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How To Write Effective IB Physics Notes In Under 15 Minutes

ib physics notes

Say goodbye to the chaotic pile of notes and hello to a streamlined, supercharged IB Physics note template that not only saves time but also ramps up your retention and understanding of complex physics concepts.

Throughout my years of helping IB Physics students, I've seen it all: from the colour-coded perfectionists to those who barely scrape together notes before exams.

It's clear that having a solid, foolproof system for note-taking is what separates top scorers from the rest.

Please don't spend hours re-writing your entire class notes or marking up your textbook with a highlighter.

The trick is:

  • Knowing exactly what to include in your notes
  • Writing your condensed study notes throughout the IB Physics course
  • Following exactly the same structure for every IB Physics topic – that way, you start to know instinctively where to look for certain types of information.

It should also be said that writing effective study notes is part of a wider step-by-step guide on How To Study IB Physics. You can see how IB Physics fit into the wider study strategy for IB Physics here.


Resources Needed To Create IB Physics Notes
(Free Downloads Here)

IB Physics Note Template


The most efficient way to create useful study notes is to create a template with the following subheadings already mapped out.

  1. Formulae
  2. Required Definitions
  3. Common Diagrams
  4. Common Graphs
  5. Experiments
  6. Other Notes

You can then print, or photocopy multiple versions and be ready for action for every IB Physics topic you study.


I have designed a revision note template for you and it looks like this: 

This image shows the template for writing IB Physics notes designed by GradePod. It shows each IB Physics topic split into the following subheadings: formulae, common definitions, common diagrams, common graphs, experiments, and other notes. The template is clear, concise, and ready for students to download to aid their study.

Get Your Blank Template For Physics Revision Notes HERE

IB Physics Syllabus Checklist


Once you’ve created your template, you then need to fill it with the right information.

The best way to do this is to get hold of the learning objectives for the IB Physics topic that you are revising.

These learning objectives must be mapped exactly to the IB Physics specification.

Again... I'm happy to act as your saviour here! I have a free checklist of the whole IB Physics HL and SL syllabus here for you to download:

Every page of the IB Physics syllabus checklist is shown, starting with the modern cover page detailing that the learning objectives are for those sitting the new IB Physics syllabus with first exams in 2025. The subheading says that if it's not in this checklist, it's not in the exam. There are a series of pages after the cover page, showing a page for each IB Physics topic and a comprehensive list of learning objectives for each topic. This guide shows the GradePod logo on the front

The great thing is that this free IB Physics Syllabus Checklist is:

  • Mapped exactly to the IB Physics specification
  • Easy to understand, with the correct terminology used
  • Set out clearly to allow you to track your progress

Get Your Free IB Physics Syllabus Checklist HERE


What To Write In IB Physics Study Notes


In the following sections, I’m going to talk you through exactly what to write under each subheading of your revision notes. I’ll include plenty of worked examples as we go along.

My examples are all taken from topic B.1 (and B.3): Thermal Physics



What To Write - Formulae


The first section we’ll complete is the “Formulae” section. Quite simply, look through your list of learning objectives and write down all the formulae.

If you understand each formula and how to use it – you only write the formula down. If you’re a little less confident with any of the formulae listed, you might want to include a couple of notes to remind yourself – see my example:

An image of handwritten physics formulae and notes. On the left side, the word FORMULAE is at the top, followed by a list of physics equations for converting temperature to Kelvin, calculating heat capacity, latent heat, pressure, and number of moles. On the right side, the Ideal Gas Equation is presented with conditions for its use. Below, the kinetic energy equation is given in terms of the Boltzmann constant, with the relationship between the Boltzmann constant and gas constant noted on the side. Hand-drawn stars emphasise the importance of memorizing the Boltzmann constant formula.

You can see that there are some formulae without any accompanying notes – these are the ones that I’m very comfortable with (both the formulae and the concepts behind them).

Yet there are others that have bullets or explanatory notes next to them, such as:

Ideal Gas Equation (pV=nRT)

I’ve noted down the necessary conditions for this formula to be used:

  1. low pressure
  2. moderate temperature
  3. low density

This little note might come in useful for answer exam questions later on.

Boltzmann Constant
I’ve drawn lots of stars around one formula! That’s because this formula is not in the data booklet. The stars remind me that I must memorise this before my exam.

