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How to Write Successful College Application Essays

Your college application admission letter or essay is one of the most important documents you will ever write. I want to show you how to write yourself to the head of the pack.

To do that I need to first explain to you the concept of Stump Speeches, which are often used by politicians. Regardless of the question a politician is asked they will try to answer it in a way that lets them talk about a few areas where they are strong. One guy will always come back to talk about cutting taxes. Another will always come back to talking about economic growth because they know, from their research, that when they talk about these specific things, people like them more.

I’m going to tell you what to say in your college admission letter (or college admission essay) so that the readers at Stanford or Yale will want to choose you over everyone else. The people who are going to be reading your letter want to see that you tick certain boxes. So you need to think about these people as your...

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How to Write Your Extended Essay (Getting Started)

Starting your Extended Essay is a big challenge.

The best advice I can give you is start early and choose your research question carefully. Starting early is a time-management aspect you'll have to figure out on your own. But I can help you a lot on the second part. 

Coming up with an appropriate question is about 25% of the whole battle. Your supervisor can help you with this, but often they'll leave it to you.

And you’ll want to be very careful here. With the right question almost anything is possible. With the wrong question, you're setting yourself up to fail. Most students brainstorm possible ideas, ask for suggestions and read successful EE samples (which are often available in your high school library). But I want to help you to do better than the average student. The following 4 tests will help you make sure your RQ is top notch.

The Four Tests

A good research question (RQ) passes the following 4 tests:

#1 Is it the right scope?

Of course the question...

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How to Write the Economics Internal Assessment (Getting Started)

The IA is a brilliant opportunity to put some marks in the bank and make that 6 or 7 in the course much easier to achieve. This first article will focus on choosing an appropriate article.

Why does this matter?

If you choose a bad article you’ll find it like competing in the Olympic 100 meter dash wearing your granny’s high heels. It doesn’t matter how good you are. Your name might be Usain Bolt. You’re working with the wrong equipment, so you’re gonna get beat. Here, just like in your Extended Essay and so much else in life, you’ve got to make good decisions at the start of the thing to end up where you want to go. Actually, you need to decide on the concept you want to explore BEFORE you go looking for your article. You should normally focus on one of the really major concepts like supply and demand, market failure, or aggregate supply and taxes. And once you've done that you'll know what type of article you're looking for.

How to find...

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Evaluation in Economics

Evaluation is a very important concept in IB Economics. But before we evaluate we always analyze.

Analysis is providing the DEED aspects --your Definitions, Explanations, Examples and Diagrams to show how the theory helps to answer the question. 

Okay, what's evaluation?

Basically, analysis is explaining the relevant theory. Evaluation is critiquing the theory.

Economic theories (i.e. our diagrams) always suggest certain things are true --for example that price ceilings will result in shortages. However, our field is full of interesting nuances. For example, price ceilings don't always result in shortages, because they might be set above the current equilibrium price.

There are always uncertainties and priorities to consider about the effects of a given policy. Remember that in your IA, for example, you're almost always looking at the possible effects of a certain policy decision. The simple presentation of the theory you did in the analysis section, needs...

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How to Structure an Economics IA

This post will go through what you should write in your Economics IA, with step-by-step instructions and with word counts for each section.

What you need to know before you write:

  • Avoid writing anything that isn’t going to earn you marks. You're going to need all the words you can get for your analysis and evaluation. Avoid quotes from the article and introductions longer than 2 sentences.
  • Stick with one unit of the course (i.e. Micro, Macro, and then Global). Don’t start off in micro (apple prices rise, supply and demand, elasticity) and then evaluate the potential macro effects (this could hurt economic growth). Even if this is true, the IA is about going deep into one part of the course, rather than showing the linkages between different parts.
  • Less is (often) more. Because of the very constraining word count (800 words) you’ll want to focus on really developing just one or two (two at the most) diagrams in your IA. And only evaluate one potential solution...
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The best time to work is the worst

