5 tips to succeed in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Written by BFIS Staff

Are you considering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)? With the right strategies and a lot of dedication, success in the IBDP is achievable. Having just recently graduated from this program, our BFIS Alumna Claudia Briales (Class of 2021) is excited to share her top 5 tips to help you succeed in the IBDP.

My name is Claudia and I graduated from BFIS in 2021. Currently, I am studying Medicine at the University of Barcelona. Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a doctor, and I am very happy to see that my dream is becoming a reality. My transition from school to university was smooth and easy. 

Well, I recognize there were some bumps at the beginning of the road until I got adjusted to the new environment and the university requirements.  But, overall it was a trouble-free process, and I think I owe it quite a bit to the way we had to prepare ourselves to study for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP)

My memories of the IBDP years at BFIS are a mix of excitement to see myself heading towards the end of my school years and some anxiety about obtaining good qualifications that would allow me to get accepted into one of my first college choices. 

I had always heard about the rigor of the IB Diploma Program and I started 11th grade with a mix of nervousness and enthusiasm. I have to say that the support I received from my teachers at all times was magnificent and I cannot be more grateful for their dedication and drive. They made me feel safe, supported, and empowered to succeed during those two years.

I remember that, shortly before graduating from the IBDP, our College Counselor requested to our class to create a kind of mural in the high school reception in which we had to leave in writing some advice or tips for those who were going to start the IBDP the following year. The whole class of 2021 participated in pasting our paper strips tips on the wall.  

There was a considerable variety of advice, some of which I list in this article, but there was one that stood out above the rest. We all agreed on that number one. 

Tip number 1: Organization and Planning

You probably heard the saying: “If you fail to plan you plan to fail”.  The most important advice to prepare for the IB is “organization and planning”. This means keeping all your notes in order, in binders or files on your computer, ordered by subject, and in chronological order, so they are easy to access and review whenever you need them. 

It also means keeping everything up-to-date and creating a study and due dates schedule that you need to strictly follow. It is very easy to deviate from the established plan, there are so many distractions during the day and when you start the program you see the end of it so far away, that you think there is time to catch up.  Be careful! In the IBDP, a small deviation can cause a butterfly effect, and in a short time, it may become a nightmare.

Therefore, I cannot stress enough the importance of this aspect. By staying organized and staying on top of the material, you will avoid falling behind. It will allow you to maintain your focus and your motivation and perform your best in the IB Diploma Program. 

Foto de Unseen Studio en Unsplash

Tip number 2: Manage your time wisely

One of the most valuable resources we have is time and learning how to manage it is a vital life skill. I am still learning to effectively manage my time. It is so easy to get distracted. But, fortunately, I am getting better at it little by little.  

The IBDP is a rigorous and demanding program that requires a lot of time and effort, so it is important to plan and use your time effectively. As I suggested above, make a schedule and/or a to-do list and prioritize tasks based on their level of importance and urgency. 

When you get to work, work!  Avoid any distractions (yes! You have to put your phone away! That is painful, I know, but I get so much done when I don’t have my phone near me! It is worth it and you will get used to it!). During those years of studying the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, I discover the Pomodoro method and I am still using it to study at the university. 

You work uninterruptedly for 25 minutes (Pomodoro time) and then you stop for 5. After 4 Pomodoro times, you can relax or do something else for 20 or 30 minutes. I don’t follow this time exactly. I prefer to work uninterruptedly for at least 45 minutes. But, what is important here is to give some relaxation time to your brain. You can go for a walk and stretch your muscles, you can talk to a friend, or simply have a cup of coffee. 

Work on one thing at a time. Multitasking can make you less productive. When you try to do multiple tasks at the same time, your brain has to switch back and forth between tasks, and you can lose your focus and efficiency. A better approach is to focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention. This can help you to stay focused, be more efficient, make less mistakes and produce higher-quality work. 

Tip number 3: Seek help when you need it

I consider myself more of an introverted person. For many years it was difficult for me to ask for help to my teachers, but during the IBDP I put aside my fears and I reached out for help whenever I felt insecure, or I didn’t understand something. 

And it made a difference! Now, I see that asking for help is a sign of strength and proactivity and it shows commitment to your studies. If you are struggling with a particular concept or subject, don’t hesitate to reach out to your teacher for support. They are there to help you succeed and they can provide you with guidance and feedback. 

You can also reach out for help to your classmates in those areas where they excel. Studying in a group can also help you to solve doubts and reinforce your understanding if you have to explain it to others. I personally prefer to study alone and call my classmates when there is something that I don’t understand. If they are not able to solve my doubts, then I make a list of questions and I reach out to my teachers the next day. It is good to write down your questions, so you don’t forget any of them. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed. Doing so can help you achieve success in the IB Diploma Program and beyond. 

Tip number 4: Take care of your physical and mental health

Maintaining good physical and mental health is essential to be able to study efficiently. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is rigorous and challenging and sometimes can put a lot of pressure on students. You need to take care of yourself.

  1. Get enough sleep: Everybody says that you need to sleep at least 8 hours each night to ensure that you are well-rested and ready for the next day. I love sleeping, so that one is not hard for me. But it is ok if one day you need to stay awake and sleep only 3 or 4 hours (who hasn’t done that during the exam period?). The problem is that if you keep doing this for an extended period of time, you may lose your concentration and your ability to retain things.
  1. Exercise regularly. I must admit that I didn’t exercise during my IBDP years, but I am doing it now and I regret not doing it any sooner. It helps me to reduce my stress, it increases my concentration and I feel good about myself, which also motivates me in other areas of my life, including my studies.
  1. Eat well. When you are stressed and under a lot of pressure it is very easy to indulge yourself with junk food and make not very healthy choices for your body and your brain. An unbalanced diet will decrease your energy levels, it will affect your mood and your ability to focus.
  1. Reaching out to friends and family members can be also a good way to manage your stress and mental well-being. Having a strong support system can help you feel heard, understood, and appreciated. Talk to your counselor, your teacher, a friend or a family member. Talking with someone about feelings can also help you gain a fresh perspective and find new solutions to any problems or challenges you may be facing. 

Tip number 5: Think positive.

Yes, I know, maintaining a positive attitude is easy to say and not that easy to put into practice, especially when you are stressed. The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is demanding, we all know that, but with hard work and perseverance you will be successful. 

Each year, thousands of students study the IBDP and successfully obtain the diploma. You can do it too! Setting achievable goals and breaking tasks into smaller ones can make your work seem less overwhelming and more approachable. 

Finishing small tasks can also provide you with a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated. Staying positive takes effort and practice but it is well worth it and it will help you to achieve your goals. 

Stay focused, plan ahead and organize yourself, strictly follow your schedule, reach out for help when need it, exercise regularly, eat and sleep well, and enjoy a good and healthy time with your friends and family and you will see that succeeding in the IBDP it is not as complicated as it seems. 

Claudia Briales
Alumna BFIS Class of 2021

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