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Joined: Jun 19,2018

Tue May 9,2017 01:09 PM

this chapter is taken from : 45 Tips, Tricks, and Secrets for the Successful International Baccalaureate [IB] Student, by Alexander Zouev - available on Amazon:

"4. Subject Choice [Part I]

Although to most of you this chapter will have little relevance, to those who are yet to decide which subjects you want to take – this chapter is of great importance. I find that choosing your subjects is, rather unfortunately, underestimated in importance. You are deciding what you will learn in depth for the next two years of your life. So, just as you would take time to choose a college degree, an occupation or a spouse, you should sit down and think about what interests you - even slightly. There are a few factors that you should consider and I have outlined these below:


As with almost everything you do, you will tend to succeed more and find it easier if you are doing something you have an interest for and enjoy. The same goes for IB subjects. Although this is of less importance in choosing a group 1 or 2 language, it has great importance in choosing your group 4 science and group 3 subject. If you know for a fact that you have absolutely no passion and interest for memorizing human anatomy and studying Biology, then you can cross that off. If, on the other hand, you want your IB to have as little maths as possible, then you probably would not be too interested in studying Physics. If you are strongly passionate about a certain subject and are already reading external material concerned with it, then by all means go ahead and take it into consideration.

However, one should be careful not to confuse interest with vague curiosity. If you always thought that graffiti is cool, it would not be wise choosing HL Visual Art solely based on that observation. Similarly, don’t let a childhood obsession with spaceships be the deciding factor for choosing HL Physics. This is where a slight familiarity with the course content can greatly help. Take the time to glance over the syllabus of the course you are interested in, and only then check to see if it matches your interests.


Obviously if you are clearly naturally gifted in a certain subject then you should thank your natural abilities and take it. Of course, there are limitations to this rule of thumb. I used to be obsessed with drawing and graphic design, and for many years believed I would be studying Art at Diploma level. However, as the time came for me to make my final decision, I did a little research (with the statistics that the IB provides on their webpage) and talked to many seniors who had previously done Art as a subject. The general feeling seemed to be that if I wanted to go for a subject that I enjoyed, excelled at, and wouldn’t be under too much stress then I should choose Art instead of another Group 3 topic. Having done that research also showed me that it seemed very few get 7s in Art (especially in my school), no matter how passionate or how good the candidate is (perhaps due to the nature of the final exam and luck of the draw).

Since I was more concerned with obtaining a 7 than following my passion for Art and gambling with the grade, I chose geography (which I also had a reasonable ability for). The message I’m trying to get across is that often students get confused about how great their abilities are in a certain subject. Just because you got A’s in English in Elementary School does not mean that you should expect to jump into a Higher Level English exam and effortlessly produce a grade 7 piece of work. Be honest with yourself when assessing your own ability in a certain subject.


Please don’t get me wrong. When I say future I don’t mean that the subjects you choose for your IB diploma will reflect in any way where you will be in ten years and what sort of occupation you will have (although, funnily enough, they have for me). Nevertheless, you do need to take into consideration what you want to do at university level if you plan on pursuing a university education. It’s unfortunate that you need to be thinking about your post-school decision from almost the age of 16 when university is probably the last thing on your mind but that’s the reality of it. Too often I have seen students wanting to study medicine at a top UK university be rejected because, despite taking Biology as a subject, they did not take Chemistry, which is often a requirement to study medical science. The same can be said for students wanting to study Economics. Taking Mathematics Studies severely limits your chances of ending up a at a top Economics course – in most cases.

Thus, if you’re one of those students that has his/her heart set on a specific course at a specific university by the age of 16, then you should do some research and find out which courses are essential, and which will help you in getting closer to your goal. For those of you thinking of studying abroad, you may want to reconsider which foreign languages you want to take, if your school offers a wider variety.

Although this is important to take into consideration, don’t worry too much about it. In most cases offers from universities are given based on a final score, rather than subject-specific. Also, I have seen people go on to get PhDs in Economics without having taken Economics as an IB subject. So, with regards to the long-term future, subject choice is probably not the most important factor to consider.


This is a tough one. I hate to say it but there is such a thing as a “bad teacher” even in the glamorous top-of-the-line world of the IB Diploma. Trust me; I have seen the best of both worlds. Some of the teachers I have worked with were masters at what they did, with more than a decade of first-hand IB experience. Then there were those who probably couldn’t spell International Baccalaureate – let alone teach it. Most students tend to believe this idea where the teacher is the one factor that will make or break the subject. They think that the teacher has a greater influence on the final grade than they do themselves.

I do not agree. Even if your teacher is utterly useless at what they are hired to do, this does not mean you should spend two years moaning only to ultimately fail the subject and live your whole life cursing that teacher. Believe me, I have seen some of the worst of the worst. But even despite the poor teaching I’ve seen students get past that and take matters into their own hands to come out with a grade they truly deserve. Yes, it’s true, if you have a poor teacher then you will spend most of your time becoming best friends with the subject textbooks. But let’s be honest here, we don’t live in a perfect world, hence we don’t all have world class IB teachers.

With regards to the subject material, you should not have to worry too much if your teacher is clueless. But, when it comes to things such as external assessments and choosing options for examinations, you should ensure that they know what they are talking about. You don’t want to sit a two-year program only to find that your teacher messed up the internal assessments you gave in and thus you lose almost 25% of your total mark.

By the time you begin your IB program, you will have heard all the rumours about who is a great IB teacher and who shouldn’t even be teaching preschool. Don’t completely ignore these. If you’re the type of person who simply cannot take matters into their own hands and work independently for most of the year, then by all means look for the “best” and most engaging teachers that are available. If, on the other hand, you don’t need to be spoon-fed information that is readily available for you yourself to read from the textbooks, then it shouldn’t matter. In this case, you should choose subjects based on the other criteria I have outlined."

part II to be posted soon....

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