Exam time!

Saturday 7 April 2018

Top tips for revising

Help your students get ready for the IB Final May Exams which start this year on 24 April and run until 18 May 2018.

Here we provide a strategy (Plan, Prepare, Perform), top tips (from IB alumni), and blogs you can use with students to get them thinking about the issues around revision.

Revision Strategy

IB exams have been compared to climbing a mountain for which you need to plan, prepare and then perform in.

PLAN: Have the right mindset

Be goal-focused - remind yourself why yourself why you are doing the Diploma and where it is going to lead you. It is never too early to start revising. However, students can procrastinate thinking they have loads of time left before the exams. To stop procrastination students need to feel unprepared. We know that fear is one of four key motivators for learning (see Lessons that engage to read about the other triggers). Attempting to do a past paper can be a great way to waking up to what you know and what you do not know. Know where you need to focus. Six subjects is a lot to revise so approach revision strategically. Know where your weak points are and focus on these first. It is important to put your energy where it counts most.

PREPARE: Practice, practice and practice more

Schedule your time well. Use a revision calendar if it helps  because it will provide you with a well-planned but flexible guide so you cover all six subjects . Make sure you know 'the big picture': how many papers do you have in each subject and altogether? Start with those you are least comfortable with but timetable them all into a revision schedule knowing how many papers you need to cover each week. Don't throw yourself just into one subject a day - don't forget there are sixsubjects and they all need time and attention, so create a balance each day. Practice exam questions: access and work through IB Question Bank and then the mark scheme (Question Bank is a collection of past IB questions collated officially by the International Baccalaureate Organisation). Then continually do past questions primarily to identify what you do not yet know so you can work on these aspects. Marking your questions is the most important part because it is in the marking that you can identify what you still do not know and this becomes the catalyst to learning it. Make yourself do these questions under timed strict exam conditions so you become prepared for the real thing (i.e. no phones, no notes and no internet!).

PERFORM: 1 exam at a time

Drink water: remember it is important to be well hydrated for your brain to work at its best. Arrive early - if you arrive late you will not be allowed to enter! Make sure you have the correct equipment with you for each exam. Manage the time – note the mark allowance and do not get over-stuck on a difficult question if it means you run out of time to complete other questions. Read question carefully looking out for command words and key phrases which you can underline.Don't panic.

Top Tips

  • Know your subject syllabus: have a copy for each subject with you - the syllabus tells you what will be on the exam. Make sure you know the syllabus. Don't rely on textbooks - they often contain things you do not need to learn!
  • Make organized revision notes: Have the subject syllabus alongside you and make notes on each section. BUT don't make notes for the sake of it. Make notes to capture key ideas, formularies, and important facts. But don't forget why you are making notes - it is in the writing and revising of notes that you commit things to memory. Use tools that work for you - it may be flash cards, or post-its around the house, or mind maps etc.
  • Remove distractions: switch off the phone and social media. You need to focus and use all of your time wisely. We all know that focus is key to learning something. Only have on your desk what you are studying. Remain focused.
  • Practice questions: going through past questions is essential. They will prepare you for the exam and encourage you to dip into notes when you need to find out something you do not know.
  • Ask for help - if you don't understand something you are revising be proactive and ask for help (teacher, peer, YouTube etc.).
  • Join a study group: for your weaker subjects consider joining a small subject group with peers who are at a similar level to you to work through past IB questions and swap revision notes. It is also a good way of testing yourself and sharing top tips.
  • Sleep improves performance - so make ure you get enough the night before the exam. 8 hours if possible! Some recommend reading through course content prior to sleep to let the unconscious work on it.

“Learning is like marinating a chicken. For knowledge to seep into the deep crevices of your brain, you need to consistently and regularly immerse yourself in the subject content for two years — not a few weeks! The IB is a triathlon not a 100m sprint. If you treat the IB as a sprint, you’ll die (academically-speaking)!”  (Jackson Huang, Sharing the idea, accessed 30 March 2018)

Blogs to reflect on


What's the best way to revise? Click HERE to access it.

Recalling information - revision Click HERE to access it.

10 ways to overcome test anxiety: The Princeton review has compiled a handy top 10 strategies for overcoming test anxiety

Tags: revision top tips, examiinations


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