Make the Most of Summer Time to Prepare for IB
The International Baccalaureate offers an alternative to standard college preparatory classes. Assuming you have done your initial research and have decided to pursue IB studies, summer preparation can dramatically increase your performance once school begins.
Consider these five tips along the way.
1. Identify your path
The IB diploma program is one of the most common high-school level IB programs. The requirements for the IB diploma conform to an international standard and include the completion of seven rigorous classes across a spectrum of subjects. The program also requires two long-form essays and self-selected extracurricular projects that are designed to promote engagement with the larger world.
Many high schools also offer individual IB courses. Like the Advanced Placement program, end-of-year IB exams allow students to gain college credit. Unlike AP tests, however, IB exams are available only to those individuals who are enrolled in the related classes.
Completing individual IB courses is a great way to enhance your college application without the considerable commitment of the full IB diploma . But it is worth noting that this program can provide students with an incredible education.
2. Become familiar with the course content
Regardless of which IB path you select, the summer is the perfect time to prepare for your classes. Start by finding a course syllabus for the previous year’s class if this year’s isn’t available.
Your teacher will likely be willing to supply you with these documents. If the class features a great deal of reading, consider beginning that reading now. Consider reviewing past IB exams as well, as those can be made available to students. Check in with your teacher about this.
3. Develop an organizational system
The IB program is characterized by comprehensive, large-format projects. If you are planning on the IB diploma, you will need to factor in the long production times required for the 4,000-word extended essay.
Rather than set a deadline reminding you to “complete the gigantic essay,” set interim goals for completing the outline, a first draft, a second draft and a final version.
Your organizational system for the regular course work will depend somewhat on the syllabus. Even here, though, your focus should be on long-term planning for reading books and writing papers.
On a related note, this focus on big picture projects is one of the best arguments for IB programs preparing students for college.
4. Exercise your mind
IB courses place a particular emphasis on creative thinking and information synthesis. In keeping with the international focus, IB language arts classes must select several works from the “Prescribed Literature in Translation” list. Exactly which works are chosen depends on the instructor.
Understanding a translated work poses unique challenges. Not only are you reading the narrative in English, but you must understand the elements lost in translation, and sometimes the new insights granted by a gifted translator.
You don’t need to be fluent in the original language, but you do need to find a well-annotated translation that explains the choices made by the translator, and the nuances and cultural references in the original. Pick one work from the list that’s not originally in your native language. Poetry by Tagore or Neruda, a Viking saga, a short play by Chekov or a novel by Camus would all be good choices.
Find a bilingual version with lots of annotations, and start playing detective. Each week, take one footnote from the book and really try to understand it.
Full understanding may take all of your IB course work, and a few college classes beyond that, but you can plant the seeds this summer, and thrive come fall.
Also, IB courses place a particular emphasis on creative thinking and information synthesis. Practicing these skills can serve you well.
Writer’s Digest is one source that provides a number of prompts that can be a spur to creativity. Why not aim to write a short story each week?
If this is initially too ambitious, try outlining an idea that addresses a writing prompt, with the major characters briefly described. Researching these prompts can also strengthen your synthesis skills.
5. Plan for diploma components, if applicable
If you plan to pursue the IB diploma, summer preparation is essential. Start by reading up on the Theory of Knowledge requirement. You will prevent undue confusion during the school year if you already understand its components come September.
The extended essay is also a major requirement of the program. While a comprehensive guide to writing an essay is beyond the scope of this column, beginning yours early in your IB experience will provide you with ample revision time.
Finally, the creativity, action and service project will involve hours of independent work beyond your standard academic requirements. Summer is too early to choose and start your first project, but it is not too early to begin brainstorming.
Test ideas with your parents or friends, and ask local volunteer organizations if they have outstanding needs that you could incorporate into your service project.
Pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma is an amazing opportunity, but what you gain from it will equal what you give to it. If you start preparing now, you may just be rewarded with success this fall.
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