The school-based syllabi will be examined by the time most of you read this and English and Economics are next Tuesday.  It is at this time of year that most of you want study hints and guides to success in your IB subjects.  Unfortunately, there is no magic, canned response in History – if there were your teachers would have shared it with you and you could relax in the knowledge that you will ace your exams.
Rather than mourn that, however, let’s focus on what you can and cannot do between now and Friday November 14:

Remember that your Internal Assessment is done and in; at the moment, a moderator is looking over a marked sample from your school and confirming your teacher’s assessment.  For most of you, this should be a pleasant reminder: the work is done and in, and you did your very best.  For the few of you for whom this was not your final moment, you cannot do anything about it – just move on and concentrate on what you can control – your IB exams.

You cannot learn 2 years worth of material in the next two weeks if you did not take the course seriously.  You can memorize dates, watch every BBC documentary you can find and do research on subjects you have forgotten about, but you cannot learn how to organize the material and produce a good essay.

If however, you revise your notes and realize that you are missing what you think is critical information on a particular subject you can do some research and fold it into your knowledge base.

You can go over the demands of each examination paper:

For all history exams you have 5 minutes reading time; use it wisely.  I hate to run but I love using types of running as an analogy for the types of stamina needed for each test.

  • Paper 1: Prescribed Subject: 5 sources; 4 questions.  Use the reading time to read the questions and begin reading the sources. Answer the questions in order so that you have used all the sources before you do the final question, where you need to use as many sources as you can.  The questions ask you to demonstrate comprehension, analysis, comparison, evaluation and synthesis.  This is a sprint – you need to be as efficient as you can as you are racing against the clock.  If you don’t push yourself you won’t finish.
  • Paper 2: Topics: 30 questions/6 per topic.  You answer 2 questions from 2 different topic areas.  Use the reading time to select the questions you will answer and think about your approach.  Write a plan; you only have 90 minutes to write 2 highly structured, well organized and detailed essays that demonstrate historiographical knowledge.  This is the 10K – you need to plan, and not start off too furiously or else you will run out of energy before the end and your finish will be weak..
  • Paper 3: Regional option: 12 sections/2 questions per section.  You answer any 3 questions.  Use the reading time to select the questions you will use and center yourself .  You have 2 hours and 30 minutes to write 3 essays, which is ample time, but take tiny ‘mental breaks’ in between each question; consider those intellectual palate cleansers.  Again, take time to write plans so that you are ready to go when you refocus.  This is the marathon – you need to pace yourself and know that you will have a point where you get tired but that you can work through it and finish in respectable time.

In the next 2 weeks I will provide more specific material on each test in preparation for the exam.  In the meantime, study well, sleep a lot and drink as much water as you can so that your brain is hydrated.
Good luck!