In the Process of Redefining

Two years. Two inches.

To be honest, I have had quite a bit of trouble brainstorming how to write this blog post, as in the past month of studying and the past week of exhausting exams, my mood has fluctuated greatly. Some nights if I were to sit down and write, my post would turn out to be a long rant; some days my brain wouldn’t be able to function to get enough words on the page, and others it would be hopeful or nostalgic; tonight, I will try to strike a balance.

As I was talking to Carly, my sister, earlier this week, I asked how our final IB scores are presented to us. Do they break down the individual scores for the papers so we can learn and reflect? Are comments from an examiner provided?

As I should have expected: no.

Our two years of IB are summarized, defined even, by approximately two inches of information. One number corresponding to each class.

Yes, technically, this number does control whether I meet the conditions of my acceptance to university, but I refuse to believe that the past two years of my life take up two inches on a computer screen, and I refuse to accept that it will control what I make of my future.

Reflection is an essential part of life as it helps you realize who you are as a person beyond how others define you. For me, this reflection took place to a great extent throughout the process of the selection of and application to universities.

This year, I applied to six different schools and collectively to ten different programs at those schools. In retrospect, the reason why I applied to so many schools is because I was conflicted between what others want for me, or what society lead me to believe is the best pathway for me, and what I personally want.

All throughout high school, I have aspired to go to the University of Toronto. With its gothic architecture, a campus you could get lost on, and the undeniable feeling of independence on campus, I believed that the university fit perfectly with my ideal experience. But rather, its ranking fit with my constructed definition of success.

I feel fortunate to say that I have been accepted to this school, but I feel as though I have grown as a person when I say that if it is up to me, I will not be attending next fall.

Through reflection of the past two years, and who I have become, I have realized that what I want is a school that can support me in my pursuit to explore my options within science, and gain experience in the work force, with a supportive learning environment to foster personal development along the way, and I have found an alternate university that supports these goals.

This video serves to reinforce that it is only once you internalize these labels and numbers that others apply to you that they become true. I have compiled a group of individuals that have particularly inspired or influenced me, and reflected on how they have exemplified that they cannot be defined by numbers.

As I take my exams and anticipate my results, I am in the process of accepting that my future does not depend on a number, but how I define that number.

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This is a very brief story board of my video. The idea behind the video is to portray five people who have inspired me and how they were initially labelled with numbers, but were able to outlive these labels and definitions and become successful regardless. Many of the people I selected are influential people of the past few years. Of particular personal significance is Eric Migicovsky, who attended The University of Waterloo, which is the university I hope to attend next year and soon afterwards created a start up company that has been largely successful, and has been named on Forbes Magazine’s 20 under 20 list (20 billionaires under 20 years of age list), demonstrating that an experience is truly what you make of it.

Things I need to start doing before university

It’s an odd paradox. In the past few years as an IB student I often complain about not having enough free time, but when I have an hour or two to spare, I do not know what to do with myself. I constantly have ideas when I am studying of everything I would prefer to be doing, but when I have time to do it, I forget what I was thinking of. I am extremely psyched this year to have the 3 month summer that I have been waiting for (and we won’t even have homework – that is a foreign concept!), but I fear that I will forget all of the amazing things that I wanted to do throughout my IB career. In order to make the most out of this summer and this amazing opportunity (the last summer I do not have to find a job), I have decided to compile a list of everything I want to get done. When ever I have an idea while studying, a will add.

