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5 Top Study Tips for the IB

1. Annotate your typed notes

I would recommend to all IB Students that they should annotate their final copies of printed notes with pen and pencil on the margins. I have found this to be an extremely useful tool to consolidate knowledge in a somewhat more condensed form than what your final notes might make, helping your memory recall and overall generating more frequent contact with the content. While I certainly used this for every subject, I found the positive effects to be most felt in my content heavy subjects like SEHS, Business and Management and Economics.

Furthermore, I would suggest doing this in a distinct colour which is quite bright and vibrant, I always preferred red. Numerous studies have linked brighter colours to improved memory retention and also significant improvements in attention and focus, which can help you to stay on task and avoid distractions[1].

2. The key to getting ahead is getting started

Procrastination is an unfailing common part of student life, and everyone has experienced it at least once in their life, however in the IB Diploma, the key to getting ahead on content to allow yourself time to revise is starting early. In a programme that teaches content which may be assessed in the final exam over the entire two years, there is little room for the infamous “I’ll do it later”. Work that you meant to get through this week ends up being pushed off and delayed and before you know it, a couple weeks have passed, you still haven’t done it and you are now rapidly falling behind. Save yourself the effort of spending hours upon hours a day catching up by never falling behind in the first place. This nicely leads into my next point.

3. Consistency

Time and time again you see, the last ditch effort that starts 6 weeks before your final exams, the people who live in the library during your final study break, and without fail they perform more poorly than the person who puts in a consistent 2 hours a day over the entire two years. Consistency will always trump cramming. The IB as I previously mentioned is a 2-year programme meaning all the content covered in that two years is assessable and trying to fit 2 years’ worth of learning for 6 subjects into 6 months is unrealistic at best and impossible at worst. Rather, I would suggest settling into a more comfortable practice in which you work day in and day out for more moderate amounts of time, and save yourself from the anxiety that comes with an all-out sprint in a marathon event.

4. Establish a Routine

Everyone has heard the age old adage, “motivation fades”, or words to that effect. It’s the same reason why 90% of New Year’s Resolutions fail, and also may be affecting your academic studies. Rather than relying on short term motivation to inspire you to study or work, I would opt for the far more powerful DISCIPLINE. In my experience, discipline will serve you where motivation will not. By establishing a routine and more importantly maintaining that routine through discipline you allow yourself to enter a sort of auto-pilot mode. If know you have scheduled 2 hours of study from 4-6pm on a given night and it is part of your routine, then there is no reason to question it or shirk it, or even to ignore it, you just do it. They say it takes approximately 8 weeks to form a habit, and once you have established that habit its automatic, you don’t think about doing it, it just happens. This refers to a psychological phenomenon called behaviour automaticity, where doing something feels perfectly natural and deviating from such set response actually feels unnatural.

5. Once you are confident in your content knowledge, teach others

We call this ‘active learning’, and it has been shown numerous times to have greater benefits on aiding memory and recall of information than passive learning such as reading or copying notes. Therefore, once you are confident in your own content knowledge you should prioritise completing things like past papers or tutoring a struggling classmate, or even quizzing yourself to help develop your knowledge and improve the fluency and efficiency of your responses. This will aid you greatly in exams, as experience in situations common to the exam can be called upon and used to respond in a manner which is much more cohesive, well thought out and most importantly significantly more imbued with knowledge of the content.


Author: Marcus Buvac, 45/45

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