Abby explores how best to approach your end-of-year mock exams
As you approach the end of your IB1 year, it’s time to start thinking about exams. This can seem a little soon, but remember that for many of you, your mock exams are just around the corner. Though these exams don’t count towards your final grades, they’re more important than you might think: not only do they provide some valuable experience to help you get accustomed to IB-style exams, but they also contribute to your predicted grades, which your chosen universities receive as part of your UCAS application. With this in mind, read on for some tips for tackling your mock exams.
Do take them (somewhat) seriously
The word ‘mock’ tends to be interpreted as ‘doesn’t really matter’, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting into your university of choice, it makes sense to achieve the best predicted grades you can. Of course, teachers tend to be understanding and also take into account your academic performance throughout the year when deciding what to predict you, but the mock exams are likely to influence this significantly, and can be an excellent opportunity to prove yourself if you haven’t worked as hard as you might feel you should have before!
But keep them in perspective!
As always seems to be the case in the IB, you’ll probably have plenty of other things to do while preparing for your mocks: IA deadlines, starting to work on your EE or TOK assessments, CAS etc. Remember that any urgent deadlines should ultimately take priority, as these (unlike your mocks) do contribute to your final grades. It’s always a difficult balancing act in the IB, and your teachers should appreciate the intensity of your workload, but make sure to speak to them if you’re having real difficulty juggling it all, as they can advise you on how to prioritise your time.
Furthermore, remember that these exams will probably be your first experience of taking a full-length IB paper under strict exam conditions, so your teachers are expecting you to slip up and make mistakes you wouldn’t in a year’s time. Some will mark more generously to allow for the fact that you’re only a year into the IB, while others will inflate your achieved grade in your predictions to allow for the improvement you’re expected to make over the coming year. Either way, try not to panic, and instead view these exams as a valuable learning experience!
How to approach your revision
You may be quite used to having regular topic tests in some of your subjects, but it of course takes quite a different approach when you have to balance six at once. At first, the task can seem overwhelming based on the sheer amount of material there is to learn, but it becomes much less daunting if you break it down into manageable chunks. With this in mind, try to get organised straight away, before you delve into revision. It’s worth spending some time upfront on sorting out your notes – you’ve almost made it through your first year of the IB, so there should be quite a lot of these! – and establishing a revision timetable, even if you don’t stick to it precisely. Having an idea of what exactly needs to be done and how long it will take can really help to focus your mind and reduce the anxiety surrounding the revision process.
Once you’ve sorted out what you’ll need to do and the time frame over which to do it, set achievable goals for yourself for each ‘chunk’ of revision. This could be going over a particular topic, completing one past paper, writing an essay plan etc. – the key is to have something concrete that you can realistically accomplish within the allocated time. Achievable goals will really help to keep you motivated throughout the revision process.
Linked to the above, remember the importance of past papers at this stage, if you haven’t already begun to attempt them. They’re particularly useful for the sciences and Maths, where so many of the available marks rely on knowledge application rather than pure memorisation and recall. Don’t wait to go through your notes and textbook before trying a past paper – take the plunge and have a go as soon as you can, so that you can then tailor your revision to target areas of weakness. You might even surprise yourself with how much you know already! Remember, though, you’ll only have covered about half the material at this point, so don’t panic if a question looks completely unfamiliar to you – you’ll probably study it in your IB2 year.
Ultimately, it’s a learning experience
It’s certainly not uncommon for students to show significant improvement between their end-of-year mocks and final IB exams, so try your best, but remember that your teachers understand you’re only halfway through the IB ‘journey’. These exams are a great opportunity to experiment with new revision techniques, make silly mistakes that you can learn from, and consolidate your first-year knowledge to build a strong foundation for IB2, so make the most of them!