Congratulations on making one of the most difficult decisions as an IB student. But don’t rest easy just yet – you’ve still got a long journey ahead. Hopefully, I can try and make that journey easier. To this end, I have 4 tips which I have found extremely helpful as I progressed along this (almost) never ending road.
1. You probably have a topic in mind that you may or may not have discussed with your EE supervisor, but regardless of that, the first thing you should do is read up on past EEs in the library. I cannot emphasis this enough. There are multiple benefits to reading older EEs. You can avoid and overlaps which may lead to accidental plagiarism (it happens). If your topic is similar to a senior, you get the benefit of looking at how their experiment worked and what troubles they encountered which you can avoid. You can get possible inspirations for extensions. Most importantly, you get to understand how an A-grade EE is structured. What I did was to go and browse through the topics once before submitting my topic to ensure that no one had done what I was doing before and many times afterwards for “advice” on how to proceed (the best advice still comes from your supervisor).
2. Let’s face it, doing a science EE means that a good portion of your holidays will be gone. There will be no denying this. Best thing you can do is embrace it. Initially, I though having to come back to school for another month would be painful and it was. The many failures in my methodology where difficult to come to terms with (this is where reading up really helps). But after I realized that the people in my lab where in the same situation as me and that we were all in this together, things became more bearable and I made some good friends there. It’s also important to realise that you don’t have much time. As of this article, Chemistry labs close on the 27th of November whereas the Biology labs close on the 10th December. This means that you’re running on a clock. So it’s important to embrace the lab life since it is better if you manage to finish the bulk of your experimentation in the holidays. Besides, lab is love, lab is life.
3. Apart from your EE supervisor, there is another group of people vital to the success of your experiments. I’m of course taking about the often (unfortunately) forgotten, and severely underappreciated lab technicians. Man these guys are simply the best. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve gone to them for tips and alternatives. Apart from just providing you all the chemicals and equipment you need, I’ve seen the lab techs go above and beyond, helping to review people’s methodology and even providing reading materials to expand our knowledge. Many students tend to take our lab techs for granted and its quite sad as they have to put up with a lot of our unreasonable request. Ultimately, treat the lab techs nicely and stay on their good side.
4. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS. This may sound like it’s going against point (2) but in the midst of EE, ME, CAS, TOK and all your IAs, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. You can’t achieve anything when you’re overwhelmed and panicking. So take a day off after long week of work to relax and get organized!
These are some of the tips that I took to heart during my November lab sessions and they’ve helped me to stay on track with little to no panic. I hope this advice serves you well as you take on one of the most important and difficult aspects of IB.
Arvindh Ulagapan (6.04) is from the graduating batch of 2016.