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Mock Exam (III)

Mock Exam Set 3

Score

Paper 1: Scored 46/90 which is an IB 4 according to grade boundaries (42-51)

Paper 2: Scored 46/90 which is an IB 4 according to grade boundaries (36-48)

 

Strengths:

Sequences and series

Probability distribution functions

Triangle trigonometry

Vectors (multiplying vectors and finding the angle between two vectors)

 

Weaknesses

Calculus (Optimization and identifying when to use the product or quotient rule)

Probability

Logarithms and exponents (mainly applying the rules of logarithms)

 

Over the three sets of mock exams that I have taken, I have gained a very good grasp of my current level. Although there are a few outliers, I usually score a mid-range 4 on my mock exams – maybe a little higher for paper 2 and maybe a little lower for paper 1. This tells me that I could probably walk into the exam without studying and earn myself a four. However, in order to get out of this average range and into the range of my goal, I need to dedicate more time to my studying. These past few weeks, I have been focusing my time and energy on my HL subjects or subjects in which we have not yet covered the complete syllabus; however, these cumulative test scores tell me that I need to do otherwise. I therefore need to spend some time reflecting on my time use and on ways to integrate math into my schedule without it becoming overwhelming.

This Wednesday, I am going to sit down and create a schedule to study for all of my exams based upon feedback from my mock exams in all my classes. I will be sure to post this schedule in order to keep myself accountable.

As for my strengths and weaknesses, this set of mock exams highlighted some of my strengths in my weak topics (e.g. vectors) and weaknesses in my strong subjects (e.g. calculus) that I will have to pay specific attention to when reviewing.

Mock Exam Paper 1 and 2 (II) Reflection

Recently, I took paper 1 and paper 2 from May 2009. On paper 1, I scored 39/90 points, which correlates to a low 4 according to the grade boundaries (36-47). On paper 2, I scored a low five (grade boundaries: 47-56) as my score was 48/90.

Through taking these tests, I found that my weaknesses and strengths were reiterated. My main weaknesses once again were vectors and calculus when integrated with trigonometry.

Nonetheless, I found paper 2 was the most helpful and insightful mock exam that I have taken so far. After I took paper 1, I realized that my score was no different than my previous score because I had not yet spent enough time studying any material to increase my score. Therefore, before I took paper 2 on my own, I spent a good 2 hours reviewing trigonometry concepts to refresh my memory to see if this small amount of studying would be influential. Luckily, I encountered one trigonometry problem that required you to find the area of a sector before using it to complete other calculations, and I was able to score 7/7 marks due to my previous review. I found that I felt much more comfortable with paper 2 because it covered many of topics we covered more recently, as well as topics that I understand better such as sequences and series, probability distributions, and fundamental calculus. I ran out of time before I was able to finish answering all of the questions, but this is one of the first times that I stopped when I knew that I could keep going instead of being completely confused or unsure.What this test told me is that these are a few of the topics that I am very comfortable with, but I need to work on finding adequate formulas and using my GDC faster in order to finish on time. Mainly, I felt very good about paper 2 because when I went to check my work, I often immediately figured out what I did wrong, or realized I only made a careless error.

Before the next mock exam, I hope to continue reviewing trigonometric equations.

Mock Exam Reflection

Mock Exam Set 1

My goal for the IB SL Math course is to obtain at least a 6. Currently, my top school is the University of Waterloo, located in Ontario. In the past, applicants were required to have a predicted grade of a 5 to be considered for admission, and I am unsure about the conditions. This year, I hear back from the school any time before May 28th, meaning that it could be during the IB exams, or even after the exams finish that I know where or not I have a conditional offer. To me, this means that I need to strive for top marks in order to increase my chances of meeting the conditions put forth by my offer if I am accepted. With a 6 or higher in math, I will meet the conditions of any of my other offers.

In addition, it is not only my goal for my academic future, it is a personal goal of mine to obtain grades that are similar to my predicted grades. Even if I do not need my predicted score in order to be admitted to my top universities, I feel that I owe it to myself to do my best to see my hard work pay off.

With this said, I will need a lot of revision in order to reach this goal; however, I am confident that with time management and following a few tips I found online, I can reach it. My score for paper 1 was 35/90 marks, which translates to a high 3 based on the 2010 grade boundary for a 4 of 28-39. My score for paper 2 44/90 marks, which translates to a mid-range 4 where the grade boundaries for that year for a 4 were 38-48. Although these scores are extremely low relative to my goal, they are higher than I expected for my baseline tests. These tests were completed with absolutely no revision. Not as bad as I thought, but still a long way to go.

