How Realistic is Achieving a 7 in IB Physics? (Facts and Statistics)

exam facts exam technique ib physics ib physics exam facts Oct 19, 2021

Let's look at the statistics behind the IB Physics exams and analyse how likely you are to obtain a 7 in IB Physics.

Should you even bother aiming for top marks?

You'll notice that many guides and resources on my website allude to the fact that I believe you can all achieve 7's in IB Physics...!

Let's look at the titles of my resources:

Do you understand what I'm saying? I have an unwaivering belief that a 7 is achievable for all IB Physics students.

BUT...

  • What if only I believe you can achieve that top marks?
  • What if I am completely deluded?
  • What if the statistics are completely against you and it's high unlikely you'll get a 7 in IB Physics?

WORSE.....!

Maybe you simply don't believe in your own ability and you don't believe you can get a 7 in IB Physics.

In this blog post, I'll look at the facts, figures and statistics since May 2016. I'll analyse the likelihood that you will achieve a 7 in IB Physics and I'll answer the following questions:

  1. Is IB Physics the hardest subject?
  2. How likely is getting a 7 in IB Physics?
  3. Is it easier to get a 7 in SL or HL Physics?
  4. How hard is it to get a 7 in IB Physics?
  5. What can I do to improve my chances of getting a 7 in IB Physics?

REMEMBER - I 100% believe in you all! I 100% believe that you can all achieve a 7 in IB Physics!

Sooooo.... in this post, I'll put all my optimistic beliefs to one side and I'll analyse the facts.

I've gone through every subject reports and statistics report since May 2016 and I've reported the cold truth behind the IB Physics grades.

Are you brave enough to read more?

Is IB Physics The Hardest Subject?

Firstly, yes.

Anecdotally. IB Physics is one of the hardest subjects and that is probably true if you consider the level of problem-solving required in IB Physics (particularly higher level) and the advanced concepts you have to learn.

I believe the IB Physics is one of the hardest subjects, but I was going to put my beliefs to one side, wasn't I?

Look at the graph above. You can see three lines in this graph:

  • Green line, which represents the mean grade that the higher level students have achieved since May 2016,
  • Navy line, which shows the overall mean grade of every IB subject, so English, Spanish, Art, all those sorts of things.
  • Yellow line, which represents the mean grade that the standard level students have achieved since May 2016,

HIGHER LEVEL MEAN GRADES SINCE MAY 2016

In general, the mean grade achieved by a higher level student in IB Physics has gradually increased over the years. It also stays largely above or on this base line IB mean grade. So that means if you're doing higher level physics, you're statistically more likely to get a better grade than the average mean grade for IB. If you look at chemistry and biology, you are statistically more likely to get higher grade in physics HL than you are in chemistry or biology higher level. So even though the belief is that IB Physics is the hardest subject, and that's probably true, statistically, you're more likely to get higher mean grade or higher grade than other subjects, If you do physics HL.

STANDARD LEVEL MEAN GRADES SINCE MAY 2016

Sadly, the same cannot be said for standard level,  the yellow line suggests that the mean grade for IB Physics standard level, is consistently below what a higher level student would get or what the average grade for any subject in IB would get.

Why Are the Mean Grades for HL and SL Physics So Different?

I would like to look at why we saw the trend above and this is where my expertise comes in. This is not fact. You've seen the fact in the graph.

Here's how I explain that graph.

HIGHER LEVEL IB PHYSICS STUDENTS

IB Physics higher level students tend to recognize the difficulty of the subject very quickly. Think about entering IB Physics for the first few months, you're thrown very quickly into IB Physics Topic 1 (Measurements and Uncertainties) and Topic 2 (Mechanics). The level of difficulty in those topics can shock students very early on into working hard. So very quickly these higher level students will improve their problem-solving skills and improve the exam technique. Also very early on higher level students recognize that a 7 in IB Physics will open doors for them for better opportunity as they leave school. Many higher level physics students are looking to study engineering at university and a 7 in IB Physics will open the doors and give them more security that they're going to obtain their first choice in university. So coupled with the fact that you really want that 7 in IB Physics in higher level, and you give more time to it early on, I think that's why statistically you're more likely to get a 7 or a higher grade in IB Physics than you are in standard level, despite it being perceived as one of the hardest subjects.

STANDARD LEVEL IB PHYSICS STUDENTS

Standard level students would place more energy into their higher level subjects early on. So at the beginning of IB, they're still doing these difficult topics, Topic 1, Topic 2 in IB Physics, but they don't have the mental energy or they don't have the time, or the workload is pretty high to then devote the problem-solving skills early on, to devote the exam technique early on. What happens is, is you find it difficult to catch up. So the problem-solving skills are not developed quickly, they're not developed from the beginning, and that stops students catching up to those top marks later on.

