Message to the class of 2016: IB finals will make you stronger
We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Maham Kamal Khanum received her IB diploma from The International School in Karachi, Pakistan in 2015. She is now finishing her first year of university studies in Washington, DC.
By Maham Kamal Khanum
The sweet smell of spring flowers and rain brings joys of the new season. But as this new season approaches, angst rises in many IB students as final exams near. As a recent graduate of the IB Diploma Programme (DP), you might be wondering if this time of the year brings back nostalgia from hair-pulling moments from exactly a year ago. For DP students in year two who are taking part in this year’s May exam session, it is now that time when college application decisions are on their way, and planners are filled with deadlines for the many components of IB assessments. The need to multitask is ever increasing and every milestone seems far away.
But guess what? This is what makes IB students uniquely prepared for university and the many other great achievements waiting ahead. Right now, it all might seem impossible to do, but part of graduating from the DP is to learn to manage the workload and turn it into a proud achievement. While there is no fit-for-all code to crack the mystery of getting through this, there are some sure ways to make everything more manageable.
I believe that the human mind does not function as well in compartments, so do your best to draw from other concepts to make everything easier.
Just a year ago, my own planner was full of IB abbreviations like IAs, EE, and TOK. My advice? Remember where you started from! Whether you transitioned to the DP from the Middle Years Programme (MYP) or any other school system, you chose to be an IB student and promised yourself to emerge victorious from it. Reminding yourself about this at a point where you have more to deal with than you imagined will rekindle the spark in you to ‘pull your socks up’. You have made it this far, and you should feel proud to be turning the bend on the final lap of the DP. Reflecting upon your journey will help you count the feathers already present in your hat and strengthen your self-confidence going ahead.
However, don’t get too overconfident. Exams are nearing, and it is time to get real. IB World Schools and coordinators around the world are busy guiding their students and preparing to seamlessly deliver student work to examiners around the world. If the burden starts to weigh you down, your coordinator and your friends should be your go-to resource in times of stress. Be it editing a draft of the Extended Essay or finalizing a last-minute change in an Internal Assessment, having someone run through your work minimizes the chances of missing a critical detail.
I was part of a different school system before beginning the DP, and I noticed that there is a greater expectation for independent decision-making throughout IB programmes. However, the charm of independent decision-making seems to fade away when you feel alone in the storm. So, remind yourself that you are not alone. It would be an understatement to say that sharing your anxieties with your DP coordinator or a favorite teacher will make every deadline more manageable. It makes a world of a difference! After all, learning through the IB is as much about shared experiences as individual ones.
There is a point at which it may be too late to do all this. There will be a biology final tomorrow or a midnight deadline for the theory of knowledge essay. When this happens, remember that everything you learnt so far was to build up to this moment. A major aspect of the DP is interdisciplinary learning – so don’t shy away from applying learning from one class or subject to another. You will be surprised to see how well you can apply your knowledge.
I still remember the eye-opening moment when I realized how my literature in the English Extended Essay (EE) was so closely linked to the philosophical concepts from TOK. From then onward, researching and writing became so much easier. I believe that the human mind does not function as well in compartments, so do your best to draw from other concepts to make everything easier. There’s no better time to do this than during your finals exams!
I promise that when you look back a year from now on your own DP experience – yes, you will be able to recall all the memories of anxiety and stress – but it will stay with you as an experience you learn from throughout life. It will prepare you for the real world, where it matters greatly how you accomplish everything and not just what you accomplish. Take it from me – the DP finals will only make you stronger! Good luck with your exams!
Alumna Maham Kamal Khanum received her IB diploma from The International School in Karachi, Pakistan in 2015. She is now finishing her first year of university studies in Washington, DC.
We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Maham Kamal Khanum received her IB diploma from By Maham Kamal Khanum The International School in Karachi, Pakistan in 2015. She is now finishing her first year of university studies in Washington, DC.
