Preparing for IB School Examinations
Start early for IB Exam Preparation
James cannot begin the IB revision program too early. The confidence gained by an early start is huge.
Give More support for IB Exam Preparation
The IB Diploma Program is tough. But, everyone believes that James can succeed on it. Show that your belief in this is unwavering. Consider:
- Physical support– look after James’s physical needs… especially as the revision gets more intense. Stock the fridge. Give James space and an appropriate environment to work. Provide lots of Post-Its – or whatever James needs for study. Encourage healthy/regular eating (not too many sugary foods – and not too much caffeine). Encourage James to get enough sleep (and to do something relaxing before going to sleep). Encourage regular exercise.
- Emotional support– many students (including James?) find exams stressful – especially if it seems as if their future depends on the results. Friends and families can provide tons of emotional support. The first stage is belief – you believe in James. The second is listening. When James is stressed, don’t rush in to try to calm him/her down. That suggests that signs of stress are wrong. They are not. They are perfectly normal. Instead, encourage James to express the worries or fears that he/she is experiencing. But then, don’t feel that you need to offer advice. Usually, you can’t. But, you can offer time and space. Give James the opportunity to talk, to cry or just to be quiet. Thirdly, show appreciation. James’s goals may be ambitious – and might not be achieved. Regardless of the outcome, show that you accept James’s efforts – whether you think that they could be improved or not! Praise the work that is being done, the maturity that is shown, James’s massive development during the two-year IB Program, etc. Whatever James achieves, is wonderful in your eyes.
Understand the work-load of IB Exam Preparation
James will have lots of deadlines to meet in the second year of the Diploma or will have met lots of deadlines already. Coursework – usually amounting to 20-30% of the final grade – has to be submitted to the IB. CAS also has to be completed. It is important that James gets all of these commitments out of the way by the deadlines set by the school. But, don’t forget that it is also important for James to get the best possible grades for them. If any “Internal Assessment” completion dates are looming or outstanding, support James in doing the work as thoroughly as possible, but certainly by the deadline. Does James have commitments outside school? Are all of these necessary? Can they be scaled down as the exam period gets nearer?
Look out for signs of stress
Many students show signs of stress in the build-up to exams – and James is probably no exception. Some “manage” their stress well; others struggle. As a parent, you are in a good position to identify signs of stress. A moderate amount of stress is often good – it raises adrenaline levels and increases motivation. Too much can paralyse work. The more of the following that are visible, the louder the alarm bells should be ringing:
- Physical symptoms– such as sleeping or eating more or less, but also signs such as chest pains, headaches, nausea, constipation, etc.
- Mental symptoms– e.g. loss of concentration or interest, but also nail biting, etc.
- Emotional symptoms – for example, tears, tantrums or panic attacks
- Addictive symptoms– increased smoking or alcohol consumption
- Self-deprecating comments– “I know I’ll never pass”, “Amin is much brighter than me”, etc.
If the signs are mounting, what can you do? This depends a lot on the type of person that James is. The emotional support described above is vitally important. But, one key is often relaxation. Breathing exercises are good. So are other relaxation techniques. Physical activity is great. You might be able to do something diverting as a family. Or, James’s friends might rally round to go and have fun together.
Know about support systems of IB Exam Preparation
James has many options for supporting revision. These include:
- IB Teachers– James will have realized that the teachers are on her/his side. They want her/him to do well. They are also experts on their subjects and what the examiners are looking for in IB exams. They can give great But, they are also very busy (and stressed?). Encourage James to tell the teachers which aspects of the work he/she is finding particularly difficult. If it’s easier for James to talk to teachers after the normal end of school, encourage that.
- Syllabus– the IB produces clear syllabus guides for each subject. Has James got copies of these? Many are very bulky – and some parts are irrelevant for James, but having access to the key parts is vital. This includes information on assessment (exams) and how they are graded.
- IB Private Tutor– Most of the students get a better score with the help of Professional and Experienced Private Tutor for IB. Existence of private tutor will boost learning efficiency and decrease wasted time for students.
- Notes– since the start of the IB Diploma, James will have accumulated masses of notes and handouts. But, he/she may have missed some work. Are the notes complete? Even when they are, their usefulness will vary. Typically, they are much too bulky. A very useful revision technique is to REDUCE, reduce, reduce – condensing notes into mind maps, diagrams, bullet-points, mnemonics, etc.
- Textbooks– there is a growing range of IB textbooks, but some schools use non-IB textbooks in their teaching. The value of these is significantly reduced for revision. In fact, few textbooks are of use in the final stages. Revision Guides are often better (see below).
- IB Past papers and mark schemes– these are extremely useful. But, James should beware of the older ones – IB syllabuses frequently change, and so do the people who write the papers. With the growth of the IB, there has been an increase in the number of past papers (papers for different regions of the world, for different exam sessions, etc.). James’s school can access these. Teachers may be reluctant to release everything (because they want to retain some papers/questions for mock exams etc.), but there should still be enough for revision. In addition to trying the questions, James must understand the “rules” of each paper (shown on the front cover).
- Revision Guides– unlike textbooks which are great for learning, these are specifically written for revision. They pull out the key points and prepare students specifically for the exams. Many students have successfully used JAKARTA TUTOR’s Revision Guides – which can be ordered online and are despatched immediately.
- Revision advice– there is plenty of advice on how to revise. In addition to guidance from James’s school, there are books on the topic and lots of online advice. Two online examples are BBC and Skills4study. Because the IB prepares students for university so well (better than other examinations), the advice provided by university sites may be of use.
- Study Buddies– while exams are still solo activities, revising with others is to be encouraged. James can learn a lot from a “study buddy” or two. They can test each other, (re-)teach each other difficult aspects, support each other emotionally, etc. Young Private Tutor can also
- Revision Courses– since JAKARTA TUTOR started IB Revision Courses in 1990, several “rivals” have appeared on the scene. Revision Courses are inevitably expensive. Does James need them? We have no doubt that they are of value, but they are not for everyone. If James is looking for a revision course, think about cost, timing, location, size/flexibility (small courses are much less likely to be able to adjust to James’s needs; larger courses can group students accordingly), and, most importantly, the teachers. Some courses employ former IB students to “teach”. Be wary of these. Are they up-to-date with the syllabus and assessment (IB teachers and examiners are kept up-to-date through the IB’s online curriculum centre and officially authorised workshops)? Do they know how to promote learning in others? Have they developed appropriate learning resources?
- Parents and family– as identified earlier, a major part of James’s support system is you – and other members of the family. The IB Diploma is a highly respected academic Program (that’s why universities love it), but one of the reasons why it is valued so highly is because it is tough. At the end, James will be a superb, well-rounded “product” who will be able to tackle academic challenges fearlessly. But, James will need patience, understanding, support … and lots and lots of love!
Celebrate the achievement
Finally, celebrate when James finishes the exams. It’s a milestone which needs to be recognised. The results won’t be known for a month or so, but James’s success in completing the course is magnificent… whatever the outcome.