Updated: Oct 8, 2019
In 2013, Edward Steven and Ryan Reagan, the founding partners of HKExcel and the 2 leads IB tutor HK in Hong Kong, authored the book “Becoming an IB miracle.” The book was sold in the Hong Kong book fair, and became one of the best-sellers. Subsequently, Edward and Ryan were interviewed by several newspapers and radio stations, including RTHK, Appledaily, Singtao news etc.
The special thing about this book is that it is one of the first of its kind. The objective of the book is to share the top studying secrets used by top students, such as how to schedule revision schedules, how to reduce stress, how to take notes etc.
As mock exams and final exams are approaching, the chapters on time management and stress management are extremely relevant. To be a top student, one must learn to use their time productively and to control their stress levels. Thus, in the blog post, we will share two excerpts from these two important chapters.
After reading the previous chapters, you should understand how to
motivate yourself and put your focus in the right direction. Being
motivated and serious about your goal is correct, but if you push yourself
too hard, your performance could go down.
Stress reduction strategy 1: Remember, if you are not there yet, it
doesn’t mean you won’t get there.
Nervous breakdowns are becoming more common for final-year students.
Earlier in this book, we talked about the importance of turning your goal
from a “should” into a “must”. When your grades aren’t where you want
them to be, it could be a painful thing to accept. Not performing up to
standard is a common reason why students feel overwhelmed.
A top student, Chloe, shared with us her way of overcoming this type of stress
which is highly effective. Whenever she feels pressured for not performing
up to her standard, she would remind herself that even though she is not
there yet, it doesn’t mean she will never be. She believes strongly that
eventually, she will be able to find ways to meet her standard.
When you are stuck in a situation or with a problem, it is easy for one to
feel pessimistic and start to believe that there is no solution. If you find
yourself in such situations, you need to step back and put things into
perspective. Many students who graduated before you had conquered the
public examination you are about to face. It is definitely not easy, but it is
If you don’t give up, sooner or later, you will be able to
find the solution to every problem. Eventually, you will get there. Keeping
this in mind is a great way to relief stress and to remain motivated.
Scientists found that people’s learning progress can be summarized by the
As you spend more time learning a subject, your proficiency will grow
exponentially. Initially, when you don’t understand the basics, the ability to
make progress seems very hard. You simply need to invest a lot of time to
get used to the way of thinking that the subject requires. But as you
accumulate the essentials and adapt to the subject, you will find it easier to
master new concepts that are based on the basics.
When you breakthrough the initial challenges, your progress will speed up and you will feel less painful than when you first started. Many people have a subject that they
just don’t seem to “get” and will therefore avoid. If you have this kind of
mindset, you haven’t realized that your learning curve is exponential and
not linear. By understanding the exponential learning curve, you will see
the value of pushing through the initial barriers. After breaking through the
initial barriers, it won’t be nearly as hard anymore. You just need to persist
and you will eventually get there. So don’t lose faith.
Stress reduction strategy 2: Focus on other things once in a while
Taking a time-off means occupying your mind with something nonacademic.
One student we talked to, Tim, told us that it was sometimes
hard for him to take his mind off Math before his tests, and his mind would
go in circles and circles.
He knew it wasn’t useful for his test, but he couldn’t stop thinking about math after long hours of studying. Eventually, he realized that he must make a conscious choice to solve the problem. He started to be actively involved in activities that could grab his attention,
such as watching movies and playing video games. His performance
actually improved after taking these time-offs as his brain becomes more
Your brain is like any other body part. If you lift weights or run for too
long, it is only natural for you to be tired and your performance will go
down. If you focus on your studies too often, and the part of your brain that
you used for studying will slow down. What you need to do is to use
another part of your brain. This can be done by actively doing something
Stress reduction strategy 3. Listen to the right music at the right time
Music is something that touches your soul but can also be a distraction.
Different music conveys different emotions. It can be a very useful tool to
put you in the right state of mind.
