Exams Revision Time Management Tips

5 Tips to “Cram” for IB Tests (when you have to)

Time management is an extremely important skill that the IB tries to instil in their students. However, most students are likely to fall into the inviting (yet deadly) hands of procrastination, ultimately realising that they have a test coming up soon and haven’t started studying for it! They will then furiously start scribbling down notes from a textbook, doing their best to memorise the information in the limited time they have. When they eventually take their test, their palms sweat as they try to recall the information from what they crammed last night, oftentimes leaving the student with a poor grade.

So what is the best way to cram for a test? While I’d like to think of myself as a good student, the IB can get overwhelming at times and there have been a couple of circumstances where I needed to cram one or two days before a test. Here are the 5 steps I utilise when I need to cram:

(Note: These tips are under the assumption that you’ve already paid attention in class so that at least you have a broad idea of what the content is going to look like on the test. Do your future self a favour and please pay attention!)

1. Breathe

Contrary to what you might be thinking, you’re going to be alright. Panicking only leads to more stress, which will hamper your power to cram the material into your brain. Before you start cramming, I would recommend doing a soothing activity for a few minutes, such as going for a walk or listening to music. After you’ve de-stressed, get back to your desk (or any other study space) and get ready to start cramming!

2. Understand the format of your test

The majority of IB subjects have multiple papers for each subject. Finding out which paper format your teacher will give on the test is essential to how you will study for it. For example, a student doing IB Economics Paper 1 (extended response) would need to understand the concepts on a large scale basis to structure a well-written response and case studies to exemplify them. On the contrary, IB Economics Paper 2 (data response) would require an emphasis on the terms and calculations based upon the given scenario. As you can see, the method that you should use to study will change depending on the paper, so it is crucial to ask what type of paper the teacher will be giving (so you can prepare specifically for that).

While Year 2 students likely know all the bits and parts towards each paper, Year 1 students might not still understand the format of each paper. If you are confused, be sure to check out the subject guide of the subject you are studying for and scroll down to the ‘External Assessment’ section. Reading the subject guide is crucial if you want to score well!

3. Study!

At this point, there isn’t any way you’d be able to take extensive notes on every single part of whatever unit is specified for the test. Instead, take a look at the notes that you took during regular class time and skim through it. Doing so will allow you to get a gist of what sections you’re proficient in and what sections you need to study more in. Prioritise the sections you are struggling in and study! I’d recommend starting with YouTube videos that cover the section first (check out our YouTube recommendations for the best channels for IB subjects), and if you’re still struggling, utilise textbooks and websites to better understand the content. Additionally, I’ve found that summary guides are extremely beneficial to get the main details about a topic (biology students, check out this link!).

Essentially, the best method of cramming is to prioritise and get an idea on the main points of the topic. While it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a master at the unit (due to the time constraint), it’s the most efficient method to maximise the amount of information you need to do well on the test.

4. Do Practice Questions

I was always told by my chemistry teacher to NEVER take a test without doing practice questions. IB examination questions generally tend to be very different from other curriculums, and your teacher will likely try and simulate similar types of questions on your unit test. Thus, it is critical to look at past paper questions on the topic before attempting any sort of test.

The majority of IB textbooks offer a plentiful amount of practice questions for you to do, and you can find copious amounts of questions online as well. Do the questions without referencing any sort of resource at first, and then make sure to check the marking scheme of the question to see how well your answer fits the demands of the question. If you seem to be missing something in your answer, grab your notes (and the web!) to better understand the information you’ll need to answer the question.

For essay-based subjects like LangLit, History, and Economics, you wouldn’t have time to write an in-depth essay to practice for your test. Instead, I recommend creating a brief outline as to how you are going to approach the question. For example, if you are doing a practice question from LangLit Paper 1, list out all the things (like stylistic and literary devices) that you think could be major points of discussion for an in-depth analytical essay. This is a huge time saver, and these skills are transferable when you actually take an exam, since creating outlines are crucial before attempting long answers to ensure you stay on point and gain as many marks as possible.

5. Get a Good Night’s Rest

Sleep is not for the weak! Most people spend endless hours cramming the night before a test, and while studying for your test is the key priority, you need to make sure you get enough rest before the big day. Taking a test with limited sleep is going to cause you to forget a lot of the information you crammed last night, so try to get at least 6 hours of sleep before your test.

While it’s not ideal to cram for a test, you may need to pull it off at some point in your IB journey. Be sure to try out this 5 step plan and modify it to your heart’s content! Good luck!!! 🙂


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