I found that a few of my strengths included calculus, triangle trigonometry (calculating angles etc.), and (surprisingly) probability. These are the topics that I felt the most comfortable with and answered the most questions correctly, but I would categorize them as topics that need to be reviewed lightly. My weaknesses include trigonometry as a whole (especially when integrated with other topics), functions and equations, and vectors. In terms of vectors, even though I did well the first time, I feel that I need in-depth review because there are so many intricacies that have slipped my mind.

Based on what I have heard from past graduates and from research, there are a few main tips that have that have repetitively come up:

  1. Take as many past papers as possible in a timed setting (one person ended up doing every past exam paper from 1998-2006 – that’s a bit overkill, but you get the point!). This is exactly what Ms. Gilmore has been telling us as well J
    1. This will help me be aware of how much you should write for each question, how to pace myself and so on
    2. It will help me get used to the key words to look for such as “write down”, “show that”, and “hence”.
    3. This is particularly important because all of the questions on the exams integrate multiple topics – it is hard to get this kind of authentic practice elsewhere
  2. Make a structured revision program
  3. Do not spend too long on one topic – revision will not be helpful if you only get around to one topic
  4. Prioritize subjects for IB prep (don’t worry, math is up there!)
  5. Prioritize topics within each subject
  6. Revise each topic 2 or 3 times, it will get easier the second and third time
  7. Use diagrams (flowcharts, mind-maps, time-lines, tree diagrams)
  8. Try to summarize main ideas on a notecard
  9. Be realistic about the time and energy you will need to revise

In class, we will be doing the first tip, so my main goal is to focus on creating a structured revision program early this week and sticking to it!

 

Mock Exam Set 2

Recently, I took paper 1 and paper 2 from May 2009. On paper 1, I scored 39/90 points, which correlates to a low 4 according to the grade boundaries (36-47). On paper 2, I scored a low five (grade boundaries: 47-56) as my score was 48/90.

Through taking these tests, I found that my weaknesses and strengths were reiterated. My main weaknesses once again were vectors and calculus when integrated with trigonometry.

Nonetheless, I found paper 2 was the most helpful and insightful mock exam that I have taken so far. After I took paper 1, I realized that my score was no different than my previous score because I had not yet spent enough time studying any material to increase my score. Therefore, before I took paper 2 on my own, I spent a good 2 hours reviewing trigonometry concepts to refresh my memory to see if this small amount of studying would be influential. Luckily, I encountered one trigonometry problem that required you to find the area of a sector before using it to complete other calculations, and I was able to score 7/7 marks due to my previous review. I found that I felt much more comfortable with paper 2 because it covered many of topics we covered more recently, as well as topics that I understand better such as sequences and series, probability distributions, and fundamental calculus. I ran out of time before I was able to finish answering all of the questions, but this is one of the first times that I stopped when I knew that I could keep going instead of being completely confused or unsure.What this test told me is that these are a few of the topics that I am very comfortable with, but I need to work on finding adequate formulas and using my GDC faster in order to finish on time. Mainly, I felt very good about paper 2 because when I went to check my work, I often immediately figured out what I did wrong, or realized I only made a careless error.

Before the next mock exam, I hope to continue reviewing trigonometric equations.

 

Mock Exam Set 3

Score

Paper 1: Scored 46/90 which is an IB 4 according to grade boundaries (42-51)

Paper 2: Scored 46/90 which is an IB 4 according to grade boundaries (36-48)

 

Strengths:

Sequences and series

Probability distribution functions

Triangle trigonometry

Vectors (multiplying vectors and finding the angle between two vectors)

 

Weaknesses

Calculus (Optimization and identifying when to use the product or quotient rule)

Probability

Logarithms and exponents (mainly applying the rules of logarithms)

 

Over the three sets of mock exams that I have taken, I have gained a very good grasp of my current level. Although there are a few outliers, I usually score a mid-range 4 on my mock exams – maybe a little higher for paper 2 and maybe a little lower for paper 1. This tells me that I could probably walk into the exam without studying and earn myself a four. However, in order to get out of this average range and into the range of my goal, I need to dedicate more time to my studying. These past few weeks, I have been focusing my time and energy on my HL subjects or subjects in which we have not yet covered the complete syllabus; however, these cumulative test scores tell me that I need to do otherwise. I therefore need to spend some time reflecting on my time use and on ways to integrate math into my schedule without it becoming overwhelming.