A while ago I wrote an article called The Straight A Students Time Management Secret. The answer seemed simple: get your work done during your school day. High achievers do report having this habit. When they’re working, they just work. They don’t spend much time inefficiently --half-doing work and half-socialising at the same time. The benefits are pretty obvious. More completely-free time in the evenings, they can get more sleep and they can socialise guilt-free and stress-free. But, actually implementing this advice can seem hard. At work/school, all of our friends are there. It’s distracting. And then suddenly the entire day has passed and we’ve made no progress. Here are a few techniques that work:

  1. Block out some set-times every week just for working by yourself. Maybe Thursdays at lunch you go to your secret, private spot in the library and work on Math questions. Stick to your own schedule.
  2. Get massive headphones and wear them when you’re...
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We're Looking For Some Great IB Teachers

First of all I'd like to thank those of you who have already given me some names of great IB teachers. If you'd like to add a nomination, please do that here.

#IBGreat?

I'm on the lookout for some of the really great IB teachers in the world. I want to connect with them, talk with them and help them spread their best insights.

For example:

Maybe you have a really good IB Biology teacher at your school. Students just love this woman. I could talk with her and then write about one of her exam tips or an insight about how she approaches the course.

I want to learn from great people, so I can make hard things easier for other great people. That's my mission.

Positive Recognition

I'm hoping a bi-product of this is that I can bring a lot of recognition to a lot of teachers who work really hard, but maybe haven't gotten a lot of positive attention before. Teaching can be a solitary job sometimes, so it couldn't hurt to make your favourite teacher internet-famous.

...

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The Straight A Students Time Management Secret

This is your lucky day. You are finally going to find out the secret time-management weapon which has only been known to a few wildly successful students. Until now.

(WARNING: Do not read this unless you are prepared for incredible academic success! However, if ready to have your life completely changed, read on.)

I have had the pleasure of teaching students who have ended up going to Cambridge, to Oxford, to LSE, to Harvard and to a range of other Ivy League universities. They were not completely alike, but they did have one behavior in common. After working closely with these students I am convinced that it was this single secret-behavior that set them apart from the crowd. It actually made it easier for them to learn more efficiently, to understand concepts in a deeper way than their peers. In a way, these students had an unfair advantage. And that’s why I feel you should have it too.

But before I share it with you, let me explain how hard-working students commonly behave.

...
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How to Structure a Theory of Knowledge Essay

 

The following structure is a very good, step-by-step method you can use on any TOK essay to get a great mark. (It is updated for the 2022 syllabus).

You can find our video analysis of the most recently May and November Theory of Knowledge Essay Prescribed Titles in our members area. We also have a lot of helpful advice, tutorials, and evidence videos there. And of course you're welcome to try it. We'll also give you a lot of videos, notes and other resources to help with with your TOK Exhibition, here.

 

Okay here we go...

 

First, choose your Prescribed Title

Before you can begin your essay, you’ll want to look at the Prescribed Titles and choose one of them. Take some time to think about them before you choose. Sometimes the simple one is not the best one--perhaps because you can't think of any interesting ideas, just the most obvious ones. Complicated questions can make for more interesting essays.  

The most important thing to remember...

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The Top Ten Theory of Knowledge Essay Tips

Here are my top tips for getting to top marks on your Theory of Knowledge essay.

1.  All ToK essays are cross-disciplinary; they are never just about one way of knowing (perception, language, reason, etc) or one area of knowledge (mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, etc). In general you’ll want to include at least

2. But be careful about which WoK's and AoK's you include. Review all of your notes to refresh your understanding and make sure you’re seeing the relevant connections and make sure (after you’ve done your research) that you have interesting points to make (claims and counter claims).

3. Make an outline first. The outline is your road map and it’s where you make a lot of your major decisions. It will also help you to develop an argument, with each paragraph building on the one before.

3. Research in a lot of different ways: websites, your class notes, talking with people (parents, classmates, your teachers)....

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