by Laura Salzmann, IB graduate 2014, Institut International de Lancy
Well done for getting through the TOK and EE season! You’ve done so much work already and can only be proud of yourselves. Honestly, that’s so much out of the way – take some time to pat yourself on the back during your winter break – and breaaaathe.
Then take some time to realise that exams are now 5 months away. That can seem like a long time – and it’s definitely not worth stressing out about it now unless you realise you’re really behind, in which case, stress out* – but once you’re on the other side of Christmas, everything will feel like it’s starting to speed up.
My key piece of advice here is to *take winter mocks seriously*. Depending on when they take place, your predicted grades for university applications could be dependent on them. Teachers will probably use your year-long performance, Easter mocks from the previous year, and winter mocks, and compile them to come out with your predicted grade. As a result, winter mocks can be really key in defining which universities you can apply to. Just for that reason, it’s worth giving them your undivided attention.
Secondly, as I mentioned before, you’ve done so much already and should be proud – but actual IB exams are probably the scariest bit, and are only 4 months away by January. Your school will probably have a few weeks of revision time scheduled before May exams, but *do not bank on these weeks to start revising everything*! Your revision should start months ahead, in a paced, realistic and productive way. Winter mocks are the ideal time to start planning this. Cover everything you’ve done up until that point in detail, and do past papers. Compare them to the mark scheme, grade your work, and try again. Look up examiner’s reports from previous years and see what they had to say. Don’t drown yourself in work of course, but that’s the point of starting revision now – that you never get overwhelmed and stay on top of the content. They do say that the most important skill you learn at IB is time management – now’s the time to shine!
If you’re a hard worker, you can definitely expect your grade to increase by at least one point between the winter mocks and the real exams. They are a trial run, and you should treat them as such, so it’s no disaster if you don’t do as well as you want to in your finals, in fact, it’s completely normal!
But still. It would be a bad mistake to ignore your winter mocks entirely.
* When I say stress out, I mean the productive kind of stress – it definitely helped me get myself up and go when it came to revision. However, crippling stress is not helpful, ever. If you’re experiencing really negative stress that is making you less, rather than more, productive, you should definitely talk to someone at home or at school who can help you learn to manage that stress. Remember that school is about learning above all, and doing your best. If you are worried you’re not on track, someone can help you design a revision schedule – and remember that you can have a second chance if your exams don’t go as well as you’d hoped (retakes). So really, stress out if’s healthy stress that will get you moving, but avoid it entirely otherwise – always put your mental health first!