Just like AP classes and AP Exams, all IB courses have an end-of-year exam for every course. If you are a Junior or Senior taking a one-year Standard Level class, you will take the exam for that course at the end of the school year you are taking it. However, if you are taking a Higher Level Course, you will be taking the exam in your Senior year. These exams are each graded on a scale of 1-7 and are divided into two parts. Your grade on the scale of 1-7 also includes your grade on your internal assessment, so make sure to do your best on that as well (you can do it)! How to succeed in these exams? Keep reading to find out!
IB Exam Structure
You're probably familiar with the AP exam structure and the basic timing of them. AP exams usually last at least three hours with a 10-minute break in between. These exams are also typically divided into parts with the first part being the multiple choice section and the second part being the Free Response Section. IB exams are different in. couple ways. Firstly, IB exams are about a 3-hour-long exam divided over two days. This means that you'll test for about 1 hour and 30 minutes one day and then test for another hour and 30 minutes the next school day, likely. These two parts will be called Paper 1 and Paper 2, so if you see or hear that terminology that's what that means! Though your school will release the schedule for testing as testing season approaches (including the testing season we're in the midst of now: good luck with any AP and IB exams you have left, everyone!), also be sure to note the time you need to check into your exam! If you're still not sure a couple days before your exam when you need to check in, please ask your IB teacher or coordinator! Another difference with IB exams: for most exams, there is no multiple choice, so you're going to see some essay writing and free-response style math! You've got it, though: here are some tips that will help you prepare for your IB exam with confidence!
Tips For Any IB Exam
As a current IB Diploma Junior, I have just taken my first IB external exam (IB MAI SL), and these are the tips I have in general for any IB exam after having taken one myself!
1. Make Sure to Make and Stick to a Solid Study Plan
It's a good idea to start studying about 3 weeks before your exam at least! Since IB exams begin in early May, it's best to start during Spring Break at the end of March or Beginning of April. Some resources you could use to study include past exam packets, past homework materials your teachers have given you, or Kognity. If you're already taking IB classes, you're probably familiar with Kognity. It's a great website with readings for you to learn the content of your IB classes with practice questions at the end of each reading. They also have tips for writing your Internal Assessment for the class. However, to use this resource, you need to log in (try using your school email) and have an account set up with your school for your specific IB classes. It's likely your IB teacher will walk you through logging in and your IB classes will be added for you, so don't worry about it too much but do ask your teacher about it if they haven't said anything about it within the first couple months of school.
2. Talk to Your Teacher about Score Distributions
As mentioned earlier, IB external exams are graded on a scale of 1-7, but unfortunately it's not on a curve like the AP scale that goes 1-5. For most SL exams (based on what I could find from past score distributions), usually 78% and up will warrant a 7 and 62%-68% will be a 5/7. Important note: a 4 is passing, so make sure to go in with confidence and prepare! If you can ask your teacher about previous score distributions, it might help you gauge where you stand and how to prepare so that you can get the best score possible! It can also help calm any anxieties you may feel regarding the exam. I'd say it's just really helpful to know!
3. Do Some Practice Exams
There are some past IB exams that are released on line and some free practice problems! I would definitely recommend finding one that's the full Paper 1 or Paper 2 for the exam you're taking and timing yourself according to the time allowed for each Paper on the true exam (you can find this online with a quick Google Search). That will really help you get a feel for the types of questions and the format of the questions that will be on the true exam, as well as the pacing.
4. Eat a Good Meal and Get a Good Night's Sleep
Rest is definitely a very important part of performing well on any exam! The night before (and the night before the night before) your exam, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep and eat a balanced meal. Also make sure to eat a balanced breakfast the morning of, of course! This will help fuel your body properly to deliver your A-Game so you can rock the exam!
5. Make Sure Not to Use Frixion Pens!
If you have Frixion pens (I have them and I would definitely recommend them), please please please don't use them to write on your IB exams! The IB exams are graded with a scanner that will melt all the ink off due to high temperature! Your exam proctor will remind you of this right before the exam, but it's best to just know this going in. If you exam proctor is providing you a pen, it would be best to use the provided one because you can be sure that one will not cause any problems with the grading of the exam.
All in all, I hope that helped as some are preparing for IB exams! Best of luck! Remember that you've got this and you are much more than your exam score! Make sure to take some time to yourself in between all the studying and prep!
By Canon Pham
Canon Pham is an IB Diploma Candidate and Junior at Glen A. Wilson High School who is passionate about using her voice to raise awareness of important issues and build community among like-minded people. After her first semester of Junior year, she started the IB Student Chronicle to help provide more information about the IB experience for prospective and first-year IB Diploma Candidates. She also writes for The Teen Magazine, tutors with Reading Partners, holds several leadership positions at school, and plays varsity tennis. Canon enjoys spending time with her two younger siblings, her adorable puppy dog, and her incredible group of friends.