when you're revising. I'd start off reading and then an hour later I'd still be re-reading the same paragraph on page 2. All of us want to perfectly grasp every aspect of a topic but in reality, we usually just need a broad understanding of it. Especially for our IB exams.

Something extremely simple that changed the game for me was 'scoping the subject'.

Full disclaimer: This is a concept that I've copped from big productivity YouTubers. Worked really well in IB and then university too. It became an essential part of my learning framework.

Fit it into the bigger picture

Before starting to learn any new topic, get out a blank piece of paper and make a bullet list of all sub-units and sub-headings for this topic.

Scoping the subject is essential when starting to study anything new. You can do this on a note-taking app, brainstorm on a paper, do whatever seems most fun to you. It doesn't take a long time and it gives you the complete overview of your 2-year long IB subject.

Whether you'e starting organic chemistry or learning about perfect competition, every new topic needs to be broken down and categorized into smaller topics. Why? In order to understand and learn effectively, we need to find out where new knowledge fits in the bigger picture.

Learning new information becomes so easy all of a sudden.

When I started doing this, it forced me to categorize all the types of topics I'd have to study. Categorizing them forces us to fit the new knowledge into our existing mental framework. All of your studying just becomes more manageable when its on an A4 page.

Think about your subject like a tree

Prioritize understanding the general ideas of the entire tree, then the concepts of the branches and lastly the specifics of the leaves. In the IB, we must learn to work down to smaller details. Breadth first, depth later.

"Don't miss the trees for the leaves". I've always kept this mantra in mind when working on anything in the IB or in university this year. It's helped me avoid my temptation to get caught up in the details and kept me focused on the broad 80/20 concepts.

What to use to scope out your IB subject?

Subject Guide:

Using the subject guides would be perfect to scope out your subjects. An IB subject guide contains a complete syllabus of all content and skills needed for each topic in the subject. This would be the most accurate resource to understand the general ideas of your course and then break it down into details.

Oxford, Cambridge and Pearson IB Textbooks:

Specific IB textbooks have been written by very knowledgeable and experienced authors, therefore they are organised in a very understandable manner. You can use the headings and sub-headings of chapters in these books to aid with mapping your subject out.

Regardless of how you do it, fitting any new knowledge into the broader picture is essential before learning anything.


All in all, scoping the subject is an essential part of your learning. Fit anything you learn into the bigger picture to clarify the topic. I'm not just saying this. I've incorporated this 10-min exercise in every revision session. Bullet point on an A4 page, mind-map it, or organise it on the notion app. Either way you need to appreciate the subject and your learning from the birds-eye view.


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