The Maths HL Survival Guide

Classes get tougher and tougher with every grade. One of those classes, is, of course, the infamous Mathematics HL.

Let me be honest with you, Higher Level Mathematics, or Maths HL (pour les intimes), is tough. Honestly, it’s synonymous with confusion, long hours, and hard work, but I’m guessing most of you knew that. So, I guess this begs the question… is it worth it?

Well first of all, Maths HL isn’t for everyone, sadly. You need to be in the IB to do it (which is my case!), and let me be frank with you, if you don’t enjoy mathematics, it probably isn’t for you. That being said, anyone could probably do the program, considering they accept the following terms and conditions:

You must be prepared to work a lot. Maths HL students are expected to work a minimum of 2 and a half hours (150 minutes) on the subject outside of class but, no, that’s not the truth. Unless the topic is ‘easy’ for you, and you understand it right down to the proof and are therefore able to reapply it to any problem, that uses what you know in a way you haven’t ever seen before (because tough luck, the IB gives you questions which you would have never seen before), then 150 minutes is the minimum. You’ll be working 5 hours (300 minutes) a week otherwise. Considering you have 5 hours of class, it’s not too bad, especially if you spread it out well. But it’s nonetheless tough!

As well as being prepared to work enormous amounts, you need to be ready to keep up with the pace. Higher Level covers about one topic per one and a half classes, that approximately 135 minutes per topic. It’s fast. This increased pace means that, if you don’t understand something and the class has moved on, I suggest you note it down immediately to ask the teacher after class, or, you work on it at home until you understand. I say this because a key factor in succeeding in this course is understanding it all, every part, down to the core.

“GCSE Maths.” Preston’s College – GCSE Maths,

The final condition I believe you need to agree to, to succeed in Maths HL, is: it’s alright to get a bad grade. Of course, you’d rather have a 7 rather than a 4 (IB is graded out of 7), but it’s a challenging course and it’s okay to fall on your face from time to time. The topics you explore are so diverse and can be very complicated, they’re bound to trip you up sometimes. It’s normal, as long as you can accept that getting a bad grade sometimes is a way to improve upon your mistakes and build your understanding from that so you can achieve that beautiful 7. I believe that with hard work, you could definitely do Maths HL.

If you can adhere to these terms and conditions, you’ll succeed in Higher Level Mathematics, but, why do all this? Well, there are various reasons actually. Depending on where you want to go to university after high school, Maths HL may be either very useful to you, or maybe useless. If you’re headed to the UK, then look at the requirements for your school – they usually say if they require Maths HL and even the required grade. If you’re going to the US, it’s not a must, because the US is more interested in your total number of points rather than your individual subjects, unless you’re doing engineering. If you are, buckle up and get ready to work, because you want that 7! Finally, if you want to study in France, it varies too, if it’s engineering, then yes, it’s a must; if it’s anything else, check!

All in all, regardless of where you want to go later on, I suggest you do Maths HL for a single reason. A reason that will allow you to succeed in this class and enjoy it: choose Maths HL if it calls to you. Such a demanding course requires you to truly want to succeed in it. As I go to Maths HL 3 days a week, studying 6 of those days for the class, I always remember a quote that helps: “If there is a will, there is a way.”

                           –Paul Benjamin A.


Header Image:

F, Vick. “Mathematics Manipulation.” Superpower Wiki – Mathematics Manipulation, 1 May 2012,