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Study skills suggested by top IB tutors

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

At HKExcel, we believe that an IB tutor is just a facilitator of rapid improvement in students. Students study skills and a student’s mindset are an essential component to student success as well. In this blog, we will share some excerpts from our renowned study guide “Becoming an IB miracle” about having a strong belief in yourself

The important of belief

Getting belief before getting results

The main problem with most students is that they are used to getting mediocre results and the negative feelings they have about their abilities are deeply rooted. The only way to break this cycle is to reestablish your beliefs before getting any results to back it up. In fact, this is the secret behind it all. As famous actor Will Smith once said, “all successful people have a delusional quality, they are willing to believe in something that other people will not.”

Maybe you are not used to believing in something before it is realized. Don’t worry, during our interviews with the top students, we have identified three concrete strategies that will help you in establishing the right beliefs and mindset for academic excellence.

1. Be around the right people

Very much of what you believe possible is influenced by those surrounding you daily. If everyone in your social group is a high-achiever, you will very soon realize your potential and raise your standard. Think of it this way, if you play tennis with someone who is better than you, it is absolutely certain that you will improve because you see the need and urgency to keep up with your opponent, of course, you will need to work hard and get better!

One student we interviewed who went from a 70% average to a 90% average within two years told us that he consciously picked people who were the best students in the grade to be his friends. To fit into his new social group, he has to raise his standard. He started picking up studying habits that his friends used. Very soon, it became second nature for him to achieve top results.

2. Affirmation

Affirmation is a scientifically proven way to train your mind into believing something and a few students we interviewed told us this is the exact technique they used.

To begin, you must have a vision of you want to accomplish. Then, write a script which you will read out loud to yourself 3 times a day. An example of a script that one of our students used is:

From this day onwards, I will fully commit to getting 40/45 in my IB Exams. I know that I have the ability and intelligence to achieve this goal. I will do whatever it takes to achieve this target and will never give up”

The science behind this method is that your conscious thoughts will sink into your subconscious mind, which controls all your involuntary reactions and emotions. The subconscious mind is like a garden, plant fresh seeds and you will get good plants, plant spoiled seeds and you will get rotten plants. Affirming your beliefs is the process of planting fresh seeds into your subconscious to direct yourself towards the right direction. After a few weeks, you will find that you are slowly becoming what your affirmation says. Your belief will sink into your subconscious, which will direct all your emotions and actions towards what you set out to achieve.

Experiments have proven affirmations to be effective. If someone is hypnotized, he will act like whatever you tell him, be it a dog or a cat because when in a hypnotized state, you can speak directly to the person’s subconscious mind without any conscious interference.

When you use this technique, empty your mind and relax. Be in a passive state of mind and accept everything you say. Have no doubts and accept all your words as the ultimate reality. As Mohammad Ali once said, “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief.”

3. To take the island, you must burn the bridges The real meaning of determination

Most students know that they should get good grades, but very few turn it into a “must”. Students who think they “should” get good grades will almost certainly under-achieve. They accept mediocrity and settle for alternatives. By giving themselves alternatives, they have less determination and their ultimate goal is not as compelling as it can be.

Each of the top students we interviewed has a different mindset but there is one commonality, they all turn their goal into a “must” and do not accept any other alternatives. They see their goal as the only possible and inevitable outcome. This is the real meaning of determination. Remember, to take the island, you must burn the bridges. You can only get that burning desire to succeed if you cut off all possible sources of retreat. You will only push yourself the furthest when your back is against the wall. So focus only on your goal and go for it with everything you have got!

Omega 3: Set goals and follow through

“Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement.” - Brian Tracy

Setting goals is like choosing a destination you want to embark on. Without goals, you wander around with no real purpose in life. Your goals are what give you motivation to fight for the better. It gives you direction to the right path. Based on our interviews, we have found a very specific way of setting goals that differentiates great students from average students.

Make your goal as specific as it can be

We found that all top students always set a specific score as their goal, while average students just want to “do better”. Average students feel okay about a range of scores but top students, on the other hand, only desire one specific score.

Setting a very specific goal helps you turn your goal from a “should” into a “must”, which is the essence of determination. If you give yourself an acceptable range, you will lose focus and you will likely perform below your true potential because you will be happy with achieving the lowest grade within the range when you can actually do better. More importantly, a specific goal will give you a sense of certainty that a vague goal will not. By knowing exactly what you want, you will have the determination to do whatever it takes to head towards your destination. Remember, to take the island you must burn the bridges. Don’t settle for an acceptable range, find a score that will truly fulfill you and go after it as if it is the only possible outcome!

All top students we interviewed were able to achieve their specific goal or came extremely close to it. Choosing an exact destination is their first step.

Have compelling reasons to follow through

Ask yourself honestly, why do you want top academic grades? The answer to this question differs from person to person. What motivates you is different from what motivates others. Finding a motive for your goal is your job. But during our interviews, we can confirm for sure that you need to have a compelling reason to give you the drive to push yourself over your limits. Below are a few reasons that might work for you.

Common motivating factor 1: My grade determines my future!

Your high school grades directly determine what kind of university will accept you. Of course, for many universities, your grades are not the only determining factor but without meeting the minimum requirement, you wouldn’t stand a chance! Furthermore, some occupations require a specific major, and graduating from a top university will increase your chance of being hired by large and prestigious firms.

One student we interviewed, Henry Wong, has always aspired to be a doctor. Saving millions of children’s lives in developing countries was his goal in life. What a big dream he has! Of course, the first step of living his ultimate vision is to study medicine in a top university. The university he aimed for required him to score 45/45 in the IB Diploma Program, which is a score that only a few top 1% students could achieve. It is obviously very difficult to score full marks in IB, and Henry knows that. Accomplishing your dream is never easy, but for Henry, it means he has to do whatever it takes to get 45/45. For students who do not have a dream like Henry’s, it is hard for them to work that hard and aim for full marks. But Henry knows exactly what the reasons are behind his sacrifices. In the end, 45/45 is exactly what Henry accomplished.

Common motivating factor 2: My friends and relatives would know that I am smart and competent

If you are a high school student, people often judge how smart and competent you are by your academic performance. Getting good grades comes with a certain social recognition. We found this to be an underlying motivation for many top students we interviewed.

One of our top students, Reagan, whose aim is to get 40/45 in IB Diploma, used to be a lazy student who achieved average grades throughout middle school. Back then, he simply couldn’t see the value of studying hard but as he got into high school, he found his peers are more devoted to studying than before. This motivated him to study hard and beat all his peers. Moreover, subjects in high school are more intellectually challenging than in middle school and Reagan thought that being the top of his class could truly show his ability. The reason why he aimed for 40 was because the score is seen by many as a distinctive line between top students and good students. If you can score 40 or above, you will be considered a top student. The vision of being complemented by peers and adults was compelling to Reagan. In the end, Reagan achieved exactly 40/45 in the IB Diploma.

The two motivating factors may or may not motivate you, but they are the two most common found amongst the 100 students we interviewed. Think deep. Why do you want top grades? Find a compelling motive for yourself and this will give you the reason to push yourself farther than you can imagine.

Remind yourself often

A difficult goal, like achieving a top score in a public exam, is not achievable within a few days. It is more about working hard day in and day out for months and achieving daily victories that accumulate into a significant result. To build a great wall, you need to lay each brick perfectly one at a time. Thus, it is essential for you to maintain momentum consistently and not lose sight of your ultimate goal. Most top students we interviewed had a ritual for reminding themselves of their goal daily. Below are a few common ones that are proven to work.

So above are some of the mindset tips that our IB tutor have for IB students.


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