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DP exam time: Study hard, have fun and thank your teachers

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Haley Clasen is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Haley Clasen

Haley Clasen received her IB Diploma from Fishers High School, US.

For those in the IB Diploma Programme, this is one of the craziest times of the year.  Internal Assessments have already been completed and external exams are happening fast! Some students have six exams in the next few weeks, and each exam has multiple parts to study for and keep straight. I took my exams last year, and clearly remember how stressful, overwhelming, and scary this was. Today, I wanted to offer words of encouragement.

First, I really believe in IB exams. Most other exams I’ve taken loved to catch you with a particularly difficult question you weren’t expecting, almost as if to say, “Ah-ha! I got you! You didn’t see that coming, did you!” I felt like I had to know everything, just in case they asked THAT question. However, with IB exams, there is a decent bit of flexibility. There are often choices in which questions you answer, allowing you to lean into your strengths. IB exams ask you to know a lot of information, and there’s no skirting around the fact that they’re difficult. But they really do give you the chance to demonstrate what you do know, rather than catching you with what you don’t. As you prepare for and take your exams, students, remember that you have control, and you can shape your responses to lean into your strengths.

Second, I really enjoyed my exams, and I think other IB students can get excited about sharing what they know. I’ve left a lot of other kinds of exams feeling exhausted and drained, having dumped information from my brain onto a piece of paper. But I really felt that IB exams asked me to think critically, and to show through writing that I could do that. I remember walking out of all three of my European History HL exams feeling absolutely alive and rejuvenated after responding to fascinating, analytical historical inquiries. There is a lot of preparation to do to get there, but you do not have to dread your exams. You can choose to view them as a chance to think in new ways!

Teachers…I know you believe in us and know we can do well…thank you for pushing us to learn, passing out and reading so many practice exams, and having such high expectations of us.

Teachers, I know exam time is just as stressful for you too. I’ve seen you worry about us as we freak out, and I’ve seen our anxiety rub off on you. I know you believe in us and know we can do well, and I know how much you want us to demonstrate that. Thank you for pushing us to learn, passing out and reading so many practice exams, and having such high expectations of us. Thank you for cutting us some slack during exam time, for reminding us to rest and not to study our brains out, and affirming our worth as humans rather than scores. Thank you for caring about our ideas, teaching us how to share them orally and through writing, and cheering us on from the sidelines. Now, too, is your turn to sit back and watch us go.

Exams are here, and will consume your lives for the next few weeks. At this point, you’ve done everything you can do. Study hard, but don’t beat yourself up. Take some time to rest and have fun occasionally, maybe with your fellow IB students who understand what this time of year is like. Support each other, listen to each other, and know that you really can enjoy this time. There is so much coming, and I’m so excited and proud of you!


Contributing author Haley Clasen is passionate about learning! She writes about what the pursuit of knowledge looks like to her, and how it can ameliorate global society. She currently attends Messiah College and received her IB Diploma at Fishers High School, US.