Every year, incoming IB students get to choose which subjects they would like to take. Knowing that IB is a rigorous curriculum, they must consider picking subjects that will challenge them while also thinking of what they enjoy. For Dragon’s Print’s first article of the school year, we interviewed some of our seniors to give our incoming DP1 students advice on starting IB the right way:
1. How was your entire IB experience so far, especially with remote learning? What were some highlights and challenges that you’ve dealt with?
Pristina: So far, it’s been good, but it really felt challenging to me, especially since I wasn’t just switching to a different school, I was also switching to a different curriculum. I also had never experienced online class in my old school, so I had to learn all of these applications, programs, and software while trying to navigate my way through the IB.
Sofia: I would say that my IB experience so far has been really tough, especially with remote learning. All of the IB requirements aside, I found it especially hard to adjust to an online setting when it came to learning the material. I would say that one of the highlights was definitely having more time to do my work. As there was less travel and wait time, I could immediately start working instead of waiting to get home to do the work. One of the challenges I did have with the IB during remote learning was adjusting to the environment I was in during exams. As I was used to being in a classroom with other students while taking exams, I often found it hard to concentrate when I was on my own.
Johan: The IB has been quite enjoyable for the most part, but definitely a huge challenge and was a massive jump in learning and difficulty than the years earlier. Remote learning also takes it up a whole other level as it brings a lot of challenges with it. Communicating with friends and teachers is totally different and sometimes makes you feel quite isolated in your studies. However, the absence of waking up super early and having to sit through traffic to go to school definitely softens the blow.
2. What were some of the goals that you set for yourself last school year? How did you work to achieve them?
Duane: Some goals that I set for myself last school year was to have all my grades with a 7 mark. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to achieve this. I put extra time on the subjects that I really struggled and received lower marks at. I took some time during summer break to work on my weaknesses and study the subjects I’m weak at in advance.
Dominic: Some of the goals that I had set for myself last school year include getting a 40/42. In order to do so I had increased the amount of times I would review my notes after a lesson in order to make sure I actually retain the information as opposed to just forgetting it afterwards. I would always reach out to my teachers for clarifications and parts of the assignments I was not so sure about.
3. What subjects are you currently taking? Which subject/s do you enjoy the most? Which subject/s do you find the most difficult?
Pristina: The subjects I’m taking are HL Psychology, Language and Literature, and Biology and SL Spanish Ab Initio, Math AA, and Chemistry. In terms of difficulty, I have to say either Math or Chemistry were one of the hardest for me, even if I did fairly okay in those subjects in my previous school. I think it’s because the level of difficulty they set for those subjects are really high, so the expectations were pushed higher than they were back in middle school. For the subjects I enjoyed the most, I think it’s Spanish. It’s my first time formally learning another language with structured lessons that I have to take in. Even if it was a bit hard, since it’s a new language you have to speak eventually, I really enjoyed it. I also learned a lot about the culture.
Sofia: For my HLs I am taking Language and Literature, Math AA and Chemistry. My SLs are Business, Spanish AB and Art. Although a bit strange, I consider Chemistry both the subject I enjoy the most and the one of most difficult. However, I do think that this is a good thing. As it gives me the motivation I need to continue pursuing the subject despite its difficulty.
Johan: I’m currently taking Business Management, Economics and English L&L for my HL’s and Physics, Math AA and Spanish AB Initio for my SL’s. I definitely find Business Management the most enjoyable and in terms of the most difficult, I think Economics, as with my Economics class I have to take it online with an external program not a part of CIS called Pamoja. With Pamoja, you don’t really have the same level of relationship you would with your classmates and teachers in regular CIS classes.
Duane: I am currently taking Math HL, Chemistry HL, Physics HL, Mandarin Ab Initio, English SL, and Business SL. I think I enjoy Business and Math class the most because I enjoy those subjects a lot. I find Chemistry very interesting, but it would be the most difficult subject for me.
Dominic: The subjects I am currently taking right now include English, Business, and Psychology as my HL’s and Spanish B, Math AI, and Biology as my SL’s. As of right now they are all fairly manageable. My personal favorite subject would have to be Business as it piques my interest the most and is also a class in which active discussion flows easily. The most difficult subject at times can be Biology as some topics require a lot more memorization and effort to comprehend than others.
4. For those who switched subjects after school started, why did you choose to change subjects? What was it like to switch classes after already starting the year?
