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My International Baccalaureate (IB) Survival Guide

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Choosing the right academic path and interest can be a hassle for students, as for parents? Definitely. 

Many of you have heard of the great variety of educational paths offered here in Singapore. 

Ranging from the local front, we have students who go to JC taking A-Levels or joining Poly, after O Levels. On the other side however, more and more students are starting to recognize another potential education choice, the IB path. 

IB, short for International Baccalaureate; the system itself is then divided into multiple parts: 

– PYP (Primary Year Program, 3-12)
– MYP (Middle Year Program, 12-16)
– DP (Diploma Program, 16-19)

We will be focusing on the IB Diploma Program in this article, offered in schools such as ACS Independent/Intl – with 1/2 of global perfect scores coming from ACSI.

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Even with the figures above, doing well in the IBDP is no easy feat. Here are some useful tips and tricks to acing IB in my IB Survival Guide:

1. Accept and Face the Workload

(a) IB Requirements 

International Baccalaureate (Diploma Program) is a combination of the study of multiple subjects and 3 core activities that each candidate needs to fulfill for their diploma – out of 45 points.

Students can choose 6 subjects from the six academic groups – 3 Higher Level subjects (HL), 3 Standard Level subjects (SL).

– For each subject, candidates need to submit one IA (Internal Assessment, oral or written) and complete one EA (External Assessment, usually held in November or May of each year).

– On top of that, a log record of Extra-Curricular Activities should be approved and reviewed for the CAS (Creativity, Activity, and Service) core requirement. 

– A 4000 word independent research paper should be submitted as your EE (Extended Essay), and last but not least, the TOK (Theory of Knowledge), aka the philosophy class for IBDP. 

(b) Changing Mindset

The above might sound frightening at first, however, they’re definitely manageable and quite amazingly, enjoyable, if you collaborate well with your peers and supervisors. 

Really, the key to succeed IBDP is really about mindset

Yes, I understand how cliche that sounds. IB is incredibly writing intensive – students are required to produce thousand word essays for almost every assignment.

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What IBDP is asking from its candidates is essentially your determination and acceptance to the challenges that lie in front.

All in all, you won’t be alone on your journey of IBDP, your fellow cohort and teachers are there to assist you; yet what you can prepare yourself before embarking the journey is to set up a good mindset and enjoy the ride.

2. Time Management/Self-Discipline

Next, after mentally equipping yourself, here are some tips that I find especially useful not just for IBDP, but for life in general:

(a) Time Management

After knowing the requirements for the diploma, you might want to start a timeline for yourself. 

Of course, everyone learns and reflects on different paces, thus you need to find what schedule and time table work the best for you. 

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The key here is to really distribute all your subjects and core activities evenly

IB is not a one man game, so do remember the benefits of forming study groups or even student clubs that you and your peers get to fulfill your CAS together.

(b) Self-Discipline 

Once a schedule is set up, sticking to it is another level of challenge. This will test you on your ability of self-discipline

Most of the times, your IB teachers and supervisors (both for your EE or CAS) will not be chasing after you for late work. 

Since you already have so many on your plate, it is important that you remind yourself each and every single day on different deadlines, as well as tracking the progress of your studies and activities.

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The magic of self-discipline will shine once you realize by putting a little effort in working on different projects each day, you end up feeling way less stressed than your friends who literally procrastinate til the last minute. 

(Not saying procrastination is unforgivable, taking a break is for sure essential for students, but knowing how to pull your heart back on track and focus will be your fast-pass to an easier life in IB)

3. Don’t Memorize, Critical Thinking is the Key

Enough about training your attitude and preparing your mind game, now it’s time to talk about the core belief of IB and how that is reflected on your study and most importantly, grading.

(a) Interpretation Matters!

IBDP does not require hardcore memorizing. 

Unlike what we might expect in JC or Poly, IBDP offers formula booklets and factual statements during exams. 

The purpose of doing this is letting the candidates know that memorizing is not the key to knowledge. Instead, the winning ticket lies in how you can interpret and manipulate with what’s given to you and what you already know – critical thinking.

(b) Think Think Think!

In my history class for example, my teacher never asked us to memorize all the crazy timeline that stretches from BC to twentieth century. 

Instead, we were only advised to know some of the key years and spare more effort in comparing and contrast different historical events, both their significance to the countries’ past, as well as their presence. 

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It is thus important for you to know how to think critically and reflect such ideas onto your papers – a skill that takes some time to master.

4. Building Connections (with your books, peers, and teachers)

Another highlight about IB is its highly integrated academic connections made between subjects across the six groups. 

I recall how my IB Chemistry once combined with IB Art class for a collaborative projects. 

It did not only show us students a beautiful balance between science and art, but how everything is pretty much inter-connected. 

Here in IBDP, all students are welcomed to make connections and bonds with not just their classmates, but their teachers, mentors, and supervisors. It is believed that only through these bonds, that individual work may fall together and become something better – through peer feedback.

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Especially for the Extended Essay part, students should not feel daunted on how to choose a topic under certain subject. 

In fact, you’re more than welcomed to discuss a whole new topic and discuss it further with your potential supervisor on which subject will it most possibly fall under. 

Such skills of blending in multiple topics and ideas are crucial for our world today; nothing today stands merely by itself and our foundation of knowledge is no more than a good chuck of “everything”! 

Hopefully, when you start to feel comfortable about IB, you’ll also see the beauty of building connections.

5. It’s a Lengthy, yet Worthy Ride!

Last but not least, I’d like to also point out one of the major con that I personally find about IB. 

Despite for the workload it has, IBDP is a highly writing intensive coursework. 

Unlike what we mostly assume, science subjects in IB also require students to be equipped with ability to write essays. This is for the purpose of allowing you to come up with a solid argument that you’re able to defend; in a lab report or data assignment, where teachers and peers might ask you to elaborate and convince them how are your results reliable and convincing. 

Realizing the ability to write and argue (critically) is probably the best take-away for me from IB. 

It is because such progress that sparks me to think deeper into the problem and wider across the horizon.

International Baccalaureate or Not?

I personally appreciate my decision made of taking the course and looking back at it now, I find the skills learnt continue to influence me in university. 

That being said, if you’re willing to take a challenge and wanting to make the best out of it, don’t hesitate to give IB a try!

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Miriam

Miriam is part of the team that operates CocoTutors: #1 Home Tuition Agency in Singapore. We connect Parents and students to Tutors, via our tuition-matching system. You can try out our services at (www.cocotutors.com/) or by calling +65 9177 9055 directly.

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