This Wednesday, I am going to sit down and create a schedule to study for all of my exams based upon feedback from my mock exams in all my classes. I will be sure to post this schedule in order to keep myself accountable.

As for my strengths and weaknesses, this set of mock exams highlighted some of my strengths in my weak topics (e.g. vectors) and weaknesses in my strong subjects (e.g. calculus) that I will have to pay specific attention to when reviewing.

Common Sense Isn’t Very Common After All

“To place these able-bodied guys on a pedestal, as if they’re some sort of paragons of virtue, is wrong. Being inclusive regardless of race, sexual orientation or mobility status shouldn’t be a mark of friendship, but basic human rights,” reported one viewer in an opinionated discussion about Guinness’ new advertisement entitled, “Wheelchair basketball.” This view echoed the stance of many others.

I wholeheartedly agree. However, the key word is ‘should’. Inclusion of all people regardless of differences should be basic human rights – common sense. We shouldn’t have to advocate for gay rights at the 2014 Sochi Olympics; we shouldn’t have to justify portraying a mix raced family in a Cheerios commercial. Ideally, we shouldn’t have to do these things, but in reality, we do. Many people still do not accept this message of inclusion as a basic human right, and therefore, Guinness presents a valid and relevant message in present day of inclusion, friendship and loyalty that everyone can benefit from being reminded of.

This controversial, yet refreshing, advertisement sends a powerful message of inclusion on a mass level, encouraging everyone to move past differences of any kind, and simply be sensitive to those around you. To me, inspiring social progress entails the ability to evoke reflection within each member of the audience regarding their personal situation. If meaningful enough, this reflection can cause one to alter their actions. Through the use of pathos, Guinness provides an emotional story that everyone can relate to on some level. In this urban, fast-paced world where everyone’s time is consumed by striving for one form of success or another, we often neglect to stop and consider those around us. This heartwarming advertisement has caused me to question what type of friend I have personally been, and what type of friends I would like to surround myself with as I move onto university and beyond.

Inclusion and sensitivity should be common sense. If each individual adopts this mindset and takes small actions to put it into action, it can become reality. By inspiring progress within individuals, this cumulative effort can in turn serve to create social progress.

Math Mock Exam (I) Reflection

Initial thoughts

  • I did not use my calculator as much as I should have. There were certain questions where I knew that I could easily calculate or check my answer using the GDC, but I forgot how to do so. This is something I really need to review as I go back through the units.
  • I was quite surprised at myself when I noticed I was extremely happy to encounter calculus questions. I know it makes sense because we finished calculus last, but I never knew I would be happy to see calculus on an exam. These are the only questions I felt very comfortable with.
  • I encountered many questions that I felt I would be able to understand after reviewing the topic for a very short amount of time – it was not a case of having to go relearn the material, but rather brush up on it. For example, the question regarding a box and whisker diagram as well as a few question on functions and equations which was one of the first units we covered.
  • The topics that I need to review the most are the ones that we covered first last year just because it has been such a long time!
  • Overall, additional time could not have helped me. There were many things I completely forgot, and would not have been able to complete regardless of time. For example, the last question (a combination of trigonometry and functions and equations) was worth 18 points and I believe I missed at least 12 of those points.