In a normal classroom setting, it does take two years to develop the problem-solving skills and it does take two years to develop those exam techniques skills (that can be done quicker, and I'll tell you about that another time, if you're worried, if you're in standard level and you're worried that you're not going to develop those skills in time) but really these problems develop the mind set early on for standard level students, that "physics is hard", and I think that mindset never quite leaves. 

So I think that does explain why you're statistically more likely to get higher mean grade if you're a higher level IB Physics students than a Standard Level IB Physics student.

How Likely Am I To Get a 7 In HIGHER LEVEL IB Physics?

I've gone back to May 2016 and I've taken the percentage of students who've got a 7 in May 2016, the percentage of students who got a 7 in November 2016, and all the years up 'til now, and I've averaged that. So if you look at this bar chart here, you can see the average percentage of students getting a 7 in higher level physics since May 2016. The great news is that statistically you're highly unlikely to get a one. Actually the grade with the highest percentage is a 7. ... 22% of students will get a 7 in IB Physics, but that's us looking at all the grades since May 2016.

We all know that something major happened in 2020, and I really think we should take that into account. So what I've done is I've actually plotted the "COVID" exams against the "NON-COVID" exams.  

1 in 4 students HL students achieved a 7 in "COVID" exams.

1 in 5 students HL achieved a 7 in "NON-COVID" exams

I've taken the average percentage of students who've got a 7 in "COVID" exams and that's the green color and I've compared it against the average percentage of students who've got a 7 and "NON-COVID" exams. "COVID" exams are the green bars, you can see it statistically much more likely that you'll get a 7 in IB higher level physics, if you're performing a "COVID" exam. And that's because the final grade was largely based on the internal assessment marks and that skewed the grade significantly. In fact, if you're setting a "COVID" exam, one in four students and higher level are, will have achieved a 7. That means your chances and the likelihood of you getting a 7 in a "COVID" exam is actually quite high. However, if we look at "NON-COVID" exams and we look at the 7, the red bar chart for 7 there, you can see that one in five students achieved a 7 in "NON-COVID" exams. So it really does make a difference statistically, I can't make any further comment on that.

Whether you're sitting a "COVID" exam or a "NON-COVID" exam, I strongly recommend that you put a lot of effort into your internal assessment, because it really does make a difference. You can also see with this graph above that we look at the green bar charts, you're statistically more likely to get a five, six, 7, than you are to get a two, three or four. However, in "NON-COVID" exams, it does seem to be evenly split across the board. So you might have a one in five chance of getting a 7 in "NON-COVID" exams, but you have a one in five chance of getting a two, three, four and five and six as well. So while this is good news, there's other facts that you should take into account there too.

How Likely Am I To Get a 7 In STANDARD LEVEL IB Physics?

The picture looks very different for Standard Level. Since 2016, it is still is statistically very unlikely that you'll get a 1 - Great! 

However, you can see that almost 20% of students, that would be one in five students, would get a five in standard level physics. In fact, if we go to this data here, it's looking like one in 10 students will get a 7 in IB Physics standard level, not quite as positive as the higher level values

 

Plot the same graph for "COVID" and "NON-COVID" exams. If we look at "COVID" exams here, is statistically more likely that you would have got a 7 in a "COVID" exam for standard level, but again, the highest percentage, the grade with the highest percentage in "COVID" exams was a 4, just with a 5 following that behind.

So in "COVID" exams, statistically, more likely you would get four or five.

If we go to "NON-COVID" exams, that statistic changed quite dramatically. There's a one in 11 chance that you would get a 7 and the grade with the highest percentage in "NON-"COVID"" exams is a 3 for standard level physics. So it's not looking statistically fantastic here for getting a 7 in IB Physics in standard level, but it is possible.

I still maintain the belief that you can get a 7, and really that belief comes from my tutoring of students throughout the years. I mean, I have tutored people from 3's, I've tutored people from 2's, and they have achieved that 7 in the end.

I do find it difficult to look at these facts and stay downhearted, I really do, maybe it's the optimist in me, I believe that whilst these statistics for standard level students don't look great, there's still a very good chance you can get a 7.

 How Hard Is It To Get a 7 In IB Physics HL?

Let's look at the grade boundaries now.

The grade boundaries are pretty low. If you commit to studying strategically, which is what my course and what GradePod is all about, then a 7 is easily within reach.

Please know that these grade boundaries fluctuate every year, so they're not exact, but this should give you an idea of what you're aiming for, I would say overall you're aiming for 67% to get a 7 in higher level IB Physics. 

Paper 1 Grade Boundaries HL Physics

Paper one has 40 marks, 40 questions in it, and 27 of them need to be correct for you to get a 7.

