The Experimental Sciences are among the most conceptually challenging subject groups offered by the IB. Hence, students taking two subjects from the Experimental Sciences at Higher Level certainly need all the help they can get. Here are some tips and tricks to help you survive two years of rigorous Biology and Chemistry:
Before the IB
If you are sure that you want your academic career to focus on life sciences, it is best to have a solid foundation before you become an IB Diploma student. Make sure you take relevant classes during your first few years of high school. They will teach you most of the basics of IB Biology and Chemistry. You will study the same topics during IBDP that you did before, but they will be much more in-depth. If you take Biology or Chemistry HL without having studied either subject in 9th or 10th grade, the concepts might be much harder to grasp. You may also be at a disadvantage relative to other students.
One of the best tools I used to study Biology was a website called Bioninja. The website summarized notes and key points from each chapter from the IB Biology syllabus. The study notes were concise, efficient, and less convoluted than many textbook explanations. Despite being to the point, the material did not miss any part of the syllabus. This makes them better for exam revision than reading through a textbook.
Organic Chemistry Tutor is an excellent YouTube channel to refer to for revising unclear topics. The channel uploads many videos, and the narrator easily explains concepts using simple language.
My top tip for achieving good marks in your exams is solving past papers, which you can easily find online. Start doing them months before your final exams. I suggest at least around December if you are giving exams in May. Also do not wait for your school to finish covering the entire syllabus. You can begin attempting past papers once you have covered 60-70% of the content. Once you have an idea of the questions that will appear in the exam, the actual exam will feel like a piece of cake. Especially since you will be familiar with the style of questions. You will know what to expect, which will help with your nerves and decrease your fear of the unknown. This kind of active learning also helped me maintain my grades during college.
Do at least one past paper on each subject every day. Also try your best to refrain from constantly referring to your notes. Note down the marks you achieve in each practice paper, and track your improvement over the months. Knowing your progress will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses in the subject. Do not be afraid to ask your teachers for help on a question you couldn’t understand even after referring to the mark scheme. If your teachers do not have time, you can always approach your friends in a group study session.
IB Biology and Chemistry require students to study an additional topic out of four options. In Chemistry, Biochemistry is one of those four options. For a student that has taken Biology, studying Biochemistry will be much easier since quite a few of the topics overlap with the Biology syllabus. That includes topics like the structure of biological molecules, such as proteins and lipids. Lastly, if you are interested in majoring in biochemistry in college, studying this option will give you a concrete introduction to the field.
Internal Assessment Tips
While choosing IA topics, I noticed that my classmates were trying to come up with one that stood out. Do not stress over the topic as it is only a minute part of your IA and try to go with a simple topic instead of a convoluted one. The goal of the IA is for the graders to see whether students can perform research and apply what they’ve learned. If you do your IA on a comparatively straightforward topic, it is much easier to adhere to the grading criteria and write a thorough paper.
Throughout my two years as an IB Biology student, I noted that database and secondary data-focused topics were not very popular. However, since my second year of IB took place during the peak of COVID-19, we lacked access to laboratories. This lead most of us doing database-focused research papers. I discovered that they were much more time efficient than a primary data-based IA would have been. Therefore, I had more time to focus on the syllabus content. Finally, database IA’s I found online achieved high marks in Biology and Chemistry.
Before writing your IA, don’t forget to look through samples online, and don’t worry if your friends seem to have done more work than you. Even though it is important to finish your work before deadlines, everyone works at a different pace. I also found that writing multiple research papers prepared me for my research endeavors at university.
I want to conclude this article by emphasizing the fact that this article is based majorly on my personal experience with IB. Because the IB is unique, every student’s experience with IB is also different. Even though my methods have worked very well for me personally, the information in this article should still be applied on a case-by-case basis since everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.