Study Guide – IB Physics HL (WIP)

As a Grade 11 students, you probably are struggling with the sheer contents of IB physics coursework. As a senior with predicted IB 7 in physics, I shall share you tips that can save you from suffering, pain and peer preassures. I can assure you that for many of my tips, you cannot see them elsewhere on the Internet.

Overview

IB physics is an assessment-oriented course. Your final IB grade is determined by 4 main assessments:

Paper 1

20%

Paper 2

40%

Paper 3

20%

Internal Assessment

20%

Think of the current IB physics classes you have right now as assessment-prep courses. Your ultimate objective is to ace the above 4 assessments to get a IB 7.

Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3 are essentially tests that assess your understanding of course materials and application of these concepts to solve IB problems.

For Internal Assessment, you are writing a research paper, for which you need to perform real-life experiment to confirm or reject your research question. This assessments often gets overlooked by Grade 11 students, and detalis about the Internal Assessment is going to be mentioned in the later section.

Understanding the course material

In order for you to ACE paper 1, paper 2 and paper 3, you need to master your course materials.

At least in REMSS, understanding the course material is one of the most challenging part of IB physics for many IB students. Due to a joint effort of Mr. Klassen’s sophisicated lecture, and the very unsystematic Pearson IB Physics textbook, many students give up on IB physics.

If you cannot comprehend Mr. Klassen’s lecture and the textbook, that means you are an average human being. It doesn’t mean that you are dumb.

Jerry Tan, a suffering IB 12 student

Therefore, let me show you a pro tip that helps you to make sense of IB physics concepts. There is an online teacher named Chris Doner, with the Youtube Channel link attached below.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU_4LajnXERILx6XViGCIXA

There are numerious advantages of taking his lectures. Firstly, he is a very experienced IB Physics teacher, that knows what understanding of the course content does IB wants. Secondly, he groups hard topics into different small sub-topics, and arrange his videos in a systematic manner. Thirdly, he actively trys to convey the course content in a manner that average human beings (e.g. me, and you) can understand. While, Mr. Klassen is too intelligent, such that his speakings become arcane for average human beings.

There are still a few things to note while watching his videos.

1: Actively take notes

By taking notes, I am not expecting you to take page long notes for every single videos. You can take notes simply using the notes app while watching his video.

The objective is that you don’t need to go back to his long videos for future review, but rather you can watch his videos for once and check your notes afterward. It also helps you to check, and consolidate your understanding, as if you get stuck while making the note, you know you are missing key pieces.

If you find your note to be unreadable, try to make the note clearer for reasons mentioned above. Don’t stop making notes because of that.

2: Cross-Check with official IB Physics Guide

Chris Doner’s video matches around 95% of IB physics course contents. However, there are still mismatches due to IB currculum change. Some videos are missing certain new contents from newer currculum, and some others are obsolute as IB removed these contents from the IB currculum.

IB releases an official Study Guide named IB Physics Guide. It provides a clear, concise list of understandings and applications that IB wants student to know. The Guide is copyrighted, but I believe you can always find a way to access it while not breaching IB regulations.

Cross-checking with IB Physics Guide ensures you know what you need to know for IB Physics.

3: Don’t get behind & Use your class time wisely

In Mr. Klassen’s lecture, there are two types of students. Students that are ahead, and students that are behind. You don’t want to be students that are behind. For each class, you should have already learned the course concept that Mr. Klassen is going to cover beforehand via watching Chris Doner lectures.

During this class time, with a solid understanding accquired beforehand, you can now work on other important matters, say CAS reflections or English Essays. Don’t worry, Mr. Klassen would not be offended if you can show that you really understand the course concepts. He is more open-minded than most students think.

Test-Taking strategies

After you understand the course concepts, it is time to apply your understanding to actual IB questions. Many IB students are destroyed by diverse types of tricky IB physics problems. However, I shall demonstrate that you can get a IB 7 if you follow the right strategy.

Overview

You want to practice with actual IB problems. Long time commitment into practicing official IB problems is the fundentation of getting a 7 for paper 1,2 and 3. IB Questionbank is an IB official resource for past IB paper problems, with problems being catagorized with types, with solutions, markscheme and examiner’s comment. It is available via pay $120 to IB.

Alternative methods to access IB Questionbank is not within the scope of this blog entry, as I don’t want my blog closed by IB the day after.

“Tricky” problems

Back in the Newton’s law question, you may notice that IB asks a diverse type of questions, for which you don’t have a clue at how to approach these problems during limited exam time.

However, it is very difficult for IB examiners to mass produce with original, quality problems. Therefore, by practicing many Newton’s law questions on IB Questionbank, you will actually find that the questions start to recycle. Indeed, the wording becomes slightly different, the numbers are changed, but everything else is the same as the question you practiced.

This is the case for all IB Physics Units. IB rarely produces original, surprising questions. Even if they do, as long as you can answer all the other conventional problems correctly during an exam, an IB 7 is there for you.

Definition Questions

For definitions, Mr. Klassen may instructed you to create a vocabulary sheet. While I do agree that you need to specfically memorize certain key terms somehow, a vocabulary sheet on every IB Physics terminology is not going to work out for you. Mr. Klassen actually means making a vocabulary sheet for vocabularies that IB asks about.

Indeed, IB askes about 5% of the course specfic terminologies for 95% of the time. You only need to know about the 5%, not the other 95%.

Unfortunely, no one I found online complied a list of that 5% of the vocabularies that IB actually asks about. Therefore, you need to actively find definition questions from past IB questions, and only remember these definitions.

Explaination Questions:

You may have the experience before of understanding how one phenomon in IB Physics work, but in the actual exam, you don’t get full marks for the question asking you to explain that phenomon.

You need to memorize the IB Markscheme for these types of questions. Specfically remember which point did you miss, and you will not lose the mark for the second time.

Internal Assessment

This piece is 20% of your mark. In grade 12 you have very limited class time for it. It is going to be very difficult for you to produce a quality internal assessents within these few classtimes.

I personally learned it the hard way. Don’t repeat my mistake.

The main difficulty with IA is that, you need to have a working experimental setup, with small measurement errors. It is harder than you think. In fact even replicating other people’s experiment and tring to reach the same precision is difficult. You need time to test and polish your experimental setup, or even swap to a new idea if the old idea cannot be redeemed.

After all, it is 20% of your mark. It is supposed to be hard. DO IT BEFORE GRADE 12, and you will have more than enough time to produce the perfect IA.

For guidance regarding to the actual writing, talk to Mr. Klassen frequently as he is the one marking it. LISTEN TO THE MARKER. Writing would not be a problem for you if you have working experimental setup with good data.

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