Revision can be something IB students do very well and in advance OR can be left until the very last minute. One of OSC's authors and IB expert, Tim Williams, has written a four-part series on what you can still do to prepare for the exams.
Magical Revision Tip 1: IB exams are looming and I haven’t started revising. Tell me there is magic. Maybe there is …
You know you should have, but you didn’t. Here is what you can still usefully do to get ready for those exams.
Part 1: Know what the problem is.
Well, the first thing you do is going to be a bit disheartening, but push through, there are ways to deal with it usefully below.
Donald Rumsfeld, an American Secretary of Defence, was rightly and wrongly famous for many good and bad things, but he made the famous remark: ‘There are known unknowns. And then there are unknown unknowns.’ Duh? What it means for you is that there are going to be things you know that you don’t know – like the sequence of photosynthesis, or how to differentiate polynomials. You know you ought to understand or remember them, but don’t. And then there are going to be horrible surprises – things you never heard of. Maybe you were absent and didn’t catch up; or you’d switched off (for a week…?!); or the teacher didn’t cover them. And then there will be a third category – things you’re meant to know, and by golly, you know them! Maybe not very well, but you know them.
And you absolutely have to know which is which and what you need to know.
Here’s your first evening’s revision work: for each of your subjects spend half an hour writing a list of what you need to know. Here’s an example for Maths Studies:
- Number and Algebra
- Sets, Logic, Probability
- Geometry and Trig
- Differential Calculus
It’s even better if you can break these down into smaller topics. So for Number and Algebra:
- Number systems and accuracy
- Units of measurement
- Sequences and series
- Simple/compound interest
- Simultaneous equations
That’s it. That’s the first evening. Five or six lists. If you’ve got time and haven’t lost the will to live, then you could go through the lists and highlight the real problem areas.
BIG TIP: This will save you a lot of time. Get a Revision Guide. The best ones are from OSC in fact but IBO also produces some.
If you can’t buy, borrow or steal a Revision Guide from someone’s school bag, then you need to look at the Syllabus. Or maybe a textbook, but beware – for the exam you maybe don’t need to know all that it contains.
ANOTHER BIG TIP: You might want to ask your teacher, in class, in public, what exactly they think you need to study for the exam. They may just say ‘Everything’. Then ask them what the ten priority topics are. I guarantee everyone in your class will be pleased to know…
Now you know what you need to do: there are no unknown unknowns. That’s actually a huge step forward. The next post is about what you’re going to start doing about it. Now get a good night’s sleep.
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Tim Williams began IB teaching more than 30 years ago as Head of Languages at International College Spain in Madrid, and has since taught English, TOK, Psychology and other subjects in diverse roles around the world. His broad-ranging experience as teacher, administrator, department head, senior examiner, examiner trainer, and workshop leader, positions him perfectly to provide real-world advice to IB students.