How to Deal with Academic Setbacks as an IB Student

Nothing makes students anxious like exams…. well except for receiving the results of the exam!   If you’re reading this, you may be disappointed after possible academic setbacks; before I say anything else, I just want to say that this result is just a mark of unfinished success! If not yet an IB student, you may be a prospective student wanting a look into life as an IB student. If you are the latter, I would suggest that you have a look at IBlieve’s post on Why do the IB? (from an IB graduate) first. 

I’m a Year 1 student just a few months into the IBDP and it is a whole new world in comparison to the curriculums like IGCSE and CBSE, that I’ve done before. I have always been one of the academically inclined students in lower classes and was accustomed to doing well. 

The IB caught me completely off guard! The first few exams I took were enough for me to start believing the harrowing rumours about the IB. They were an absolute nightmare! Where I previously scored 90%, I was barely reaching 60% in my internal exams. And that made me panic. Big time. (And this is just the beginning). But using a simple technique, I have started to look at setbacks in a new way that now drives me to get that 7. 

The ‘Growth Mindset

The support of the teachers around me and knowing that everyone else was also going through the same thing that I was helped me realise that I wasn’t alone in what seemed like a hopeless battle against the IB. One of my teachers recommended this TED Talk by Carol Dweck; it gave me a new insight into my inability to do well, and provided me with a motivating factor to keep trying to get better. I’ll try to give a short summary of the ted-talk: a growth mindset allows you to continuously flourish regardless of what your starting point is. A person with a growth mindset believes that they can improve, and focuses on the effort they put in rather than the end product. This helps individuals overcome academic setbacks.

To put that into context, they would focus on the process of learning the material they did not quite grasp, rather than ruminating on the 3 they received on the last test. The idea behind this mindset is that when you focus on learning the material, you enjoy the process, thus propelling you to learn more and do better on tests. Ultimately, aren’t good grades what all students strive for?

Implementing the ‘Growth Mindset

I’ve recently started implementing this technique and though I’ve not had any formal exams yet, there has been a promising change. It is so much more liberating to think about the process to get a 7 in a subject, rather than thinking about why you couldn’t get it the last time. 

If you think you won’t hold out for long all by yourself, take in a few of your friends and try implementing the growth mindset strategy together! You can keep each other in check by ensuring that either of you don’t fall into the counter-productive fixed mindset, and cheering the other up. For the same purpose, I have weekly study sessions with a few like-minded friends wherein we have exchanges about our workflow, useful resources and study tricks that we discovered in the past week. Keep each other accountable and be careful not to digress to the last stunt you pulled during online class or your favorite K-drama that was released over the weekend! 

While the IB is hard, using techniques like cultivating a growth mindset might make it a little easier for you to deal with setbacks. If there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from today’s post, it’s simply that “The expert in anything was once a beginner”. So don’t be too hard on yourself! If you work hard and smart none’s to stop you from getting there! 

Stay positive 🙂

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