Succeeding in the IB


So you’ve decided to do the International Baccalaureate, or maybe you’re already halfway into it. Already you are thinking about how you are going to make this “thing” work for you. Ahead of you is placed a series of what appears to be insurmountable obstacles: your English IOC, those French speaking exams, or maybe its that Chemistry IA that you’ve been dreading for weeks. Perhaps it is the overwhelming workload that is dragging you down by your feet. How are you going to succeed?



You probably already know that the IB is made up of several components: 6 subjects, TOK, CAS, and of course, that Extended Essay. The IB is thus notorious for its depressing stereotype of “All work and no play,” but this does not have to be the case. If you approach the IB in the right way, you can succeed with a healthy balance of work and play. Remember, work hard, play hard(er). Already, achieving this healthy balance of work and play (and sleep!) can be a success in itself, and although understated, is the most useful and defining private victory that one can win. You win this battle, and ultimately, you will win the war. It will mean that you have more time to focus on the studies that you need to focus on, but it will also leave you plenty of time to do the things you want, and need to do, including that crucial 8 hours of sleep. (I got through the IB with no less than at least 7 hours of sleep every night, and did not pull a single all- nighter, I guarantee you that this is possible to do!)



Be prepared to work hard, and then work harder. Take a “no excuses” approach to what you are doing. If you are really determined to achieve that final goal of yours then nothing should stop you. That smart kid in your class, I guarantee that he/she does a solid number of hours of study a night, talent alone is not enough to pull good grades out of thin air. If you have a bad teacher, that shouldn’t become a recurring excuse for your failing grades: there are numerous resources out there that can help you overcome those challenges. Ultimately you are in control of your own success, and you are the one sitting those final exams, not your teacher.



Work ethic is one thing, and although it is very important, never define your work ethic by the number of hours you do per night. It may be possible that you are working more hours than that kid next to you, but this does not mean that you are achieving more. Work hard, but work smarter. This will prevent burn out, and it will also improve the quality of your work, and thus, your grades! How, you may ask? Productivity generally occurs when you hit that sweet spot when you cease to be aware of the time passing, and you’re locked into a “zone”. This usually occurs when you are doing something you really like, so I urge you to find ways to make that subject you despise something that you can make productive. Even if you have to try a million methods to make that subject enjoyable, ultimately you will always learn more when in that “zone”.



Be resilient. Learn to see your “failures” as a positive, rather than a negative. That test or exam you did badly on is an extremely valuable learning curve. Exploit the mistakes you made in that test and learn from them. This is probably the steepest part of the learning curve, and if you can learn to build the resilience to learn from all your failures, not only will your learning occur at a faster rate, but it will also lead to innumerable successes down the track.



This one is closely linked to being resilient: persist with those subjects you are bad at and that you hate. Eventually, as you become better at them, you will start to like them. Start to build your own cycle of success.



Teachers, books, tutors, Youtube, you name it, use it. The more information you can get your hands on, the more knowledgeable you will become! But aside from the obvious, make use of YOUR COHORT. I guarantee that unless you are coming first in your class (which if you are, your grades are probably already pretty good), there is at least one person in your class who is better at that subject, or a particular aspect of that subject than you are. Seeking help from your classmates is like getting free tuition.



Be determined, because you know that if you work hard you can reach your goals. Use this as a source of motivation, whether it is for that course you want to do in uni, or just for your own personal satisfaction, this should be your number one driving force.


  1. ENJOY IT.

This may sound sadistic and completely odd, and that’s understandable. But the more that you make out of your subjects, the better you will be at them. Be curious, be inquisitive, ask questions (even if they are not related!) Try applying some of the concepts to real life- if you’re learning about macroeconomic management in Economics, perhaps it would make more sense if you tried applying it to whatever you read in the news. Granted, there are probably better ways to do this, but the point is to just immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing. This will also help with your overall productivity! (And be grateful for your education, the IB curriculum is world class, in my opinion anyway).



This may mean making time each week to go out with friends, or maybe a scheduled time slot to do something you enjoy – playing an instrument, painting, playing sport? Just because you are doing the IB does not mean you have to constantly be studying. I guarantee that if you get yourself a time management planner, and block out the times you want for yourself, you will be able to fit everything else around it. I promise. The more you try to enjoy these two years, the better it will be for you, in every way.



Success may be a small achievement (such as achieving your goals in an exam), or maybe it’s a bigger achievement (like hitting your desired score in a set of mock exams), but either way you should celebrate them! Whether this celebration is something as small as a bit of hope for the next exam, or a bit more confidence in yourself and your abilities, by celebrating each milestone you will find yourself happier and more fulfilled. At the end of the day, it is all the small victories that add up to the bigger one!

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