Experienced IB Maths and Physics teacher, Layla Moran, shares some top tips for studying in the New Year in preparation for mock exams.

The New Year is always one of the most difficult times to be an IBDP student, particularly those in IB2 as many will be thinking ahead to mock exams and the year ahead. Here are some top tips for balancing studying, school and family and avoiding the guilt of not meeting your own expectations for success.

1. Ask your family what events you are expected to attend

It’s all about managing expectations. On the one hand your family expect you to do well at school, on the other they also want you to be there for family get-togethers and events. You may feel that these things conflict but, if you are clever about it, they don’t have to. Family is important and so is school. So the way to get around it is to know what is expected of you in both areas and make a plan to balance them. Start by asking your family what big events they have planned for the future. What date, time and for how long. Also write down other things like shopping for clothes, haircuts and flights.

2. Prioritise your assignments: Urgent vs. Important

Make a list of what assignments you need to complete and estimate how long they will take you. Then mark them on a scale of 1 (low)-5 (high) for both Urgency and Importance. Something urgent is a deadline as soon as you get back. Something Important is something that carries a lot of weighting (e.g. and internal assessment of Extended Essay) or perhaps is a subject you are really struggling with and you know if you don’t start to tackle it now you never will. Only you can determine how important something is to you so in the first instance just go with your gut.

Then add up the scores. This will help you determine the order to tackle your tasks. Something with a score of 9 or 10 means it is both urgent and important and so should be tackled first. Something with a score of 2 or 3 may be neither urgent nor important but you’d still like to get round to it at some point. Over time it is likely the urgency will increase so the task moves up the list. If you do this exercise on a weekly or fortnightly basis you’ll get a good sense of how big tasks shift in priority over time.


3. A note on time

People have a tendancy to underestimate how long it will take them to do something. As a general rule, once you have estimated how long each task will take, multiply the time by 1.5. So something you thought would take 2hrs, leave 3hrs. If you have spare time great! But better not to be rushed.

4. Schedule and share

So now you have a list of family commitments and school assignments you need to fit in to your holiday. Time to pull it all together.

Start by putting in things that cannot be moved and really important (so family commitments, Birthday celebrations, school, clubs and flights etc.).  Then start to fit in your school assignments in the order you have prioritised them. Then look at what free time you have left and decide if you can do more or have overcommitted. It may be that, in reality, some of those assignments have to wait.

And finally, share your calendar with your family. Put it on the fridge or somewhere prominent, and if you have 5minutes try to discuss it with them every few weeks. Communication is the key to success. If they see just how busy you are they will be less inclined to ask you to do more and they may even relieve you from some chores!

So good luck and don’t panic. You CAN do it all. But it may take a little planning first.