Before I started doing the IB, I spent months searching up alumni experiences to get a feel of what the DP might have in store, and how I should plan my two years. When I completed my first year in the program in May 2021, I started to look out for resources by graduates for a blueprint as to how I should approach my second year- “the most important year of my schooling life”. However, I was soon to learn that the IB is something each one of us experiences, and that there is no specific formula set in stone that guarantees success. Objectively, IB Year 1 introduces students to the entirety of IB, the examination patterns, syllabus content and assessments, but IB Year 2 is where students start taking action on many of these facets of IB. Having said that, it would have been really useful to gain an insight into some little things I could have done the summer before Year 2 to make the transition a little smoother.
The Extended Essay
If you’re reading this, and about to begin the second year of the DP, you should be familiar with this characteristic of the IB. One of the core components of the DP, the Extended Essay is a 4000 word paper, written after conducting “independent, self-directed research” (International Baccalaureate®) about a particular topic, either within a DP subject, or at the intersection of multiple DP subjects. It is a compulsory part of the DP, and essential to getting the 3 core points, along with TOK.
One of the biggest mistakes I made in the summer before Year 2, was to lose touch with my extended essay. While I did plan out the majority of my essay during the holidays, I didn’t actually get down to writing it until I began Year 2. Looking back at it now, pushing myself to complete at least half of it then would have saved me a lot of stress and sleep once the school year began.
Balancing deadlines and exams
In my school, all the exams we give in Year 2 have a role in determining the predicted grade that we apply to universities with. This meant that every exam I gave in Year 2 was of extreme importance; this is why I started working on my IAs and even IOs during the summer.
In my school, due to the pandemic, all laboratory experiments (for Group 4 subjects) had been pushed back from Year 1 to Year 2; because of this, many of my friends did not even consider starting to write the report until after our experiments.
Utilising my holidays to write the IAs even if I didn’t conduct the experiment put me in a better position once I restarted school, since I didn’t have to cram these assessments and coursework into the limited time I had. Chances are you can write half of your report just by knowing how you will conduct your experiment!
DISCLAIMER: The internal deadlines that your school provides you with may vary considerably from my experience, so please be sure to consult your subject teacher(s) and/or IB coordinator for more information on deadlines!
Practice Past Papers
In Year 1, students tend to focus on understanding the content and paper pattern of the IB exams.
Needless to say, practicing past papers is probably the most effective way to ensure you are prepared for your exams; so if you haven’t started with them, now is probably a good time to begin. By the time you end Year 1, it is likely that your school may have completed a considerable portion of the syllabus for most of your subjects; this means that you can finally start working on past papers! This doesn’t mean that you do questions only from the topics you are learning in class or want to revise; this means doing timed practice of entire past papers, and if needed, leaving out questions from topics you haven’t learnt.
I find that tracking which past papers you do makes the process more motivating itself. However it is important to note that you will want to keep the most recent papers for the weeks leading up to your final exam; this is to ensure that the answers you give to those questions are by understanding, and not memory of the marking schemes. Additionally, it helps to be aware of syllabus changes (this includes COVID-19 specific changes; you can find them in this article) since the way of asking questions or the subject content may have changed. You might consider doing questions topic wise from questionbanks too!
Below is an example of a past paper tracker for chemistry, from studycollab: alicia !
Understand the mark schemes
This is in conjunction with the previous tip. After you complete doing a past paper, check the official marking scheme and understand what it is looking for. Doing this will help you realise what IB examiners are looking for when they read your answers. Doing this will help you realise what the difference between a similarly worded 4 mark question and 8 mark question is.
If you are unable to understand your mistake even after checking the mark scheme, consult your teacher and ensure that you are able to understand it so you don’t repeat your mistake. Ultimately the majority of your grade comes from the final exams that you give, and understanding how the examiners mark your paper can give you an edge when you attempt the paper.
Make time for “me time”
Partly why the IB has the capability to become such a hectic program is because it has so many different aspects that enter different dimensions of your own life. That’s why sometimes, it might feel like the IB is gaining control of your life. Something that affects one of those aspects may affect something in your “IB life” as well. To put it a little more elegantly, your identity becomes limited to “an IB student”.
I think what helped me was to have at least one activity outside of IB that helps me detach myself from it and recharge so that I can keep up with the coursework and assessments. This is something I learnt from Ali and Taimur Abdaal’s podcast; the activity does not need to be big, but needs to be impactful. Some suggestions I have are: walking to the nearest nature reserve, listening to a podcast with your favourite cup of hot chocolate or taking a well-deserved nap.
While the IB is hectic, with the right habits it is definitely manageable. These were some ideas that have helped me, and continue to help me as I navigate IB Year 2. I hope these tips help you as much as they helped me! I wish you the best during your IB journey!