My name is Tobi, and I work with Oxford Study Courses (OSC). A few years back, I was in the same position you’re in now: at the verge of sitting my IB Diploma Programme exams. I know exactly how you feel – a ‘sweet’ mix of being nervous and a little stressed by organising the sheer quantity of content, yet motivated to wrap up this chapter with grades that surpass everyone’s expectations.
I remember this being a quite tough time – you have my full respect! But I’m not sitting here (in Munich on my couch) writing up this blog to tell you what you already know. I want to consolidate some useful tips that helped me, focusing on Maths, in this particular blog. And I tried with the experience I gained as a fellow IBDP student, to reflect in my passion project: OSC Study, so I’ll make sure to mention how the tips reflect in the app design.
Tip 1: Focus on what you know
What helped me is to get an overview of the exam paper before tackling the questions. I recommend flicking through the entire paper to see all questions and their underlying concepts. We all have stronger and weaker points, so I suggest starting with the ones you know best. This will boost your confidence and – let’s be honest – everyone sitting in the exam room is at least a little nervous. When cracking through the questions you really know well, concepts you might not know perfectly will fall into place so much more naturally than if you try to force it.
This is why in OSC Study, we neatly list out all questions of each exam paper. You can either select each question individually via the left menu, or you can navigate via the left and right buttons.
OSC Study tip: OSC Study features the ‘Confidence Assessment’ feature – it lets you place questions into three key categories: confident, neither confident or unconfident, and unconfident. Feel free to mark the questions you want to tackle towards the end with an unconfident smiley so that you can filter for them and return to those easily.
Tip 2: Timing
A little rule of thumb is to allocate roughly 1 minute per mark. If a question can earn you a maximum of 7 marks, then try your best to answer it in 7 minutes. As an extension of my tip above, if you know a concept inside out, I’m sure you’ll be able to solve the question in less time. That’s another benefit of tackling the questions you know best first – this strategy gives you some spare time towards the end for those that might pose a bigger challenge.
Tip 3: Think in marks
Of course, getting the final answer correct is the icing on the cake, but the methodology, the steps you are taking to get to the final answer, is what will earn you a big proportion of the marks. Think of it like an explanation you’re giving to the examiner. If you answer incorrectly, and you didn’t show any work, you will always get zero marks. But, if you show your working (show equations, sketch graphs, etc), you can get part marks on a question you actually got wrong. Pro-tip: follow-through marks can be given on subsequent questions, as long as you show your work. So SHOW YOUR WORK.
In OSC Study, each step of the process is outlined clearly if you tap on ‘Solution’. OSC Exams, written by experts to imitate the real exams, come with written solutions that outline each step of the way. We show you how to ‘show your work’.
Tip 4: Think in concepts
The IB assembles the two year course into topics and subtopics – as outlined in the IB syllabus. The questions you’ll see in the exam are based on these topics and subtopics, often combining multiple subtopics in a single question.
And something I didn’t know when I was a student: each exam, with all its papers (two for SL students, three for HL students), needs to cover the syllabus in a spaced out way. This means not all questions will be based on a particular topic, ie. Topic 1: Number and Algebra. A critical number of topics and subtopics need to be the underlying concept of the questions the exam consists of. However, usually not all topics will be covered.
When you give the questions a glance – as suggested in Tip 1 – think of the concepts you learned. It will help you pull the right approaches to solving the questions.
OSC Study tip: As you’re preparing for the exams, feel free to tap on ‘Show hidden info’ in the header. Clearly, this overlay contains information that you won’t get in the exam – that’s why we’re hiding it – but it’ll show you all of the subtopics this particular question is based on. Tap on any subtopic to see flashcards, the revision guide and theory videos to help boost your understanding. Once you feel more confident, make sure to toggle over to ‘Exams’ in the topics menu so that you can practice more exam questions of a similar kind.
Tip 5: Stay cool!
You took the course for two years and studied hours to prepare, so I’m sure you know a ton. It’s all about organising your knowledge and pulling the right fragment at the right time – if you stay cool, I’m 100% confident that you’ll succeed.
The entire OSC team wishes you all the best. And if you’re interested in taking OSC Study for a spin and practicing past exams – including really detailed solutions – go to app.oscstudy.com. The first 7 days are free!
Note: If your school has a subscription for OSC Study, you will have access to official IB exams for Maths, Physics, Biology, and Chemistry with video solutions!