IB Math higher level (HL) is one of the most challenging classes in the IB program. If you find yourself needing a little extra help, you’re not alone. The internet is filled with discussion threads of IB students looking for tips and best practices to score well on their exams. The goal is to get a perfect score or 7/7 on the exam. So, what does it take to pull that off?
Take Inventory of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
The first step to revising for your higher-level math exams starts by working on textbook problems and taking stock of where you need more help. The goal is to focus the most time on your biggest weaknesses instead of spreading yourself too thin across all subjects. Avoid the attraction of skipping the book problems and going straight to the past exams. The past exams are an invaluable study tool, but the order in which you study is important to progress learning and build confidence.
Build Work Ethic and Master Your Concentration
There is a concentration curve that depicts how focused a student is on a subject with respect to the amount of time spent on it. Naturally, students who are disinterested in mathematics will peak too early, and performance will fall throughout the duration of the problems. One part of the process of revising for your mathematics exams is to build stamina in your concentration. Ideally, you want to be in a warm-up phase for the first 6-8 questions. Then, your performance will peak and plateau across questions 10-25 and then decrease as you finish the final few questions. Building this level of concentration is a key component of building a work ethic that will serve you throughout the remainder of your academic and professional life.
One of the most infuriating aspects of IB mathematics is that it is not enough to get the right answers; efficiency is important too. The exams are timed, and spending too much time solving a single problem will hurt your overall score. Students should practice until they can solve problems in one minute or less. Practicing efficiency helps students focus on required (point-earning) steps without wasting time on tasks that don’t factor into the score.
Push Yourself to Explore Hard Topics
One of the most common studying mistakes that students make is letting their bias cloud their study plan. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance, so when we encounter a difficult topic in study, we tend to work around it. Avoiding topics you do not understand can be detrimental to your final scores. This goes back to assessing your strengths and weaknesses and seeking out extra (professional) help to master challenging topics.
The Takeaway on Acing the IB Higher Level Mathematics Exam
HL mathematics is one of the most challenging exams you will take in your IB diploma program. It is natural to invest a little extra effort into preparing for this exam. With a few targeted study tips, students can effectively revise for the HL exam and achieve a high score. But it takes more than time; scoring well takes diligence, efficiency, and a willingness to tackle challenging topics. Students that commit to effective study habits and who are resourceful in seeking help to develop their weaknesses will do well.