Revision/Exam Tips: IB ESS SL

Revision/Exam Tips:
Environmental Systems and Societies

ESS is a great alternative for students who are not particularly confident in science, but it’s still a demanding syllabus. It is therefore very important that students have a good study plan for their exams, so we have some advice to help with revision.

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Environmental Systems and Societies (ESS) is one of the few IB interdisciplinary subjects, which means it meets the requirements of two different group subjects: 3 and 4. It is a great alternative for students who are not particularly confident in science, but it’s still a demanding syllabus. It is therefore very important that ESS students have a good study plan for their exams, so we have some advice to help with revision.

Keep in touch with the environment

If you just stick to your textbook material, you are not learning the subject right. This applies to all subjects, but it seems particularly useful with ESS. In an age where environmental issues have become a massive concern, you should look to connect your studies to the real world. Read news, reports and articles related to the environment – climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and so on – and you will be able to give context to your knowledge. This is a very useful way to understand key syllabus concepts. Doing this also gives you facts for you to use in your Paper 2 essay-style questions, and increases your global awareness on issues that affect us as a society.

Use the IB official guide

The IB publishes a guide for each subject providing key information that you should take advantage of. Inside the guide you will find every sub-topic in the syllabus divided into three areas: significant ideas, knowledge and understanding, and applications and skills. Each point given under each area describes clearly and concisely what the IB wants you to learn and will assess you on. It is a good idea to study going through each point, as you will be assessed on these. Additional materials are always great to add depth to your studies and you should use them too, but your main starting point should be the IB guide. Ask your teacher if they can lend you their copy, or you can buy your own at the official IB store.

Write review sheets after each topic

ESS topics are quite long, so you have to consolidate your learning as you go along. Every time you finish a topic, write a review sheet with the main things you’ve learned – it will help the information stick to you, plus you can use the sheet for further revision later on. If you find hard to remember the key facts, do your review sheet after every sub-topic or every couple of them.

Additionally, you can go further by making your own Quizlet or flashcards for each topic to quiz yourself.  The important thing is to consolidate your learning and create your own review sheet/flashcards for when you need to do your final revision right before your exam.

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Online revision

Sometimes, reading from notes is not enough, and you will need something else, such as a video. Revision videos are visually-appealing and can help information to stick to your brain. There are loads of ESS revision videos online, especially on YouTube, which you should have a look at. Don’t aim to revise through the entire syllabus, at it would be a waste of time. Look for videos on topics or subtopics you aren’t confident about to help you understand the key concepts and go on from there. You can check out some recommended videos at the bottom of this post.

Apart from that, continue doing your revision as you would with other subjects – you should follow a revision technique that works for you and makes you feel comfortable with.

Further Reading