IB Tutor Interviews: Anna

Timothy Hoffmann

Tutor: Anna Symons

IBDP score: 45

University: Medicine, University of Bristol

Subjects: Biology, Philosophy, TOK

In our Tutor Interview series we put the spotlight on members of our outstanding tutoring team. From IB graduates to teachers and Examiners, we share their stories and their advice about the International Baccalaureate to help you make your own IB a success.

EIB: Why did you choose to do the IB?

Anna: Despite being set on studying Medicine from early on, at 16 years old I wasn’t ready to commit to studying exclusively sciences and maths for two years of my life. The IB allowed me to do the subjects I needed to apply for medical school, while also allowing me to choose subjects purely because I enjoyed them. I ended up entering university with a far broader education than most others who had a purely scientific background.

What did you enjoy about the IB?

For some students, the sheer number of subjects you are required to study can seem daunting. However, I found it so refreshing for my days to be varied enough that I might be learning about molecular chemistry in the morning and finishing with classical poetry. The IB also allowed me to appreciate the links between my subjects, which is a much more organic way of learning than the strict divisions that most school systems seem to impose on different subjects.

What was the most challenging part of the IB?

Time management and coping with stress was by far the greatest challenge I faced. Coursework and deadlines all seemed to appear within one semester, which was something I’d never had to navigate before. However, as cliché as it sounds, this was the best preparation for university and later life I could have received. While many of my friends at university are still figuring out how they work best, at what times of the day and in what environments, it was one less thing for me to worry about in the big steps of leaving home and going to university.

I am currently taking a year out of medicine and intercalating in Medical Humanities, a combination of English Literature, History and Philosophy. I really enjoy the philosophical, reflective side of medicine, and what we as doctors can learn about people while we care for them.

How did the IB prepare you for this?

The IB showed me that education isn’t as prescriptive as it sometimes is made out to be. While many people assume Medicine is purely a scientific degree, I have been keen to explore the ethical and historical aspects of it. The IB gave me the basic level of knowledge and the confidence to explore these sides of Medicine that I may not have otherwise considered.

What do you enjoy about tutoring?

When I was studying for my diploma, I wish I could have talked to someone who had recently been through it and come out the other side! So most of all I enjoy being that person for my students, who can help them in a different way to their teachers. I enjoy being able to give them practical, tried-and-tested advice, and students are often very grateful for that, which is always rewarding for me.

What makes a successful tutor?

It’s important for tutors to be able to adapt to what suits each individual student. However, in general, I think it’s much easier to learn from a tutor who is open, flexible and friendly, and so I tend to be much more relaxed than a typical ‘teacher’ would. From my experience, this makes for a much more comfortable and productive relationship with students.

What are your favourite aspects of the IB to teach, and why?

As a Biology teacher, I enjoy preparing students for exams the most. Often, they feel very stressed and daunted by the whole concept and it’s such a rewarding feeling when in a few weeks they can feel confident walking into the exam hall.

What has been your greatest tutoring success?

I couldn’t choose, every student who is more confident at the end of a lesson than at the beginning is a success in my eyes, regardless of grades or exam marks.

What are you best revision tips?

Try different learning styles, whether it’s recording your own voice, making mind maps or flash cards. This is the time to experiment! Use your friends to test each other and share notes, it’s always refreshing to talk about topics with someone else, and it’s a good safety net to check for anything you might have missed in your own revision. Finally, and by far most importantly, make sure you keep a balance with your own personal interests, whether socialising, sport or music. It will make your revision time much more efficient, and will keep you sane!

What would do you differently next time?

As cliché as it sounds, I don’t think I would change anything I did because the mistakes I made in my revision taught me so much more about the best ways that I learn. Some things certainly didn’t work for me, but it was OK in the end because I left myself enough time to revise everything thoroughly.