IB Physics, especially at the Higher Level, is one of the most difficult subjects in the IB Diploma. Nonetheless, it is still very possible to attain a 7. In fact, according to the IB Statistical Report in November 2009, 31% of Standard Level Candidates and 20% of Higher Level Candidates received a 7. This means that on average, in a class of 20 HL students, 4 will get a 7.
So how do you get into that top 20%?
To find out, I’ve asked many successful past IB Physics students regarding their techniques, as well as IB Physics teachers, one of whom used to mark IB Papers. Combining this with my own experiences, I’ve found 7 key things that successful students are doing in terms of learning the course and IB Revision.
1) Know Your IB Physics Syllabus
One of the best aspects of IB Science subjects is the Syllabus. The Syllabus contains all the possible concepts that could possibly be examined. I know a teacher who actually writes IB Papers and he told me that every question that is written is closely checked according to the Syllabus and if it’s not relevant, it is removed. This means that if you can do every point in the Syllabus, then there is nothing that can surprise you in your final examination. So if you still have plenty of time before your final exams, make sure you have you syllabus next to you as you revise.
2) Annotate Your IB Physics Syllabus
We can go one step further. What I strongly recommend is printing out a copy of all of the relevant sections of the Syllabus. As you learn/revise, don’t just write down notes in your notebook, write your notes on your printed version of the syllabus! That way, as you learn, you’re cross-referencing to your syllabus. When you do this, you’ll be well aware of all the topics you’ve covered, the topics you’ve missed and importantly, the topics that you’re not yet familiar with.
3) Maximize Your IB Physics Internal Assessment (IA) Scores
Whilst the IB Physics exam may be difficult, the Internal Assessment is much easier. This is because you can do them without any time pressure whatsoever. Also, most teachers give you plenty of opportunities to maximise your IA scores. And most importantly, scoring high in your IAs means that you can score lower in your final exam and still get a 7. What I recommend is to look at your Physics Guide very closely and look at what is required of you for the IAs. If there is anything you’re unsure about, make sure you ask your teacher about it. If you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, find out why you lost marks. There should be no excuse for not scoring 40+ in your IAs.
4) Make Sure You Understand Each Point Before You Move On
This is crucial. As your teacher explains each point, make sure that you really understand it before they move on to the next point. First of all, most subsequent points will depend on an understanding of the first few points, so if you miss a concept, you may get lost. Secondly, it saves you a lot of time. It means that you won’t fall behind and need to catch up on concepts that you didn’t understand previously.
5) Effective Time Management
If you manage your time well, you can do in one day what would normally take another student three days. In fact, I believe that one of the key differences between a 7 candidate and a 5 candidate is their ability to use their time well. The most important thing is to remove distractions. When you’re studying from a text book, or doing past paper questions, make sure you’re not on Facebook! And try to keep things that you tend to fidget with or get easily distracted by out of sight. But I admit, it can often be fun to go Facebook. So what I suggest is to allocate times where you allow yourself to be distracted. Personally, I give myself ten minutes before my first block of work to look at Facebook, grab some snacks etc. before working. If possible, put yourself under some sort of time pressure. Parkinson’s Law states that the time taken to complete a task is proportional to the time allocated to it. If you’ve given yourself a whole day to write up a full practical, chances are, it’ll take you a day. But for those of you doing IB English A1, you’ll notice that you can write up 1500 word essays in 90 minutes. This is because you’ve set a time a limit and your brain will automatically focus on completing the task in that time. One way around this is to focus on past papers for revision and time yourself!
6) Do IB Physics Past Paper Questions
I know a new Syllabus has just been released and there aren’t many past papers on the new Syllabus. However, you’ll notice that there’s still quite a lot of overlap with the old Syllabus, so there’s no excuse for not doing lots of past papers. If you come across a question that’s not in your course, just skip it. Doing past paper questions, especially under timed conditions is very useful. It helps for you to sink in the knowledge from the theory – doing questions and actually writing things down helps in retention of knowledge. Also, it reveals holes in your understanding. If there are questions, or groups of questions that you can’t do, go back to the Syllabus and see what it is that you need revising.
7) Scrutinise IB Physics Mark Schemes One of the reasons why IB Physics is so hard, I’ve found, is because what is written in the text book often doesn’t match what’s required of you in your exam. In fact, when I compared the definitions of Deep Inelastic Scattering (Particle Physics Option) in the Hamper Text Book to that in the mark scheme, I found that they did not match (The text book definition would have gotten 0). Now this would be horrible, especially if the student memorised the text book definition and ended up getting no marks for it in the exam. The only things the examiners have in front of them are your paper and the mark scheme.
So make sure you have a good understanding of those mark schemes! So there you have it, the 7 key strategies that, I can guarantee, will be of enormous help to you in attaining that 7 in IB Physics!
Founder – IB Blueprint
Executive Tutor – Australian IB Tuition