Helping your children through exams
Exam stress affects the whole family. Everyone can feel like they are treading on eggshells at this tense time. At least the students can focus their nervous energy on exams, but what about the parents?
Parents are eager to see their child succeed but are also concerned about their levels of anxiety. How can they tread the thin line of motivating their children, without exerting more pressure on them? IB World speaks to IB parents about how they support their children through exam time.
How do you support your children through the DP assessments?
Margot has four children: two have already completed the DP; the third is in his first year of the DP; and the youngest is due to sit her final exams in 2019. She says so far they have been fairly independent.
“My children don’t ask for much input. They regulate themselves and seem to resent interference from us,” she says. “All we do is try and provide a caring, stable and supportive home environment. Make sure there’s plenty of food to snack on and cook healthy meals. Also, it’s important to give them some perspective when the pressure starts to build and emotions become heightened. Be a sounding board and listen to the venting.”
Susan agrees. Her eldest daughter, who completed the DP in 2015, worked independently too. Susan provided background support, trying to make her life outside the schoolwork as simple as possible. She has two younger children due to begin DP soon.
My role, especially as exams were approaching, was to make sure she ate regular meals, to encourage her to do exercise and get enough sleep. She was a conscientious and organized worker so I would have to encourage her to take regular breaks from time to time.
Margot would possibly get tutors in to support in the subjects that are a struggle for her children, while Susan will help her other daughters structure their studying.
“My three daughters are very different in their strengths and weaknesses, and in their approach to studying. My younger two are not as organized as my eldest so I may have to get more involved in how they structure their studying, but, again, I feel my role is much more background support.”
What routines do you try to encourage?
The main routine Margot strives for is eating and talking as a family around the dinner table. She says this is very important to maintain, especially at stressful times. But it’s hard to regulate routines for 17-year-olds.
They have their own minds. You can encourage certain routines but they really like to be responsible for themselves and regulate their own routines. There is not a lot of time to squeeze in much else besides study.
How do you keep your children motivated?
Margot has always encouraged her children to focus on the big picture and find motivation and self-discipline in themselves. “It has to come from them,” she says. “My children have taken that on board and know that you get what you give in life.”
Susan finds it difficult to keep the girls motivated throughout the two years of the DP, but says if they have a clear idea about what they want to study and at which university, this helps with motivation. She offers her daughters encouragement when they need it: “It’s such an intense, stressful time. Just be there for them and acknowledge that you know it’s tough. Encouraging them to have a night off helps, too.
We offloaded many of my daughter’s household chores, allowed her to give up her extra-curricular activities in her final year, and tried not to book up our weekends with social events, especially in the final six months.
How do you recognize when exam stress has become unhealthy, and how do you handle this?
The DP is a rigorous programme that demands a lot from teenagers, so it’s important for parents and teachers to help ensure they don’t over-stress themselves.
Tears, late nights and refusing to leave the house are clear signs of unhealthy stress, says Susan. “The physical effects include pale skin, bags under their eyes and spots,” she adds.
“If they start to complain of feeling sick all the time and are constantly tired, that’s when you know their stress levels are unhealthy,” says Margot.
She takes her children for weekends away for a change of scenery or they go to the movies or theatre performances. “Encourage them to go to the gym and have a few outside interests or hobbies. It’s important to still socialize, when they can,” adds Margot.
“Listen to your children and don’t interfere too much,” advises Margot. “They are being monitored closely at school with regards to meeting their academic deadlines and you will be informed if there is a problem.”
Margot suggests that while students are preoccupied with their studies, parents can help research and make arrangements for visiting university open days. “Be there in the background ready and willing to help with proof-reading and revision for tests and exams,” she adds.
“Be aware of the incredible amount of work the DP demands,” adds Susan. “I’m not looking forward to going through it again with my other two children, but at least I know now what to expect.”
In the final article of the series, IB World magazine looks at how parents can support their children through the IB Diploma Programme (DP) exams Exam stress affects the whole family. Everyone can feel like they are treading on eggshells at this tense time.