With the school year ending for many students and the start of a fun summer on the horizon, it’s really important to relax and enjoy your time off! Although the school year can be filled with many learning opportunities and the chance to meet new people and try new things, it can also be stressful. To avoid this, it’s important to stay balanced and ensure you’re on top of your work and feeling confident going into the year ahead. That way, you’ll make your life easier and avoid burnout when it comes to studying during the school year.
The IB Diploma is an assessed program for students ages 16-19. Notorious for its rigorous nature and wide-ranging requirements, many students learn a lot about themselves and their learning styles from this program. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips and tricks from our students at Leysin American School to help you study and stay on top of your work so you can get the most out of the IB Diploma!
1. Decide which form of note-taking suits you
Starting a note-taking system early on for each subject can help you feel on top of your work and allows you to refer back to past topics further along the course. Deciding whether to handwrite notes or use your laptop is the first step in this process; both have pros and cons and work for different people.
Handwriting your notes helps you better retain information and engage your mind, however, it can be tiresome to carry your books around throughout the day, and you are more likely to lose the notes. Alternatively, using your laptop can help you write more quickly and categorize notes in folders, however, your computer can be distracting and might lead to shallower considerations of theories, as you are not processing the information in depth. Decide early on which style works best for you so you can stay on top of your work.
2. Discover your learning style
This second point leads directly from the first. Discovering how you learn best allows you to become more self-aware and choose styles that help you retain information and understand theories. This could start with understanding whether you work best in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Some students like to start early and seize the day, while others find the evenings relaxing and feel they can get their work done after dark. Whatever works for you, stick to it! And understand that not everyone works in the same way, so don’t be worried if all your friends are claiming they take ‘all-nighters’ for studying while you’re up before school getting work done. There’s no right way, as long as you’re well-rested and confident in your understanding of the content.
In addition to the time of day, it’s important to understand your learning style, whether it’s visual, kinesthetic, or auditory (to name just a few!). You might choose one or two that suit you best or dabble in all of them! Research shows that two of the most effective learning methods are to practice by doing and teaching others. At Leysin American School in Switzerland, we promote experiential learning and believe that students learn best through hands-on experience where they can take their academics into the real world. In addition, learning by teaching gives students a good understanding of concepts and the ability to recall. However, if you find a method that suits you best, stick to that, even if it’s using acronyms or making a song; we’re all different and learn best with different strategies!
3. Test yourself (and others!)
A big mistake that lots of students make is that they read or recite their notes before an exam. This information usually goes in one ear and out the other! Putting your knowledge into practice and testing yourself, whether through past papers, teaching others, or testing a friend, helps you further understand the subject content and retain information more than just rereading your notes.
4. Start CAS early
As part of the IB Diploma, students must complete 150 hours of Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS). Though this can feel daunting for some students, it can be a great way to enjoy extracurricular activities alongside your studies and try new things with different people. CAS is not about making students’ lives harder; it’s actually a useful way to remind students to stay balanced and focus on not only the academic side of school but on developing themselves as a whole into compassionate, innovative, and responsible citizens of the world.
To stay on top of CAS, it’s best to start early and keep a log. Realizing halfway through the program that you haven’t even started or kept a record will make your life a lot harder. Keeping a log also helps you reflect on your experiences and learn more about yourself. Don’t treat CAS as a box-ticking exercise; it should be challenging but will help bring you out of your comfort zone and might even teach you things about yourself that you never knew! Who knows, maybe you’ll become an amazing football player or make new friends during rehearsals for the school play!
5. Balance is key
This point leads on directly from point four. The IB Diploma is notoriously rigorous, so getting enough sleep and making time for yourself is important. At boarding school, it’s easy to spend time with friends (since you live with them!), but make sure you have a good balance of both socializing and downtime to yourself! Practicing self-care is great for your mental health and will allow you to feel refreshed and ready for your school day, whatever that brings!
Good luck to all the students embarking on their IB diploma journey, and to the students in the middle of their two-year program. Have a wonderful summer vacation and make sure you rest and recuperate before the new school year begins!