How to Cope with the ‘Pre-IB Exam Stress’

As the IB examinations approach, a common experience among many students is the typical nightmares of receiving a below pass grade or missing an important paper. Having been an IB student myself, I more than understand the stress that hits as the mental countdown to examinations begins.  I myself recall how during the two week study break, I woke up in a panic multiple times, thinking I had overslept and missed an exam. Indeed, such pre-examination stress is often manifested physically in our sleeping and eating habits, which will only serve to reduce our productivity in this crucial period. But, this is not what we want! Today, I am here to share some tips and tricks that can help you pull through this stressful time and achieve the results you want and deserve.

Tip #1 - Know yourself!

Source: New Scientist

John C. Maxwell once said: “To grow yourself, you must know yourself”. As cliche as it is, this quote does bring up a useful point – that understanding one’s emotions and attitudes is a crucial element of personal growth and achieving one’s goals. The same applies to the context of stress. On the surface, stress and anxiety can easily overwhelm us but breaking it down can help us avoid it taking over your work and social life. Start by asking yourself questions like: “Why am I feeling this way? Is there anything specific that triggered this stress episode?” This helps in identifying the root source behind your stress and finding a way to counter it. For instance, is your stress stemming from the feeling of being unprepared for examinations? In this case, a way to combat this feeling would be to organise and categorise what you know for each subject against the syllabus guide, identifying gaps in your knowledge that you need to fill.

Another situation could be feeling scared and stressed that you won’t achieve the ‘45’ or ‘40’ score that you want. Here, looking past the numbers and reassuring yourself that as long as you try your best, you will be satisfied with your hard work and achieved results is a good mindset to adopt. Knowing that you tried your best given the circumstances, is the self-confidence you need. Overall, this problem-solution form of thinking helps you break down even the most stressful moments, meaning that the panic will not overwhelm you since you have a better grasp of your emotions and thoughts.

Tip #2: Understand your healthy - or unhealthy - distractions

Source: Webanywhere

Do you prefer studying alone or with friends? Are you the type of person who enjoys music when they study? Do you find yourself constantly checking your phone? These are the three main factors that influence one’s concentration – presence of other people, study environment and our ever present smartphone. Understanding which factor boosts your productivity and which pulls it down can drastically improve your revision process. For me personally, I find it almost impossible to study by myself. I often get distracted by my phone or end up procrastinating, finishing the smaller tasks but stressing over the more difficult tasks that I push back until it’s too late to complete them. If you find yourself in a similar situation, try asking around for people to study with! Finding your go to study buddy helps you not push off studying and at the same time opens up chances for discussions, reminders about important concepts and accountability from a friend who is not afraid to tell you to buckle down and study.

Conversely, if you are the type of person who prefers to study alone, setting up the perfect study space could be the defining factor in amping up your productivity! Some elements to consider here are: table space and organization, lighting and the surroundings. For the first, some students prefer a plain and uncluttered table, placing their work as the center and sole focus of the area while others find that clinical and unsettling. For the second, lighting has been shown to affect one’s mood, with natural lighting being the most popular among students. Knowing which lighting – warm, fluorescent or natural, suits you the best is a powerful element to tweak in your study space. Lastly, the areas surrounding the study space are just as important, as they will subconsciously affect you. Studying next to your bed for instance could become very tempting when you start feeling sleepy. For me personally, anything in my home that surrounds my study space at home has been converted into distractions for me. Instead, I am most productive at cafes, where the murmurs and subtle movements from surrounding tables provide the perfect amount of background noise for me to focus on my work. Another tip would be to also change up your study space once in a while! Having a change of environment, for instance studying at the dining table instead of your room, can break the repetitiveness of your study routine and refresh your mind.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to put the phone away! Undeniably, a smartphone can boost our productivity with its useful applications and functions, yet it can also take it away. This I am guilty of as well, having the bad habit of compulsively refreshing my Instagram and Tiktok applications when I get even the slightest bit bored from studying. To kick this habit, I asked my friend to confiscate my phone for increments of an hour and surprisingly I did not miss it! Like they say, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If you find that removing your phone all together is too painful a punishment, try out these applications that promote non-usage of your phone and greater focus in a study session. These include:

Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to be proactive or ask for help

Source: TechEngage

When it comes to studying, there is a distinction between proactive and reactive learning. More often than not, students find themselves in the loophole of reactive learning, for instance seeking extra help from their teachers only after they begin to struggle with certain topics. Proactive learning on the other hand could mean reflecting in advance on what topics you would encounter difficulties with and scheduling extra consultations with your teacher to combat this. In other words, a proactive student makes things happen instead of waiting for things to happen, assuming control over their own learning. Proactiveness is thus an excellent quality to have in the lead up to exams and can greatly decrease your stress with the sense of control and preparedness that come hand in hand with it.

In the IB curriculum, a good way to increase your proactiveness is utilising online resources and your teacher’s expertise! The IB syllabus guide is a good checklist to break down what topics you are strong in and which you are not – seeking extra help from your teacher or friends for the topics you are weaker in. This syllabus guide also helps you discard any extra learnt information that is not a hundred percent crucial for your examinations, which could help some students effectively consolidate their learning. If you are unable to secure consultations with your teacher, do not worry as the Internet is practically a virtual teacher. There are many online courses and platforms that are able to provide common subject specific study tips or even a topic’s entire content online. Platforms such as Litlearn, Geographyrealm, ehistory and The Best IB Economics Study Notes are great starting points to explore.

Another resource you can utilise is home tuition in Singapore! As we all know, Singapore has a strong tuition culture with a multitude of home tuition agencies and private tutors that offer both 1-to-1 tuition and group tuition services. Tuition to many of us, could be that dreadful torture every week that our parents signed us up for as children. However, now that you may be in your late teens, don’t be afraid to take charge of your own learning! If you have the means to, and feel that you need even more additional learning and would benefit from 1-to-1 tuition instead of classroom based learning, do explore some of the prominent private and home tuition agencies in Singapore such as FamilyTutor!

This article written by FamilyTutor, a private tuition agency in Singapore hopes that you can succeed in your Pre-IB Exams by following these tips.

All in all, the most important baseline to remember is: do not let yourself become overwhelmed. Staying calm and ensuring you have the optimal study conditions are a good goal to start with, followed by a concentrated effort to remove any stressors in your way. With an abundance of resources online at your disposal, becoming proactive can easily become a new habit for you as well! Very soon the IB examinations will pass by in the blink of the eye and I hope you will be able to look back on this period, and be proud of what you have learnt and accomplished!



Maddy is an humanities undergraduate student and is passionate about learning and education, having been both a student and teacher herself. She hopes to impart practical advice and light hearted reflections around school life and studying, that can help you learn and grow in your education journey as well!

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About FamilyTutor!

FamilyTutor is an established home tuition agency in Singapore! We match suitable home tutors for our clients not just to improve the students' academic grades, but also to build a strong rapport and meaningful relationship with the students and even the their whole family. FamilyTutor put every student in good hands!

If you need an excellent home tutor, feel free to call/WhatsApp us at +65 8777-2168! Our matching service is free!

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