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4 Tips to Survive in IB HL Maths

Understanding the content and concepts in IB HL Maths is of course crucial to success, but there are many other factors that contribute to scoring well in exams. This blog post covers 4 underrated IB HL Math tips, which do not involve understanding content that we think are important for all HL Maths students to know.

Use Your GDC!

The GDC is one of the most overlooked tools by students, mostly because it can be clunky and unintuitive to use. However, it is incredibly valuable – finding solutions via graphs and using the GDC to solve matrices is significantly faster and easier than manual solving. It’s those few seconds saved that can make the difference in exams!

Students should feel confident using their GDCs. There’s nothing worse than your GDC freezing, or running out of battery during an exam. The way to make sure you know all the quirks of your calculator – like which functions take longer to load or how to switch between degrees and radians – is to use your GDC as much as possible.

So we have two key pieces of advice for GDCs:

  • Take the time to watch some videos and learn how to maximise the use of your GDC. It will take a bit of extra effort but the benefits far outweigh the costs

  • Get used to using your GDC in classes and while revising! It’s there to help, not hinder you, and by the time you sit exams, you should be able to use your GDC as seamlessly as your scientific calculator

AcesMath has a free guide book for the usage of GDC, down them here!

Know the Formula Booklet

Like the GDC, the formula booklet is another tool easily overlooked by students. Essentially, the formula booklet allows you to save your memory for more complex concepts/strategies and formulas not included in the booklet. In the exam hall, using the booklet to confirm that you have remembered a specific formula correctly can prevent careless mistakes.

Our advice is to familiarise yourself with the formula booklet by using it as much as possible in class and while studying. 13 pages of content can seem intimidating, but after a while, you should feel comfortable locating topics in the booklet, so that come exam time you aren’t wasting time desperately searching through its pages.

Exam Technique

Time management and mental strategies are important exam techniques which rely on consistent practice, and they work differently for each student. It takes experimentation and significant past paper practice to learn how to manage your time adequately and determine what strategies work for you.

Try different approaches – you could start with the hardest questions first, or get all of the easy marks out of the way at the beginning; you could leave 10 minutes for checking your work in detail, or leave less time but spend extra effort the first time you answer each question.

It will be too late if you only start thinking about what techniques work for you in the last few weeks before exams, so start as early as possible. By the time you walk into the exam hall, you should have practiced your ideal exam technique countless times over.

Past Papers & Mark Schemes

Sometimes having the correct answers just isn’t enough. An underrated and vitally important skill is knowing how to present your working and knowing the style of IB questions. Doing past papers is part of the solution – students learn what types of questions the IB setters frequently use and can allocate revision time accordingly.

The second part of the solution is marking your past papers using the IB mark scheme. We cannot stress enough how important this is – the mark scheme explicitly tells you how marks are awarded and knowing exactly what the IB wants and how they want it written is crucial for scoring well.

For instance, writing the formulas you’re using and indicating the steps in your working clearly can be worth a few marks in itself. These might seem like minor details, but they add up over many questions. More importantly, they are scoring opportunities which have nothing to do with your actual understanding of the concepts! Don’t waste them.

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