 

This might be surprising, but my perceived expectations was similar to reality. I expected that I would be extremely difficult, and it definitely was very difficult. My biggest fear was that the test would integrate multiple topics together, and if I was not strong on one topic, I would not be able to answer the question. What I dislike about this is that even if I am strong at calculus, and do not do well because of the integrated trigonometry, the IB will use my mark on that question to draw conclusions about my calculus skills. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened. One of my weaknesses that comes up in many questions, regardless of the topic, is trigonometry, so this is one of the areas that I need to review in depth.

I believe that one of the reasons I was not shocked by the difficulty of the IB exam is because I had a sibling go through this process before me. Both of us are not intrinsically good at math and she had a similar work ethic to me, but she ended up with a grade of a 2. From the very beginning I have understood how difficult it is to attain any grade over the average (a 4 or a 5) and I believe this mindset had helped me throughout IB. Since the beginning, I have always done all of the practice questions instead of the ones that were assigned and so on.

Goals

The topics that I feel uncomfortable with include: probability (as a whole), trigonometry and logs and exponents. My goal is to spend a majority of my time specifically reviewing these topics that I am uncomfortable with, but I also hope to touch on all topics briefly in order to review what I forgot. For example, I did very well on vectors when we covered it in class, but I do not believe I remember it very well now. I would like to spend some time reviewing this so I can regain my previous level of confidence. An additional goal is to constantly use my calculator when reviewing. I will ask classmates and HL students if they know any specific shortcuts or tips for using the graphing calculator. By the time of the IB exam, I would like to feel very confident in using my GDC to check all of my work.

CNY Homework

My main task over the Chinese New Year holiday is to focus on probability and statistics. It is one of the topics that is weighted the most heavily on the IB exam, but it is one that I feel the least comfortable with. Last year, probability was my weakest topic and this year I do not yet feel comfortable with probability distributions yet. For probability distributions, I will go through all of the section exercises and practice problems in order to prepare for the final test, and for the first probability chapter, I will go through my old test and review accordingly. In addition, I will use the additional textbook that Ms. Gilmore leant me for alternate explanations.

 

The best things in life never get old

Every year when I return to Canada for the summer, my sister, my cousin, my friends and I make a checklist of everything we need to get done during the short time we have together. As everyone has grown older and is busy with university or work, it has become harder and harder to accomplish everything we once used to do. At this point, our list consists of a few meaningful traditions, including to watch the movie Titanic. Every time we head over to my friends house to watch the 3 hour movie with our sleeping bags, my Dad reminds us that the “boat will still sink no matter how many times [we] watch it.” He has always been a disbeliever.

At this point, this specific tradition isn’t about the plot, it is about the associated memories. It is about the fact that each of us can quote each line without fail and mimic every accent. It is about that references and inside jokes can be integrated into our everyday conversations. It is about having constancy in our relationship although it is getting harder and harder to spend time together.

In light of this, I have complied a list of things that never get old (I will continue to add to this list as they come to me):

1. Titanic (the movie)

2. Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings is a movie filmed in my home town (you can even see the subdivision where my house is in one scene), about a Jamaican Bob sled team competing in the Calgary olympics. Every line and absolutely everything about it never gets old. If you want to make me smile, quote this movie.

3. Penne Pasta

When I was in grade two my family moved to Shanghai, I was homesick and I missed western food. The first western meal I had at a restaurant that I thoroughly enjoyed was penne pasta. Since then, my Mom has learned how to make fresh basil and makes penne pasta once every few months. It is by far my favorite dish and I will miss it when I move to Canada.

4. Disney movies

I always find it fascinating to talk to my friends about their family dynamics and their relationship with their siblings. Many siblings don’t get along or have various ways of interacting. My sister and I have always been extremely close and one of the ways we bond is through re-watching our favorite Disney movies.

5. Keeping a journal

Currently, technology is as prevalent as ever and just recently I have realized how reliant I am on my computer. Even so, one of my main goals for this year is to keep an art journal where I can doodle or express my thoughts in a creative form. I have a collection of scrapbooks and travel journals that I have made throughout my years living abroad that I love to look back through.

