• Do you feel like you’ve studied well, but fail to pick up the marks you deserve on those beastly IB mocks?
  • Are you frustrated because you’re struggling to show what you know, and you can’t seem to score on the past papers?

IB exams are hard. We can’t make them easier, but with the right techniques, you can score more points and get higher grades than you ever thought you deserved. How? By learning from examiners.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a seminar from OSC (Oxford Study Courses) at my school. The lady presented her findings of asking all the examiners and senior examiners who organise IB revision camps for their three most valuable tips.

So here’s her guide to picking up all the marks!

Language A:

Practise your first paragraphs

The first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of your essays and sticks in the mind of examiners while they mark your paper. By making the first paragraph unusal (but clear) you will stand out from all the people who rephrase the essay question in their introduction or start off their essay along the lines of:

“In (book name) by (author) and in (book) by (author)…”

To impress the examiner, use a semicolon or a colon in the first paragraph – correctly, and avoid giving a synopsis of the books you are analysing. Your 1000-1500 word analysis is far to precious to waste words on summarising the plot.

Write to the criteria

Know thy assessment criteria. The students who get 7’s in Language A are not only the ones with good writing skills, but more often those who are aware of the purpose and meaning of their essay.

Examiners are paid by the script

Examiners get money for each copy they mark. Most examiners average at around 4 scripts an hour, but faster grading – if accurate – means more cash. Examiners really don’t want to sit with your paper for two hours because they can’t decipher the hieroglyphs you scribbled on the page. So by all means, write legibly.

How many quotes should you learn?

About 10 per book. It’s recommendable that quotes are versatile, so you can choose any suitable one when writing your essay. The best quotes are often descriptions of characters or places, and emphasise on one of the themes of the literary work.

But remember, quotes without analysis are worthless. You should only use quotes in context, when they back up the claims you make in your essay.

Dilemma: No question suits the works I’ve studied

If your exam paper is full of tricky questions that don’t go well with the literature you analysed, you can define questions to match your needs – but this should be done with extreme care.

For example, if you encounter a question on love and haven’t studied a book centered around love, you can instead center your paper around a character’s love of the environment.

Writing a Perfect Conclusion

To elegantly add ideas that did not form an argument in the preceding paragraphs, conclude your essay with a quick summary of the main points, followed by:

“It is not within the scope of this essay, to ….”

Maths HL/SL/Studies

Clear, easy to read and detailed working

If you answer all questions correctly – but without any working – you will score a maximum of 4 points in maths. Why? Only 1 out of 6 marks of a math question is for the correct answer. The other marks are given for the use and application of a suitable method to obtain an answer. So put down all the steps when using a calculator.

Label correctly

Aside from labelling curves on a graph, in the IB you should always label all the coordinates you plotted. One coordinate is one mark.

Understand the wording of the question

Where a question says “hence” then the expectation is that the student should use the previous result to find an answer.

Math HL: Practise “show that”and “prove that” questions

Many candidates loose points by not knowing how to prove or show how an answer can be obtained. To do well on these questions, know how to prove by induction (base case and inductive case).

Which other tips do you have for IB exams? Please let me know what you think in the comments.