One student, Eddie, who had difficulty maintaining focus, found electro
music particularly helpful in moving him into a zone of peak performance.
Whenever he studies, he would put on electro music, not because he likes it
but because it increases his effectiveness.
Another student we spoke to, Ray, would listen to very different kinds of
music while studying or resting. Upbeat rap music helps him maintain
focus, while slow pop songs help him to relax.
Music is something personal and it affects different people in different
ways. The sure thing is that it can be a tool to direct your mind to a certain
direction. We believe it would be helpful for you to find and listen to music
that can help put you in a state of total focus and help you relax.
Stress reduction strategy 4: Socialize often!
Face it, studying for an exam could be dry and lonely at times. That is the
reason why a lot of students don’t particularly enjoy studying. But
remember, on your road to ultimate success, there are other things you can
enjoy. Many successful students tell us that socializing is a great way to
add joy onto the journey. There is only that much fulfillment you can enjoy
when you are fighting by yourself. Focus on your goal, but don’t forget
All top students proactively make schedules that they follow through.
Studying without a schedule is like heading to a destination without a map.
There are 3 very simply steps that you must take to make a realistic
schedule that is worthy following.
1. Fully understand the rules of the game
Every game has a certain set of rules and certain ways of winning. Without
knowing what they are, your direction could very well be wrong. The rules
for different subjects can be very different. For example, in a Math exam,
you will be tested on your problem-solving ability, but in a Biology exam,
you are tested mainly on your ability to memorize, understand and explain
concepts. Thus, the focus for math should be doing more practice
problems, while the core of studying Biology should be memorization. If
you do the opposite, your efforts will be ineffective. We find that some
poor math students try to memorize math solutions like they do in Biology.
This guarantees poor grades because math questions can come in many
varieties. There is not a standard solution that can be memorized and
applied to various questions. A more effective approach to study Math
should be to do more practice questions and develop intuition.
2. Evaluate the amount of work it will take you to achieve mastery
As explained in the last chapter, mastery means having enough practice
that any new question you encounter will seem old because the concepts
have already become second nature to you. Mastery is achievable but it
takes time. For some people, it may take 5 past paper questions and more
for others. Be honest to yourself and evaluate how much work is needed.
Remember, this is adjustable. If you find the amount of work you are
currently doing will only get you a Level 5, you should increase the
amount until it is enough to meet your goal!
3. Make a task-based schedule
In step 2, you have determined the amount of work you need to do before
achieving mastery. Now, you can put the required tasks into context and
come up with a schedule. This allows you to manage tasks instead of time,
which will greatly increase your effectiveness. Without a schedule, you
will not know clearly what tasks you have and how much time you have to
achieve them. Making a schedule is a process of putting a time dimension
to planned tasks that you must achieve.
The simple schedule on the next page serves as an example.
Day Math Economics
1 - Do textbook
questions on vectors
- Read textbook
2 - Do 10 past paper
questions for vectors
- Finish making
study notes for
3 - Do 10 past paper
questions for vectors
- Do 2 past paper
questions about Monopoly
The difference between not having a schedule and having one is huge.
People who stick to a schedule will find themselves to be more prepared on
exam day, and people who do not may realize a week before the exam that
they do not have enough time to go through all their revision. This makes
all the difference between a poor and good grade.
4. Stick to your schedule
Some people think that sticking to a schedule is difficult. We believe that
the core problem for these people is that they do not have a strong enough
desire to succeed. Making a schedule and sticking to it is a clear path that
will lead to better performance. If you lack the discipline to follow this
simple success recipe, then you can only blame yourself for not having the
desire to achieve your goals. The right schedule is like a correct
In conclusion the key to managing stress by our IB Tutors is to maintain a positive mindset, to socialise appropriately and to take your mind off studying after you studies are done. For time management, it is most important for students to create a schedule and aim for mastery. Most important, students must have the discipline to stick to the schedule. If you are interested to register for a free trial with our ib tutor hk.