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Revision time

Sunday 29 March 2015

If you are like me, this week I am wrapping up the course and getting ready for revision. Revision for me is always one of the most difficult times of the year. It is the time of the year when students realize how much they have forgotten and they need to develop their own strategies to get ready for the big day. I need to take a deep breath and remind myself that it is like this every year - and it gets better as we get closer to exams.

But when I talk to students and teachers, there seems to be some misinformation out there about the exams. So, I thought it would be good to provide some clarifications and tips for exam preparation.

Tip 1. Don't play the game of trying to guess the questions. There is a common belief that the IB is "not allowed" to ask the same questions that were asked last year. This is not true. There is only a limited number of questions for each level of analysis/option and it is possible that a question that was asked last year could be asked again this year - either as an SAQ or as an essay question. A few years ago the IB accidentally sent out the previous year's exam for history. So students had the same questions as the previous May. Although it was a mistake, it was still considered a valid examination as students are supposed to be prepared for all learning outcomes.

Tip 2. Even though some students may wnat to cut down on the amount of content they need to prepare, they must prepare at least two of the three sections of each of the options. Some people believe that the exams are supposed to ask one question from each of the three areas of learning for each option - for example, in human relationships, that would be prosocial behaviour, interpersonal relationships and violence. This is not true. It could very well be that there are two questions from one area of the option and then one question from another. Preparing only one section is a very risky strategy....

Tip 3: Prepare 2 - 3 studies for each essay question. One study for each SAQ. Another myth is that "more is better." In reality, many students who pack their essays with studies do not devote enough time to the command term. In SAQ responses, credit is only given for the first study which is used to answer the question. The others are not read.

Tip 4: Think globally. For the essays, if the command term is discuss, students should be thinking about the bigger issues with the question and not just evaluating research. So, "Discuss research on conformity" should not just evaluate studies, but discuss the problems of carrying out conformity research. This may include the need for deception, the problems of doing it in a naturalistic setting, questions about the role of culture and gender, the question about why so many people don't conform. Lacking this global approach to questions will most probably result in mid-range marks for critical thinking, depending on the command term.

Tip 5: And finally, many schools ask if it is ok for students to prepare just one Level of Analysis for Paper 1. Of course, they would still need to know one study or theory for each SAQ question, so this is still a lot of information. If students only prepare one level of analysis, this will mean that they have to answer the essay question, come what may. So, I do not necessarily recommend this strategy, but for many students, this is a choice that they make in order to manage all of the studying that they have for exams.

My last piece of advice that I give my students is that they may not fall in love at this point in the year. If Fischer is right, all the wrong neurotransmitters for assessment will kick in and things could go terribly awry.....


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