# EXACT Math Skills Required To Pass IB Physics

## The IB Physics Math Skills are well-defined in the IB Physics Syllabus and are listed below

The hard facts are:

1. It is super important that you understand Maths if you are going to progress in IB Physics.
2. Math and Physics compliment each other perfectly
3. Mathematical techniques are vital in solving physics problems.

The new IB Physics syllabus 2025 recognises this and puts a heavy emphasis on you honing critical skills. Without really knowing it, you'll be focusing on three main tools:

Tool 1: Experimental techniques (you'll develop this skill through class practicals)

Tool 2: Technology (you'll develop this skill through class practicals)

Tool 3: Mathematics (you'll develop this skill through class practicals and practice problems)

The development of these skills sounds vague, and it’s hard to say exactly how that will work in your particular school. It will depend on the resources available in your school and how your teacher chooses to integrate them.

### In total there are 44 exact math skills you need to understand IB Physics

The list of mathematical skills required in the new IB Physics specification looks daunting. BUT DON’T WORRY! Most of this stuff will come naturally to you.

Here are the mathematical skills you should be comfortable with in IB Physics:

#### General Math:

1. Use basic arithmetic and algebraic calculations to solve problems.
2. Calculate areas and volumes for simple shapes.
3. Carry out calculations involving decimals, fractions, percentages, ratios, reciprocals, exponents and trigonometric ratios.
4. Carry out calculations involving logarithmic and exponential functions.
5. Determine rates of change.
6. Calculate mean and range.
7. Use and interpret scientific notation (for example, 3.5 × 106).
8. Select and manipulate equations.
9. Derive relationships algebraically.
10. Use approximation and estimation.
11. Appreciate when some effects can be neglected and why this is useful.
12. Compare and quote ratios, values and approximations to the nearest order of magnitude.
13. Distinguish between continuous and discrete variables.
14. Understand direct and inverse proportionality, as well as positive and negative relationships or correlations between variables.
15. Determine the effect of changes to variables on other variables in a relationship.
16. Calculate and interpret percentage change and percentage difference.
17. Calculate and interpret percentage error and percentage uncertainty.
18. Construct and use scale diagrams.
19. Identify a quantity as a scalar or vector.
20. Draw and label vectors including magnitude, point of application and direction.
21. Draw and interpret free-body diagrams showing forces at point of application or centre of mass as required.
22. Add and subtract vectors in the same plane (limited to three vectors).
23. Multiply vectors by a scalar.
24. Resolve vectors (limited to two perpendicular components).

#### Using units, symbols and numerical values

1. Apply and use SI prefixes and units.
2. Identify and use symbols stated in the guide and the data booklet.
3. Work with fundamental units.
4. Use of units whenever appropriate.
5. Express derived units in terms of SI units.
6. Check an expression using dimensional analysis of units (the formal process of dimensional analysis will not be assessed).
7. Express quantities and uncertainties to an appropriate number of significant figures or decimal places.

#### Processing Uncertainties

1. Understand the significance of uncertainties in raw and processed data.
2. Record uncertainties in measurements as a range (±) to an appropriate precision.
3. Propagate uncertainties in processed data in calculations involving addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and raising to a power.
4. Express measurement and processed uncertainties—absolute, fractional (relative) and percentage—to an appropriate number of significant figures or level of precision.

#### Graphing

1. Sketch graphs, with labelled but unscaled axes, to qualitatively describe trends.
2. Construct and interpret tables, charts and graphs for raw and processed data including bar charts, pie charts, histograms, scatter graphs and line and curve graphs.
3. Construct and interpret graphs using logarithmic scales.
4. Plot linear and non-linear graphs showing the relationship between two variables with appropriate scales and axes.
5. Draw lines or curves of best fit.
6. Draw and interpret uncertainty bars. Extrapolate and interpolate graphs. Linearise graphs (only where appropriate).
7. On a best-fit linear graph, construct lines of maximum and minimum gradients with relative accuracy (by eye) considering all uncertainty bars.
8. Determining the uncertainty in gradients and intercepts.
9. Interpret features of graphs including gradient, changes in gradient, intercepts, maxima and minima, and areas under the graph.
 I'm guessing that some of the points in this list will seem difficult. You probably carry out these math skills without even knowing you're doing it! If you trust your teacher, then this list will come naturally to you by the end of your IB physics course (just in time for the exams!) If you feel you need more support in the math skills in IB Physics, consider joining me in TrIBe Physics

### IB Physics Math Skills: FAQs

#### Does IB Physics require a lot of maths?

Yes and no! Maths and Physics go together like fish and chips! If you'd like a career that involves Physics, then Maths is an essential skill that you should embrace. However, if you simply need to pass the IB Physics exam with little interest in Maths then there are very specific skills that you need to master for the final exams and they can be learned with practice and determination.

You can watch this video covering: How to Solve IB Physics Exam Questions involving Math

#### Is there any calculus in Physics HL?

No. You do not need to use calculus in IB Physics HL. There are parts of the course where calculus fits in perfectly, namely Simple Harmonic Motion (Topics 4&9) and Equations of Motion (Topic 2) but the specification does not dictate that calculus should be used.

#### Can I still study IB Physics (SL or HL) with Maths Studies?

I have taught many students in both HL and SL Physics who have achieved fantastic grades in IB Physics whilst studying Math Studies (instead of SL and HL Maths). Your school may have a policy on which Maths course you should take when choosing IB Physics, but if you are prepared to work hard then there shouldn't be any barriers for you to achieve a 7 in IB Physics whilst studying Math Studies.

Here is Felicia, who studied HL Physics with me and did Math Studies at the same time:

Just remember... if you'd like a career that involves Physics, then Maths is an essential skill that you should embrace.

Hope this helps