This short blog is for all those students who have chosen to do the IB Diploma. And this discussion is about what to do to try to ensure that the Diploma gets off to its best possible start. Four things are considered in detail:

1. Do not stress about your decision

One of the problems with the IB is that it is often a ‘choice’ to take it. There is usually a second or even third option for most students. This is because the IB is free from the link to a country's government – it is independent (which is a good and a bad thing).

And with every choice we make, there is stress. I have frequently been asked the following questions…

  • "Which system should I do?"
  • "Will it make a difference to my future success?"
  • "What happens if I make the wrong decision?"
  • "Is it going to be too hard?"
  • "Is the information that I have been given fair and un-biased?"

Added to this, very often students find themselves in a school where the IB is the minority system, second to the national system e.g., A-Levels. As such, a majority of your friends may be doing the alternative system. This brings problems of its own because there is often then pressure to switch from the IB because the weight of numbers surely means that the IB is the worst choice!

You need to put all these points aside – they are meaningless. When you chose the IB, it would have been for good reasons and those reasons are specific to you. You have to do what is best for you, not for others. If you did consider all the options and on balance, you chose the IB, then this was the right choice.

In answer to all the above questions, the thing to remember is that doing the IB is not better or worse than a different system, it is just ‘different’ – equally good, but different. Your success does not depend on whether you do the IB or not, it is based on how hard you work, how focused you are about getting the best from your studies and how you set your priorities for the academic work – and these things are nothing to do with the educational system, they are all about ‘you’.

2. Do not take your present studies for granted - work hard

Your studies prior to starting the Diploma, are generally not as tough. Do not get upset about this statement – it may sound harsh but honestly, once you see how tough the work gets on the Diploma (or any other equivalent system), you will look back and be amazed at what you are capable of. But the challenge of your present level is that you are having to do so many subjects. And you may not like some of them.

So your challenge at the present level is to work hard when the work is not that tough. Or work hard when it is not that interesting. Look for the good things in all of your subjects, find the ‘hooks’ that make it interesting and work hard at them all.

If you are working hard now, you will be ready for how hard you must work on the Diploma. You should also ensure that your ‘knowledge base’ is as good as it can be – and this will be a great help on the Diploma.

3. Plan your time carefully, to maximise your attainment

Do not waste time. Outside your lesson time, there will be an expectation that you are doing something to support your studies. This is normally in the form of Homework. The best advice for this, is to work hard on your homework, to ensure that the work you produce is as good as it can be. And if you have no work, or you finish it quickly, then spend extra time on background reading around your subjects or re-reading your class notes. This will broaden your knowledge or improve your factual recall.

4. Always look for opportunities to expand your knowledge

This is really an easy one and you will love it or hate it – ‘read’. You need to spend as much time as you can reading. Read anything, but read. The advantages to someone who reads a lot are HUGE! You will make yourself well-read and your vocabulary will improve. Not only will this improve your subjects, but it will also make you far more interesting to someone who chats to you – like the university admissions tutor who might give you an interview when you try to get a place.

And if you can’t find the time to read during the day, then read before you sleep – just read.

All of the above advice is aimed at making you feel comfortable with your choice to do the IB and to make yourself as academically strong as possible. In this way, there is no reason why your Diploma should not get off to a great start.