7 Things We Wish We Knew Before Going Into IB

7 Things We Wish We Knew Before Going Into IB

Do you ever wish you could go back in time and talk to your past self before making certain decisions? Well we certainly do! As a follow-up to last week’s article on faculty insights into subject choices, we asked some current IB students what they wish they knew before choosing their courses, and this is what they agreed on:

1. Some HL’s (specifically Math, Biology, and Chemistry) are really hard

“I wish I knew that… Math HL is a lot harder than it actually is, and so is Chem and Physics; they’re a lot harder than I thought they were.” – Lance, Grade 12

If I knew the degree of difficulty that Chemistry would have, um, I may have wanted to choose a different subject, and if I did choose earlier, I could have possibly even gone to Physics, which is a subject I like better.” -Liam, Grade 11

2. Chemistry and Biology are a better pair than Chemistry and Physics

“My Grade 10 self would still choose the same topics, but um…maybe I would change to maybe Chemistry and Biology instead, just because Biology and Chemistry have Biochemistry, they go pretty well together, and Chemistry and Physics, I guess there’s only one topic in common about them.” – Roque, Grade 12

3. Know the differences between the SL and HL in your subjects

I wish I knew the differences between HL and SL, because I feel like if I knew it more before I would have taken English HL and Bio SL because, Bio HL and SL, like, the differences are so big.” – Sewon, Grade 12

“The difficulty of Chemistry and Physics. The HL and SL differences are definitely…the HL topics are a lot harder. If you don’t know the core, then learning the HL topics will be a lot harder.” – Roque

“For English, I wish I knew that the HL and SL have similar difficulties and most of the difference is on the workload and not really on the difficulty of the course.” – Lance

4. And be aware of the workload that is expected from you.

“I wish I knew the workload, because the content of everything isn’t hard, I think it’s just the piling up of all the work from each subject.– Audrey, Grade 12

“I wish I knew I was getting myself into, because before my first choices were Chemistry HL, Biology HL, and Psychology HL. It wasn’t the best decision *laughs* because at first I was very motivated. I am not saying I’m not very motivated right now, but I was really motivated because I was interested in the field of medicine. So I thought these were the best subjects. But then realistically it wasn’t manageable for me because it was a lot of work for me altogether.” -Ji Eun, Grade 11

“I wish I knew about the degree of difficulty in English, especially because I didn’t know there would be that many grammatical [concepts] I would have to learn, and different aspects of language one must know throughout the course.” – Liam

“[I wish I knew] the amount of work I would have to do. I didn’t know that all the subjects had that much homework included, but now that I know, I am proud that I was able to do it! Majority of it. Originally I had been in Math SL, and then when I realized how much work I’d be doing for my HL’s (English, Psych, and Art), I moved down to Studies, which I am so happy and proud about doing.” – Mayumi, Grade 12

“I wish I knew that finance in Business has a lot to do with numbers, and there are lots of terminologies and formulas to learn. Most of the terminologies are somewhat similar to each other, so I can’t remember which is which. Math SL is also challenging.” – Nicolle, Grade 11

5. Time management is key

“I wish I knew the exact deadlines for the IB, not just CIS deadlines, but because there are some things you have to upload at a certain time, you’re not really aware of the work that you have to do before that deadline, because it’s not set by the teachers, it’s literally set by the IB. So I wish I also knew that.” – Bianca, Grade 12

“This is very, very, cliche, but the main point of IB is to be able to manage your time wisely. Because everyone knows it’s a lot of work, a lot of content, and a lot of requirements to complete for this diploma. I would tell myself, if I had a chance, to be very on top of things and complete things on time and you really need to focus on what you are doing to finish it in an efficient amount of time.” – Ji Eun

“For subjects like Business and Psychology, they aren’t really content heavy but more on analysis. You have to put much effort into it. It takes a lot of effort and time to understand what the topic is all about. For subjects like Math and Chemistry, they also require a lot of time. Especially when you’re struggling in Math, you have to keep on practicing and revising your lessons to understand them. And also, take it slow. What I am trying to say is, try to revise weeks before an assessment, or after the lesson is given to you, try doing it again at home to recall or revisit what you learned.” – Nicolle

