The International Baccalaureate Diploma is known as one of the most challenging programmes at post-16, requiring students to study the humanities, science, maths and at least one language. To do well, students need both the left and right side of their brains firing on all cylinders, and to have superb time management skills to be able to take on its heavy work load and come out on the other side sane and ready for university.
One such student is Paulomi Sengupta, who not only took on the challenges of the IB Diploma Programme, but wrestled her way to a perfect score of 45*. Paulomi studied at Dubai International Academy, the first IB World School authorised by the International Baccalaureate Organisation in the UAE to offer the full range of IB programmes. Its mean point score this year was 34, well above both the UAE and world IB averages.
However the difference between 34 and 45 is vast. To get some sense of how different, converted to percentages, each IBDP point would be equivalent to 2.2%.
Paulomi studied Biology, Chemistry, and Psychology at the higher level, and Maths, English language and literature, as well as French at standard level. She is now headed to the University of Nottingham UK to study Medicine.
We talk to Paulomi to find out how she prepared for her exams and what skills she learnt from the IBDP...
Did you expect to receive a perfect score of 45?
I wouldn’t say I was expecting it but was aiming for it... If I had aimed for anything less then I wouldn’t have put in 100%. I still can’t believe it though, and I guess it will take some time for it to sink in.
My parents though told me they were expecting this score - their main priority for me was go to university. It feels really good though to have achieved a perfect score and when we went to school for a get together and I met up with all my friends, the feeling of accomplishment was huge.
What did you do to prepare for your IB exams?
Most of my life I have been a last minute person, always studying for finals in the last two weeks, but for the IBDP I always made sure I understood everything at that given point rather than keeping it for later. I wanted to avoid the last minute pressure of not understanding a concept.
For the final two years of the IB, I really worked hard and did a lot of practice, and used all the resources I could get my hands on. There are lots of resources online, even YouTube teachers, worksheets and my subject specific worksheets that I constantly solved .
I have to say the online teachers were very helpful. Online courses also mean you can do what you want at your own pace. The IB releases a syllabus guide so that was very helpful in terms of knowing what areas we need to cover. However, even after working hard, consistently for two years, the past four months were a real grind.
Lots of students work very hard, but do not get a 45... What do you think you did differently?
Practice, talking to my teachers a lot, and making sure I had people to help me out when I was stuck.
IB is a very independent programme so I wanted to make sure that I had help at hand. It is easy to panic as you are doing things on your own. I would talk to my teachers and ask them for help, they were always there to guide me. More importantly they would reassure me, which helped put me in a good and positive frame of mind.
How do you think the IB has prepared you for university?
The IB was a truly transformative experience and is set up in a way that it gives you real research skills with all of its projects. IB has also taught me organization skills, time management and it has made me learn a lot about myself. As a curriculum it pushes you so much and now I know my capabilities. It makes you do independent work, which is important as you discover what you are interested in and if you don’t learn that in high school then university will force you to do that.
What advice would you give to the students who will be appearing for their IBDP in the next few years?
Be positive, that’s the first thing as there’s always a lot of negative stuff going on. I would say don’t assume something will be bad, and don’t hate it before you begin, as you’ll then perform horribly. Enjoy what you are learning. You get to pick your own subjects so only pick the ones that you like and enjoy. Talk to the seniors and understand what they went through and how to make your learning better by drawing from their experiences. And finally, use all forms of resources as its always better to have more help at hand.
* Proving that asking for remarking is very much worth with it, Paulomi was originally awarded a 44, which was revised up to 45 after she, successfully, sought a remark.