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Tips and advice on how to cope with IBDP from a 45 pointer

I was part of the IBDP N20 batch, taking HL Biology, HL Chemistry, HL Mathematics, SL English A: Language and Literature, SL Chinese B, and SL Economics.

As with anything worthwhile, scoring a perfect 45 was not a smooth-sailing endeavour for me. In fact, for the majority of those two gruelling years, never did I expect to achieve such a seemingly monumental feat. I still remember the disappointment I felt after having barely scraped a 4 for Economics, and a 5 for English during my 1st-year promotional examinations. I remember the numerous all-nighters I pulled to work on presentations and reports, counting down the days till the end of my IB life. However, I also remember how ecstatic I was after the last examination paper. I remember celebrating with my friends the day we received our diplomas. With my score, I managed to secure a spot at the National University of Singapore, double majoring in Statistics and Business Analytics on scholarship. I feel I have made the most of my IB experience, and I want you to make the most of yours.

I would like to preface by emphasising that while it is good to set goals which spur you to greater heights, it is important to set them realistically. Aiming for a 45 can be a feasible objective for you, but only once you have done the necessary revision for examinations, and put in ample effort for your IAs, EE and TOK. My personal philosophy regarding this is to confidently do your best, and let the results reflect your standard of preparation.

What matters most in trying to achieve anything is attitude. I strove to maintain a healthy mindset towards learning and took a genuine interest in my subjects, despite having made my fair share of complaints about how tiresome IAs are, or the workload disparity between my HL subjects and their SL counterparts. By identifying the topics and concepts I found most intriguing, I was able to streamline my study routine. Every day, I would aim to revise various topics from various subjects. Ensuring that these topics included both what I enjoyed and what I needed additional work on helped lessen the mundanity of studying.

Apart from my academic life, I was very active in my extracurriculars, being a member of the Interact Club, Mathematics Competition Team, and National Police Cadet Corps in my school. With each commitment taking up 1 to 2 days of after-school time, I was left with little time for homework, revision and recreation. This resulted in me falling behind on my studies, unable to understand the teacher when touching on previously taught concepts. Through this vicious hectic cycle I had created for myself, I gradually learnt to strike a balance between my subjects and extracurriculars, even at the expense of lowering my commitment level for each activity I was involved in. It was crucial I managed my workload without chasing every opportunity that demanded more of my time. As a result, by keeping up with the syllabus (and even reading ahead on occasion), I was able to grasp concepts more easily as they were being taught, without the fear of an ever-growing “revision backlog”.

Still, I did not have the luxury of time, and needed to optimise the way I studied. Rather than blindly memorise everything the school-provided notes had to offer, I consolidated my own notes of key points from each chapter, focusing on the basic idea of each concept and expanding on each with digestible bullet-point lists. For content-heavy subjects like the humanities and sciences, I found it helpful to also study from the IB examination markschemes, since they were the most reliable source of answers the markers themselves look out for. Ultimately, I still had to practise writing essays and crafting answers profusely, though I found doing past-year papers most helpful only after I was sure I had completed my topical revision, since I could accurately assess my ability and patch up weak links. These techniques helped me breach the barrier between simply “learning” the material and truly “absorbing” it.

Fortunately for current and future batches of IBDP students, EdXP would come in really handy with its thousands of exam style original questions. There is no longer a need to rely on the very limited past year exam papers or pay astronomical amount for RV access. If only EdXP had existed during my time, I would definitely have saved time trying to find reliable sources for practice questions. Nevertheless, I'm glad that I'm currently part of the EdXP team and can apply my skills in creating questions to benefit other IBDP students around the world.

Lastly, I can definitively say that I would never have been able to overcome any obstacle without the help and support of my teachers, friends and family. I strongly urge all students to maintain healthy working and social relationships with your teachers and friends respectively. Whether you need someone to look over your report and critique it, to clarify misunderstandings about a certain topic, or just to lament about how stressed you are, having a caring support system goes a long way in aiding you mentally, emotionally and academically.

If you happen to feel overwhelmed with work at the moment, try to envision the countless students before you who have been through the programme and triumphed. Talk to your friends and loved ones, see a counsellor, or take some time to look after your mental health, but do your best to push through and not give up. As a graduate, it is worth it to see yourself at the end, to be able to proudly say you have worked hard to complete your IB journey. On that note, I would like to wish all current and future IB students the best in your current studies and future endeavours.


This article was written by Yau Hua, a former N20 IBDP student who scored 45 points at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), Singapore. He is currently part of the EdXP Academic team where he is involved in the design of the Math curriculum and the creation of IB exam style questions.


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