How to Get a 7 in IB HL Maths

It is possible to get a 7 in IB Maths HL! Here are three steps to get the elusive 7 in IB Maths HL:

1. Understand all the material:

This may seem the most boring step, but is probably the most essential step. If you want to get a 7 in Maths HL, you should understand all the material. Now, I don’t mean that you have to understand whether maths is already out there, or something we human beings invented – in other words, concepts that no one understands. Rather, you should understand, for example, why cos(x) is an even function. Do not just memorise that cos(x) is an even function, but also understand why. [a function is even if f(-x) = f(x), so let us test it: cos(-π) = cos(π) = 1. You can refer to a unit circle if you need to].

Why is it essential to understand the material?
In an IB Maths HL exam, there are two type of questions: questions that you are familiar with and ones that you are not familiar with. Understanding the material obviously helps with both, but helps mainly with the latter. You will come across many questions that you have never done before, and questions that will look completely different to the things you’ve learnt. What seperates the sheeps from the lambs (as my chemistry teacher said) is these type of questions. Sheeps, who have understood all the essentials will be able to use the knowledge they’ve learnt and to apply it to the new situation in the question. Lambs, however, have just memorised a bunch of things and do not really understand the concepts, and thus will not be able to apply in unknown situations.

How do you make sure you understand everything?
There will be times in Maths HL when you just do not understand the material. Do not be discouraged!
First of all, search the maths topic in a search engine. There are so many great resources out there; use them. Search it up, read a few websites and sometimes, it will come to you in a ‘ping’ moment.
Still do not understand it? Next, go to your teachers. They are there to help you. Ask several maths teachers to explain it to you. Still do not understand it? Ask your friends. Sometimes teachers can speak to you in jargon; your friends will perhaps explain it to you in a more comprehensible way.

2. Past papers

This is essential step number two. If you want to get a 7 in Maths HL, you have to do past papers. Understanding the material alone will not get you a 7. You need BOTH these steps to succeed. You can understand the material, but you also have to learn how to apply the material you have learnt – and how do you do that? By doing past papers. As I mentioned, there are two type of questions in the exam. Recap of types of questions: questions that you are familiar with and ones that you are not familiar with. Past papers will help you with BOTH. First of all, doing past papers is critical in order to succeed in the former type of questions. These type of questions will only be familiar if you have done past paper questions. Some questions require a specific method and you usually find out this method by doing past papers. In addition, doing past papers helps with the latter type of questions, because it prepares you for any question. If you practice doing questions you are unfamiliar with, you will learn more how to deal with these type of questions, and as a result you will be able to solve these types of questions more quickly. Please do this step if you want to get a 7 in Maths HL.

There are two main times during the IB that you will need to implement this step:

1. During the whole two years
In order to implement this step, I recommend buying the Maths HL Questionbank. Yes, it is incredibly expensive – I paid it with my birthday money. Yet, it is extremely useful. The Maths HL Questionbank contains the past paper questions from 2011 to 2008. Furthermore, it organises all the questions in categories of topics. Thus, after learning a certain piece of content you can look up the topic in the Questionbank and do all the past paper questions in that specific topic. This is great to mastering individual topics, and to do well on end-of-topic exams.

2. A few months before the exam
Let us assume that you followed the strategy above. Now, you need to get grab of the other past papers – from 2011 to 2014 and from 2008 – 2000. I had access to these past papers from my teachers, so ask them. A few months before your exam, you need to go through whole timed past papers. Sit down at a desk without any open books, set the countdown, and do the test for the whole two hours as if it were a real exam. This is really important to do in order to familiarise yourself with the exam papers, and the testing environment. How many past papers should I do?

There are three types of papers (papers 1, 2 and 3) in a set. There are three time zones in a year (May TZ1, May TZ2, November TZ0). Note: there are only two time zones for paper 3 (May TZ0 and November TZ0). Thus, doing all the past papers from 2014 will result in eight past papers. Paper 1 and 2 are two hours long, and paper 3 is one hour long. Thus in total, doing all the past papers from 2014 will take 14 hours. I recommend doing at least four years worth of past papers, which will take 56 hours. If you are prepared, and start this strategy early, then please do more past papers. You will see that the more past papers you do, the quicker you will complete the test, the easier you will understand things, the higher marks you will get, and most importantly, the more confident you will become!

To finish off this step, remember: DO PAST PAPERS!!!

I hope this helps you in your quest to obtain a 7 in Maths Higher Level. If you have any questions, feel free to comment.

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