Dear 2021 Year 11 IB girls,
Welcome to Senior School and the world of IB!
You can now proudly walk around the school with your new black jumpers, have the right to buy much needed, cheap tasting coffees during period breaks and most importantly, hold complaining rights for your school workload (but we Year 12s have it much worse, trust me). Oh, and I forgot to mention…. welcome to the world of sleep deprivation, mental breakdowns and non-existent social lives.
Ok, that was a bit exaggerated, but in all seriousness, Year 1 of IB is very challenging. Not only do you have to balance an increased workload, faster paces of teaching, and greater difficulty in content compared to Year 10, you are also introduced to CAS, IAs, TOK and EE on top of everything else! However, unlike some of the rumours you may have heard, IB is also a very rewarding course and it is possible to do well; it just takes time, resilience and an efficient study routine.
I think many would agree that two of the most challenging aspects of IB is finding a balance between content-heavy subjects, co-curricular activities, and a social life, all the while maintaining an effective study routine. I admit I still haven’t achieved this yet (whoops). For some, it can take the whole year to figure out – and that’s ok.
For example, many of you might be involved in multiple co-curriculars but find yourselves next year choosing to commit to those you are most passionate about in order to prioritise schoolwork. Additionally, whilst social events can be super fun and it is truly important to allocate time to relax or catch up with friends, a piece of advice would be to limit the frequency of these gatherings. Instead of organising random catch-ups in the spur of the moment, plan catch-ups you want to have with friends in advance as a reward to look forward to, maintaining motivation and having a goal to strive towards throughout the year.
Staying on top of content and finding a good study routine is very subjective to each student. However, make sure to take time to learn from your mistakes and move onwards. It is extremely important that you try to set strong study habits in Year 11 as they will really help you in preparing for Year 12. Whilst an effective study routine looks different for everyone, a somewhat obvious technique (that many people neglect) is to study in regular intervals throughout the year instead of cramming for exams all at once during the end of each semester. You may have been able to get away with last-minute studying for exams in Year 10 but trust me this is not possible in Year 11 IB. Not only do you have 3 more exams (2 more if you fast-tracked a VCE subject), but each exam at the end of the year will be based upon the entire year’s content.
Hence, the need for regular study. This could include taking 15 minutes out of each day to memorise and apply certain concepts (such as Bio definitions in a certain topic) or going over a concept in a subject you find particularly difficult. It is also very important to use holidays breaks as revision time for content and staying on top of notes (trust me, I wish I did this!), as it often feels like you don’t have enough time during the term.
Another super important part of the IB is communication. This includes communication with your friends, parents, teachers, student counsellors or anyone else who is there to support you. If you find yourself overwhelmed at times (this will happen), it is really helpful to talk about it and seek assistance. Your teachers are all there to support you and if you find yourself struggling, you are not alone. Book a time with your teachers and express how you feel to your friends and parents. You are the only one who is truly aware of your progress and stress, so it is up to you to take the initiative to voice your concerns to others. The IB cohort is a super tight-knit and supportive community; we are all in this together, so don’t feel embarrassed or scared to ask for help when you need it.
On this note, another key message is remember to be kind to yourself. You might have averaged high scores for every subject in Year 10 but find yourself facing failure in your IB classes because your study skills aren’t up to standard for the intense workload. This is okay. It can feel overwhelming but remember that IB is a journey and you cannot expect yourself to average 6s and 7s for every subject when even some Year 12s struggle to do so. The most important thing is to learn from your mistakes; have the grit and determination to maintain a positive attitude whilst moving forward and experimenting with different study techniques. The first year of IB is all about finding what works for you so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes in Year 12. You’ve got this!
Finally, an often-underrated part of general personal health during IB is sleep. I’ve heard some crazy stories of friends’ sleep schedules and they are quite distressing! Even if you feel stressed or don’t feel as though you have studied well enough for a test the next day, please don’t stay up until past midnight to study. I think you’ll find that you probably won’t remember anything you studied anyway and of course, consistently relying on coffee to stay awake can be unhealthy.
Ok, that’s it from me! It’s a lot, but from an IB student that has faced many challenges this year (yes I have failed multiple times), I have learnt a lot and feel the need to share these tips I wish I’d known before my IB journey. Good luck with your first year of IB and remember that if you need a little extra support or have any questions you wish to discuss, me and the rest of the Year 12 IB cohort are always happy to help!