October 7, 2020

International Baccalaureate: Top Skills for Top Marks


Aiming for 40-45 IB Points? Here are three top skills you need to refine.

As we enter the new academic year, first and second year IB students across 158 countries once again begin to feel the pressures and expectations returning back to the classroom, along with the ambitions to achieve top marks.

This article outlines three key skills that hard working IB students should focus on as they work towards the high 40s:

  1. Become Best Friends with your Syllabus
  2. Know your Time (Management)
  3. Study with a Purpose

Become Best Friends with your Syllabus

  • If you’ve not already found your syllabus and saved/printed it off. FIND IT NOW! The syllabus is your roadmap to 45 points: it explicitly outlines all required concepts and to what depth understanding is required.

    • Once you’ve created your own study notes for each syllabus topic (you heard that right, your OWN notes), highlight the relevant syllabus concepts you’ve studied so you can return to revision later knowing you’ve hit the points you need to learn.
    • When answering past paper questions, find the relevant syllabus statements as an answer guide.
    • Use the correct syllabus!

Know Your Time (Management)

Balancing six subjects plus additional activities (CAS, ToK, EE) is no easy task. Use every hour of your work day in a productive way:

  • Create your own weekly plan and personal deadlines. In some cases, work will take longer than expected. That’s okay! Be flexible but realistic with yourself!
  • Find out deadlines for assessed coursework and begin working on them early. Aim to submit drafts before your teacher’s deadline. After all, different subject teachers may not be aware of your other deadlines. By preparing in advance, you can minimise stress if you end up with multiple deadlines over a short period.
  • Listen to your body: during lower energy periods, work on tasks that require minimal energy, such as arranging your notes, planning your next day, listing requirements for a piece of work or working on formatting issues. This allows you to use “alert time” on more energy intensive work. Just remember to look after your body! You can’t work at your best if you’re not at your best.

Study with a Purpose

  • It’s vital that the time you spend writing up notes or drafting essays for submission actually count towards what the IB requires of you.:

    • Find an assessment checklist for each assessed piece from your teacher or online. These checklists ensure that every assessed word counts towards your  mark.
    • Plan your work so you know what you need to achieve each study period. This could be split by chapter or task. It’s immensely satisfying to tick off completed work!

    In this way, you can keep your notes well organised, hit every syllabus point, and you have fuller confidence that your work clearly demonstrates why you deserve top marks.

    According to Benjamin Franklin,  “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” and rightly so. Your investment in IB is the time you spend in active study, at the opportunity cost of spending time in other activities (for example: socialising excessively), while the interest paid are your university offers, placement acceptances and the opportunities open long after graduating the IB diploma.

    The hard work and sacrifices are worth it in the end. By working to hone these three skills, no doubt will your chances of a perfect score increase.

    Good luck!