As I am getting older and the Titanic will continue to sink, these are a few meaningful traditions that I would like to continue.

Math SL Semester 1 Reflection

Semester 1 Reflection

This semester, I kept many of the same study habits as last year, yet I made small alterations in how to better prepare myself physically and mentally for the exam which I believe reflects in my progress throughout the semester. Overall, I do not feel that I started the semester very strong, but I have shown a very obvious increase in my performance towards the end of the semester. One of my small changes was that I took to heart the need for a good night’s rest before the test. On both the Calculus I and II tests I did not sleep well the night before which obviously impacted my grades; however, by the end of the semester I started to realize the need for sleep and made a conscious effort to sleep at a reasonable hour. I have started to learn that there is a point when staying up to study, no matter your current level of preparation, will not be beneficial.

The second alteration I made was in order to better prepare myself mentally. I have learned throughout the two years of IB that my mood or mindset at the beginning of the test can greatly impact my results, regardless of how prepared I feel. For example, last year, the logarithms and exponents test was supposed to be an easy test to bump up our grades for the semester. I really needed my score to be bumped up, so I felt a great deal of pressure to do well, which ultimately caused my grade to drastically decrease. This worries me because my IB grades really matter, so it is essential that I perform well on the IB exams. The exams are high-stakes tests and therefore I need to learn to cope with pressure and develop routines to calm myself down. This semester I woke up an hour earlier the morning before each test in order to do a set of problems to prepare. I always made sure that I ended with a problem that I was able to solve in order to ensure I was in a good mood.

The next semester of review is vital for me because for many of my top schools, I need a minimum of a 5 in math in order to meet the terms of my conditional acceptance. In order to do this, I need to continue to work on both keeping a positive mindset before a test and familiarizing myself with the material.

I therefore have the following personal goals:

  1. Overall, I would like to study consistently throughout the month and not let procrastination get the best of me. I will do this be creating a manageable schedule to get to.
  2. I will go through all of my tests without review in order to gain insight in to what sections I really need to review. I will then spend the most time reviewing where I need the most work.
  3. I plan on reviewing all of the material before the mock exam and I will use the mock exam as an opportunity to learn where I need to study further
  4. Use my time wisely in class in order to decrease study time outside of class

 

IB Biology SL Paper 1

When reviewing I only found one real trend: I did worse on material we covered last year than material we covered this year. The longer it has been since we have reviewed it, the worse I felt. For example, I had trouble with a question on statistical analysis, and had trouble with questions in the cell and chemistry of life units (properties of water, sizes or organelles, hydrolysis etc.) Although I feel I did very well on each of the units individually, I have trouble recalling details when tested on the information as a whole.

Due to this observation, I feel that I need to study on a very deep level over a long period of time. I will feel that I should study each section as if I was going to take a test on the individual unit, and review the information often. If I have time, one possible way to do this would be to review one section a week and cycle through the topics – once I am done, I will start over and continue to cycle through the topics. This way, at the end of the year, each topic will require minimal studying. This method will require a great deal of effort at the beginning, and less near the end. As I have the most trouble with the first few topics, I should start progressing through the material in a linear order, from start to finish.

I addition, I would like to take many practice tests in a timed, test setting. This will serve two purposes. First, I will practice test taking skills. Second, it will provide insight into what areas I should study further.

I would like to make a realistic schedule with time slots devoted to reviewing for biology. I will send this to Mr. McElroy. Knowing that Mr. McElroy can see my schedule and where I should be will hopefully motivate me to stay on track. If possible, I would like to make practice tests into more formal testing opportunities (have one class where we come in and take a practice test in a legitimate testing situation). Therefore, I would like to ask Mr. McElroy if he would be willing to integrate testing days into the curriculum.

I will know when I have studied sufficiently when I feel comfortable taking practice tests and am also able to achieve my desired score.

To conclude, my main goal for the rest of this year is to study hard, but over a long period of time.