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My Experience With IB Exams

If you're in an IB program, you're probably nervous about the IB exam. Read about one of our student writer's experience with her IB tests.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a rigorous two-year program involving college-level courses designed for high school students looking for an advanced curriculum and an opportunity to earn college credit. If you’re in an IB program, you might be nervous about taking your IB exams. Read about one of our student writer’s experience with her IB tests—they’re not as scary as you think!

As I stood outside the test center with my IB Psychology class, holding nearly 10 pens and my program-approved clear water bottle, I felt like I was going to be sick to my stomach. After a week of non-stop studying of the over 100 possible essay questions, my brain felt like it was going to explode, and the nervous energy of my fellow classmates at zero hour wasn’t helpful.

But those five minutes before the test proved to be much worse than the testing itself. After a full school year of difficult classes and writing over 100 essays, I should have felt prepared for anything IB could throw at me—but the truth was, I lucked out. Nearly half of the possible essay questions would’ve resulted in me only being able to cite one study, but this year’s test pulled some of, in my opinion, the easiest questions from the book.

Related: Why You Should Take IB Classes in High School Instead of AP 

Now, is this an anomaly? Many would argue that the mysterious and allegedly cold-hearted figure that is the IB council doesn’t design its tests with any care for its students, but I beg to differ. In looking at previous years of testing, there’s a pattern of the IB exam containing a mix of difficult and easy questions. The most interesting pattern is that the exam tends to contain questions that allow for you to display a wide range of knowledge. While this might seem logical to anyone not involved in an IB class, many of us get caught up in the seemingly unanswerable questions based on extremely specific events the IB exam is famous for asking.

As a junior testing in two subjects, I was terrified by what my teachers told me would be on the exams, resigning to the fact that I would never be able to memorize that much information. After taking my tests, I realize how well my teachers prepared me for them. I didn’t need to frantically try and memorize essays for IB Psychology but rather learn studies and what makes them important.

Related: 8 Biggest Test-Taking Misconceptions

While IB Spanish can hardly be compared to IB Psychology, the same way of thinking applied. Cramming a bunch of vocabulary is the last approach you should take to studying for the exam. Instead, learn how to decipher the meaning of a word from the context and words that look similar to it. Don’t worry about specific knowledge of culture or memorizing every text type; instead, learn how to show off the extent of your language-speaking and writing knowledge by changing up grammar and sentence structure and using many tenses.

People forget that because the exam is meant to test your knowledge from one or two years (or for a language, four or five years), the test will be specifically designed for you to show off that knowledge. My advice to those testing is don’t get caught up in memorizing every little thing a historian said or the date of every study. Just focus on how you can get your knowledge across, because you might be surprised by how much you know! 

Related: 5 Things You Need to Ace Any Test

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About Rebecca Barer

I am an avid reader, and I devote most of my time to writing and cooking. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family and generally enjoying life. I'm so excited to start at Johns Hopkins University this fall!


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