The best IB student will also be a teacher!

After teaching for 32 years, I strongly believe this to be true.  Obviously and IB student is a … student.  However, it is really important that time is spent sorting out the material that is presented to you.  All the courses are linear and so, when you come to revise in the second year, students must have a decent grip of the work.  And this means, you need to have sorted out a lot of the difficult problems when you met them, not in revision.  Courses like Physics (especially HL) are tough.  The proportion of grade ‘7’s awarded annually is much less than the average proportion and the reasons for this are:


–          The material is conceptually tough.

–          You need to be good at Maths as well as Physics.

–          You need a pretty good memory.


In additional to the above, there is a fact that, knowing the theory does not allow you to easily answer questions.  Exam questions take practice.

So, the best way I know of, to both get a good grip of the problems and to help answer questions, is to teach it to someone.  You may think this means ‘helping each other’ and in a way it does.  However, it means far more than that.  I would encourage all IB students to mentor.  Find another student in a lower year than you, and help them with Physics.  This will mean that you are sorting out the lower levels of the subject and making sure that your ‘foundation’ is strong.  Trust me, this will help so much.

The danger here, is that you may come over as a ‘swot’ – as someone who actually like working!  But that’s ok, if you are doing this, then you do like working – don’t be afraid of it.

In addition, you should read books – not just text books (that would be seriously sad!).  You should read general books about Physics and then talk about them – to other students or to your teachers.  A reading club is a great idea.  If your school does not have one, then set one up.  All you need is 5 students who are willing to make the effort.  Grab a book (say, Feynman’s six easy pieces) and agree to read a chapter once per week.  Then get together over lunch and chat about what you thought of it.  If there is no teacher present, invite one.  And it does not have to be a physics teacher.  You may well be amazed at how good most teachers will be at getting to grips with what you are talking about – they may even direct your discussions into areas you never thought of.

As an example, I had a group discussing Feynman’s book called Surely you’re joking Mr Feynman.  We invited a Latin teacher to the discussion.  Once we got started, the conversation ended up discussing why Richard Feynman was considered a hero to many physicists and the Latin teacher then took part in the discussion by explaining how the Greeks and Romans had used the idea of heroes as a way of controlling society.  It was a real eye-opener.

The most important thing to remember about all this is to be proactive with your learning.  Do not stroll through the weeks, letting the words from your lessons flow over you.  Think about the work, read about it and tackle the problems as they come along.  In this way, coupled with helping others, you should give yourself the best chance of reaching your potential or maybe even exceeding it!