That means you can get 13 questions wrong on paper one, and you can still get a 7.

Overall you're looking at a pass rate of 67.5% for a 7 and IB Physics in Paper 1.

Paper 2 Grade Boundaries HL Physics

There's 90 marks available in Paper 2, but you only need to get 52 correct. I'll repeat...

You only need to get 52 marks out of 90 to get a 7!

This means you can get a huge amount (38 marks) wrong and still get 7 in paper two. The grade boundaries for paper two are super, super low they're down around about 58%

Paper 3 Grade Boundaries HL Physics

Paper three is for "NON-COVID" exams, so if we revert to normal, or if we had the exams before "COVID" arrived, paper three would have been sat, there's 45 marks in there, and 30 marks are set out for the option topic.

You need to get 32 marks out of 45 to get a 7 in Paper 3, and the grade boundary is slightly higher, it's 71%. This is because Paper 3 is deemed to be easier than papers one and two.

For higher level physics, you're aiming for over 67% overall.

 How Hard Is It To Get a 7 In IB Physics SL?

The grade boundaries for standard level are actually lower, which means it's even more achievable for you, if you study strategically and I'll tell you what I mean by study strategically later on, but a 7 is easily within reach, if you understand how to play the game.

It looks like lots of students in the past have not understood how to play the game, I'm going to show you how to play the game, okay?

Overall you're aiming for 65% in SL physics to get a 7

Paper 1 Grade Boundaries SL Physics

20 out of the 30 multiple choice questions need to be correct, which means you can still get 10 wrong, and overall you're looking for 67% in paper one questions to get 7,

Paper 2 Grade Boundaries SL Physics

There's 50 marks available, and you need to get 29 of them to get a 7, you only need 58% in paper two to get a 7 in IB Physics, so you can still lose a whopping 21 marks in paper two, and get that 7 that we are hoping for, and I believe you can get.

Paper 3 Grade Boundaries SL Physics

In paper three there's 35 marks available, you need 24 out of 35 to get a 7, and the pass mark again is a little bit higher, it's at 69% we believe, or people believe actually is true, paper three is easier than paper one and paper two, that's why the grade boundary tends to be a bit higher. 

What Can I Do To Improve My Chances Of A 7 In IB Physics?

There are a number of simple steps, and there are some more advanced strategic steps that you can take.

Step 1 - Maximise Internal Assessment Marks

First thing I would do is make sure that you've maximized your marks and your internal assessment. The internal assessment is 20% of your final grade, and it's relatively easy to hit all the marks on the mark scheme, if you know exactly what to do, if you have a step-by-step approach, if you follow the mark scheme, if you follow the steps, you can get a 7 very easily and your internal assessment, you're looking for 20 marks out of 24 on your internal assessment to get that 7, and I can help you with that. 

FREE eBook: The Ultimate Guide to the PERFECT Physics IA

Online Course: Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the PERFECT Physics IA

Step 2 - Simple Exam "Hacks"

The second thing you can do to improve your overall grade by a roundabout 5%, is follow some simple exam hacks, and I'm going to tell you in the next post, what those simple exam hacks would be just to raise your grade by 5%, without really thinking about it.

Step 3 - Study Strategically ASAP!

Then to really push to 7 and to really make sure you're there, where I believe you can be, you need to study strategically, and you need to do that as soon as possible, by studying strategically, I mean, get the most heavily examined topics, study them first, tailor your exam technique and problem solving skills towards the IB Physics exams, not to what you're being taught in class, not towards your homework, not towards anything else, not towards your textbook, you need to tailor your skills towards the exams, and that's where I specialize, and that's where my masterclass goes into much more detail.

Now there's a part of me that doesn't think you believe me, I believe in you. There's a part of me that thinks you don't believe it's possible to get that 7 in IB Physics.

So I'm just going to dive into a couple of emails I've received from students who are inside my course who have actually seen that transformation, and you can see I've scribbled out, their name and email address at the top.

Do you know what??? I did have a lovely evening that day and just love to see my students succeed!

Hopefully, this post gives you some idea of how realistic a 7 is an IB Physics.

If you're a higher level student here, you can see that actually, that goal of 7 in IB Physics is not too far off.

Standard level I think there's some mindset problems there, I think there's some initial shock to the system that put a mind set in the standard level students that physics is hard, but if you look at the grade boundaries for standard level physics, actually the grade boundaries are relatively low.

If you study strategically, and you follow a simple exam hacks, and you maximize your internal assessment marks, I can tell you that a 7 for any IB Physics student is realistic and it's likely.

Keep in with my videos, keep following my advice and we'll get there together.

Have a great day!

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