Pristina: I switched twice. The first time I switched from one subject to another, the other was switching difficulties. I started the school year taking Mandarin Ab Initio instead of Spanish and doing Chemistry HL instead of SL. I think, for Mandarin, there was a lot more to memorize, at least in my opinion, and a lot more to master. At least for Spanish, we have the same alphabet as in English and Filipino, so I didn’t have to worry about writing in a whole different kind of text unlike in Mandarin. Since Chinese is also like a tonal language, that matters and I kind of had difficulty trying to tell the different tones without it sounding too awkward.
Dominic: My original lineup of classes had me in Biology and Chemistry HL. I had switched because in that first month I had a different plan for my university courses and future career. With Covid being around my grandparents had advised me to stray away from the medical route for now so I went into Business directed classes. The switch was not difficult at all and despite only missing a few lessons, the adjusting was fairly smooth.
5. What extracurricular activities or clubs did you participate in? What were you able to accomplish in them despite the online setting?
Sofia: I participated in quite a few extracurricular activities, but the one that I would like to talk about would be BEIMUN. Despite the online setting, I was able to talk about global issues with students from other schools. It was a great way for me to improve my public speaking skills, especially as someone who prefers to keep quiet. MUN is also something that you can add to your college applications and to your CAS portfolios, so it is also very beneficial in that aspect.
Duane: I participated in extracurricular activities and clubs such as the Esports Club, Yearbook Club, The Report Card Podcast, Dragon’s Print, and Mandarin Basic Conversation Club. I was able to accomplish many things despite the online setting. I was able to contribute to each of the clubs and meet new people. I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing other teachers I don’t have classes with.
Dominic: I was in a multitude of extracurricular activities so I will provide a short summary of them all within the online setting. For MUN I was able to attend the BEIMUN conference online as an Assistant President for GA2. For the CIS ESports Club I was able to collaborate with a close peer of mine to create and lead a club we were passionate about. Lastly, for The Report Card I was able to create comedic and informative podcasts that were distributed to the CIS community.
6. What was one thing you wish you knew about IB before your Junior year?
Pristina: Even if there was a lot of information posted about the IB since it’s pretty standard throughout the world, after reading all of that, I didn’t understand how the grading system really worked, the different assessments, and how you were supposed to write them, so I didn’t really know how to prepare. It would have helped if I prepared early, especially for subjects like my Science subjects since there’s a lot of taking in and taking notes takes time, and trying to understand the lesson takes time. It takes a lot more time to get these lessons more than the lessons from my middle school. It was a lot to take in. The grading system is also very different, the 1-7 scale compared to 1-100 in percentages. It was hard to figure out where you’d sit since every subject had different mark bands.
Sofia: I wish that I had a better understanding of why the IB course was difficult. When talking to people who either teach, or had gone through the IB course, I simply heard that it was hard, but nothing about the specifics of what made it difficult. Such as the sheer amount of assignments one would get on a daily basis, adjusting to IB type questions, and the increased amount of exams.
Johan: Probably the importance of having a working study routine and sticking to it.
7. What valuable piece of advice would you want to share with the Juniors following in your footsteps?
Pristina: I think I have two. My first is to always stay on track, avoid passing anything late, and don’t put things up to the last minute because you’re just gonna feel bad and anxious about not doing the work. You might as well get it over with. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your teachers and your classmates and even the older years if you have some friends who are taking your subjects. Getting real-life advice from people who have been through a similar journey as you is really helpful and it will help you feel less alone.
Sofia: Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it is your Junior year and continue working at a steady pace. Learn how to set aside time for yourself and for your schoolwork. You wouldn’t want to get burnt out when it matters the most.
Johan: It can be pretty overwhelming sometimes with all the deadlines and tasks, but allowing yourself to take the breaks you need will definitely help you in the long run and prevent you from burning out.
Duane: Use your time wisely. Take the time to do work well and put in the necessary effort and time into your work. Do not push work back as this creates a chain reaction, making very stressful days of work for you. Learn your lessons by heart. It is important to have a deeper understanding of your lessons because many subjects require prior knowledge to understand new topics. Learning the lessons by heart will help you remember the lessons throughout the two years and make your DP life more comfortable.
Dominic: A valuable piece of advice I would give is to TRY ALL CLASSES. I definitely did and I found it really worth it. Trying different classes allows you to see what you are good at, what you are not, what you are interested in, and what is boring. I highly recommend coordinating with your teachers and advisors in order to taste the rainbow when it comes to your classes.
Thank you to Grade 12 students Pristina J., Sofia V., Johan G.T., Duane T., and Dominic L. for participating in this interview.
Written by Justin D. (Grade 12) and Lea F. (Grade 11); Feature Image by Anya C. (Grade 11)
The views expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and should not be taken to represent the views of Dragon’s Print and Cebu International School.