“Starting IB, it’s really important to take notes each time, and try not to cram before like, a big exam, because that really like, makes you lose sleep, and makes you lose focus, so it’s better to like, really use your time wisely, in terms of tests and also, like, IA’s and EE.” – Sewon

6. Understand where your own interests, strengths, and weaknesses lie

“I would say don’t take subjects that are too risky, especially for HL. Don’t take HL subjects just because other people said they are easy. Take something that you think it is easy. Don’t be too confused. You need to check the syllabus for IB. What you learned in 10th grade isn’t going to be the same in IB. It is going to be VERY DIFFERENT. Just because your 10th grade subjects were easy, it could have been the teachers’ teaching style, or it could have been because you guys were 10th graders. The subjects become a lot more difficult in IB because we are learning in the level of college.” – Clair, Grade 11

“I didn’t know if I should have taken Art or Psychology, but then I just took Psychology because it’s more interesting for me, and I’m not really good at Art, so yeah.” –Ron, Grade 11

My advice would be to really step back and, because you’re given [three] weeks in Grade 11 to figure out if you really want to be in a class or not, I advise you to really make sure that you will have enough time for all your subjects.” – Mayumi

7. And know that all of your struggles will be worth it in the end.

“Be ready for a lot of work. Um, don’t be afraid, though: all the work will be worth it in the end. Just keep working and trying and your grades will start to come out and be good.” – Liam

“I would never go back and not choose a subject. I’d stick to IB. Like, you hate the whole thing, but you’ll love it after.” – Audrey

“It’s just gonna get worse. It’s gonna keep going downhill. But then, in the end, whatever I’m so worried about in the moment, it will all pass, and at some point before you know it, it’s graduation time, and you’re setting up your final stuff, and you’re signing your clearance and stuff, and, um, basically, if the people before you could do it, who says you can’t, right?” –Chantal

Extra Tips:

“I also suggest that after you finalize your subjects that you want to take next year, during the break, start watching, ”How to get 7 in IB” videos. If you look it up, there are actual people who got 7’s. There was this girl who got 7 in Math HL and gave tips on calculators. There are also tips on how to deal with certain situations like when you can’t get help from the teacher. So if at school you do the work with the teachers but at home [you can’t], look at all of the videos for anything related to your subjects.” –Clair

“Get your EE done before summer.” –Chantal

“Ask a lot of other students what they think about the classes and, like, you know, what fits them. And also, just trust yourself, [but also] if you think you’re not gonna do well in [a class], then just don’t do it.” -Ron“Well, for me anyway, I would tell myself to improve my register and stop talking so informally because the IB does not like that.” –Bianca

We would like to thank the following students for participating in this interview:


Liam (HL: Art, Business Management, English; SL: Chemistry, Math, Spanish ab initio)

Ji Eun (HL: Business Management, Chemistry, Biology; SL: Math, English, Spanish B)

Nicolle (HL: English, Business Management, Psychology; SL: Spanish ab initio, Math, Chemistry)

Clair (HL: Business Management, Math, Economics (online); SL: English, Chemistry, Mandarin B)

Ron (HL: Business Management, English, Psychology; SL: Biology, Spanish ab initio, Math Studies)


Lance (HL: Math, Chemistry, Physics, Business Management; SL: English, Mandarin ab initio)

Roque (HL: English, Chemistry, Physics; SL: Math, Spanish B, Business Management)

Sewon (HL: Psychology, Biology, Business Management; SL: English, Math, Spanish B)

Audrey (HL: Business Management, English, Art; SL: Math Studies, Biology, French ab initio (online))

Mayumi (HL: Art, Psychology, English; SL: Math Studies, Spanish ab initio, Biology)

Bianca (HL: English, Psychology, Art; SL: Math Studies, Biology, Spanish B)

Chantal (HL: English, Art, Biology; SL: Math, Business Management, German A (online))

Written by: Axelle M. and Dong Ha C.

Feature image by Katrina R.


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