Academic Group 4 IB Experiences IB Overview Subjects

The IB Scientist Interview: How to succeed in the IB Sciences

The IB Scientist (aka Julia) was part of the M13 cohort of students and received a 41 on the IB diploma, with scores of 7 in both Biology and Chemistry. She runs an Instagram account where she posts helpful tips on the IB sciences and motivation!

Question: Why did you decide to create an Instagram account for IB Biology and Chemistry?

Answer: When I did the IB, I was really struggling with Chemistry. Constantly throughout Year 1, I would get 4’s in the class. The university that I wanted to go to required me to get a 6 or 7 in Chemistry, which made me think that there was no way I would get into college. I’m not exactly sure of what happened but in January of Year 1, something clicked in me. It wasn’t because I was necessarily “dumb” before then, rather I just had gaps in my knowledge of Chemistry and there were just pieces of the puzzle missing. With Chemistry, it’s all about building knowledge on knowledge, and if you don’t have that foundation, you can get so confused at how others are progressing swimmingly.

Essentially, I made the account so that other IB students know that they aren’t dumb. Instead, they just need to build the foundation of knowledge so they can succeed in the IB sciences.

Question: What advice would you give to Pre-IB students trying to choose what IB Sciences to take in the IB?

Answer: There are two things that Pre-IB students must keep in mind. First, if the university course that you are looking at requires a particular science or sciences. Secondly, choose a science that you are most interested in. That’s the most important thing because that would give you the motivation to push through and study. A common mistake students do is choosing a science solely of the fact that it’s an easy 7 like ESS or Biology SL. The sciences differ in terms of how you study for the courses, like how Biology and ESS focus on memorisation while Physics and Chemistry are based on concept building. As such, see which science fits your study strategy the best and you will be sure to do well!

Question: Did you find your experience with Biology and Chemistry HL to be helpful in university?

Answer: I studied Medical Science, so Biology and Chemistry were highly relevant to my degree. I don’t think course-specific knowledge really improved my experience in university since we immediately started building on the information we learned from the IB in more depth. However, the volume of stuff you had to learn for the IB sciences helps you in college since the workload is similarly high, and the non-course-specific skills learnt in the IB like time management are helpful. 

Question: What’s the best revision strategy students can take when they are running out of time to not feel overburdened?

Answer: I know many students create a plan on what they’re going to study until the exams. We’re all human, and likely a month or two will pass and you start panicking about how you don’t have much time to study. It’s better to just scratch the original plan in these circumstances and recalibrate the schedule to fit in with the amount of time you have. Also, it’s better to make the topics that you struggle with the most the highest priority on your plan so that you can maximise your score. If you have time later on, THEN you can start studying the other topics you are more confident in. You can’t do everything that you need to do at your best ability, but that’s okay and you can prioritise parts that you need to work on.

Question: What are some tips for the Science IA?

Answer: Pick a topic that you are interested in and think about the big picture on the IA! You need to find a way to link your investigation to something that’s happening around the world. For example, many students in Chemistry do IAs based on the acidity in dairy milk. Obviously, there are many specific parts to it like pKa’s, but you need to connect it towards the big picture like how this investigation might be useful when determining the shelf life of milk. 

The criteria are your best friend for the IA. It literally gives you a list of things you need to do to score high marks. I know most students think of it as a big project since you have to conjure up the topic and other specifics of your investigation, but the IA criteria act as structural support and will guide you to writing the final IA easily.

Question: In your opinion, what’s the best possible way to take notes for the IB sciences?

Answer: During class, it’s best to focus on what the teacher is saying and THEN take down notes on what you understood from the information. Writing down verbatim notes won’t help you in absorbing information. When it came to my revision time, I looked into the notes from the two years and created a bunch of revision sheets that I could read through later, which I thought was very effective. Also, I’d recommend writing your notes on paper or tablet instead of typing on a laptop, as you retain more information that way. I know it seems like a lot of work to do, but after you write those notes down, your brain will automatically know most of the information. Repetition is also a good strategy! For example, if you are trying to memorise the diagram of a kidney, keep drawing it until you have finally mastered it.

Question: Do you have any quick tips in answering the long response questions in Paper 2 of the sciences? 

Answer: Take the time before you start writing to create bullet points on everything you can remember in the answers. Then, structure the bullet points in order and start writing the answer to the question. This strategy works well in exams like Biology since you’re given 1 or 2 marks for how well you write your answer. Don’t try to write everything about that topic. Instead, make sure your answer is highly pertinent to the specific question.

Question: How do you motivate yourself to study?

Answer: Think how good you will feel when it’s done! You can either start now and have free time when it’s done or feel bad for yourself for not doing the assignment when procrastinating. Just bite the bullet and get started on your work for ten minutes and you will feel the need to keep going on that assignment. Make sure to take breaks when you are feeling down though! 

Question: Is there any particular app or apps you’ve found enjoyable to help with time management?

Answer: I use Google Calendar to slot my time into different sections to do work! Toggl is another great resource to see how long you’ve spent on different work through generating a beautiful report. This could give you the motivation needed to work harder in the next week.

Question: What’s your favourite IB meme or memory?

Answer: Fun fact: I was an admin on an IB meme page on Facebook after I finished IB! But otherwise, my favourite memory was my school’s senior prank day where my friend and I dressed up as clowns. IB may seem extremely difficult at times, but you need to balance it out with fun activities for your mental health and to make the best use of these two important years!


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