IB Physics Data Booklet

You will be given a data booklet in your exam. This helpful little book contains things like important constants and some of the key formulae needed to help you answer the questions, meaning you don’t need to memorise every single formula by heart.

Download your copy of the IB Physics Data Booklet HERE

Cross-check the formulae in the data booklet against the formula in your revision notes. You should memorise any equation that doesn’t appear in the data booklet and label with a star - you’ll know which ones to memorise. 


I’ve written a blog post on GradePod detailing the formulae that don’t appear in the data booklet.


What To Write - Required Definitions


Definitions (and basic recall of facts) can account for around 10% of your final exam mark, so take care when completing this section – there’s huge potential to improve your marks here with limited effort. A handful of definitions can make all the difference when you’re looking to achieve top marks.

The best way to learn definitions is by separating them by topic, so grouping them all under a single section in your revision notes for each topic is half of the battle – see my example:

An image of handwritten IB physics definitions. It features the word DEFINITIONS at the top and lists four key terms below.

Once you’ve written down all your definitions, mark those that you need to memorise for the exam with a red star. To figure out which ones you need to memorise, look for words like “define”, “state”, “memorise” in your set of learning objectives.

If it’s not immediately obvious which definitions you need to memorise, try an online search for your topic, e.g. “Topic 2 IB Physics definitions”. Sometimes you’ll find that someone’s done the hard work for you, but... caution: these lists can be a little over-eager and sometimes include hundreds of unneeded definitions.

A good quality online revision course (like TrIBe Physics!) will have done all this work for you.


A promotional banner featuring a smiling Sally Weatherly on the left with curly hair and a black top. The banner has a vibrant color scheme with yellow, turquoise, and purple elements. It announces 'TRIBE PHYSICS' in bold, multicolored letters against a light turquoise background. Text on the right reads 'FULL support for the New IB Physics Specification, First Exams: May 2025', with 'New IB Physics Syllabus' highlighted in a purple tag. The logo of GradePod, resembling sound waves, appears on the bottom right.

Otherwise, you can use past papers to help you identify which definitions are consistently examined. This is a little time-consuming, but it’s time well spent. When you come to doing past paper questions, try to remember to mark up commonly examined definitions in your revision notes so that these are clearly identifiable when you come to doing your final revision.


What To Write - Common Diagrams


Our brains capture information in a number of different ways and a diagram can be both memorable and informative, so this is an important section of your IB Physics notes.

Simply take your learning objectives for the topic, open your textbook (or class notes) at the correct chapter and look for diagrams that match the learning objectives. Then copy those diagrams into the Common Diagrams section of your topic revision notes.

Once you’ve copied the diagrams into your notes, take time to label them and annotate them with explanatory notes to help you remember what they are illustrating. When it comes to making these annotations, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • What scale is the diagram? (e.g. micro-metres, kilometres, light years, etc.)
  • Are any of the sections of the diagram moving? (e.g. molecules in a gas)
  • Have you labelled all the parts? Do they need any explanation?
  • Are there any formulae associated with the diagram?
  • Would you associate any keywords or phrases with the diagram?


An image displaying a handwritten section titled COMMON DIAGRAMS for IB physics revision notes. It depicts molecular diagrams representing the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. For each state, there are notes about molecular structure and energy potential. On the right, there's a temperature versus time graph illustrating phase changes for water, indicating the energy input required for transitions from solid to liquid (melting), and liquid to gas (boiling). Notes on the graph explain the specific heat capacity and latent heat formulas related to these phase changes.

Look at my diagrams (above). The one on the left-hand side diagram is simply copied from the textbook. The one on the right-hand side has been labelled with annotations prompted by my questions above. You can see how helpful these sort of annotations can be when it comes to last-minute revision.

Concentrate on copying down the correct diagrams and using my prompt questions to help you label them as fully as possible.


What To Write - Common Graphs


The Common Graphs sections follows the same methods as the Common Diagrams section. Open your textbook (or class notes) at the correct chapter and simply copy out the graphs that you see referenced in your topic’s learning objectives into your topic revision notes.

An image showing a section titled COMMON GRAPHS from handwritten IB physics revision notes. It displays three fundamental gas law graphs. On the left, the Pressure-Volume graph represents Boyle's Law with a downward curve, indicating an inverse relationship, with temperature and number of moles being constant. In the centre, the Volume-Temperature graph depicts Charles's Law with an upward linear relationship, noting that pressure and number of moles are constant and showing the concept of absolute zero at -273.15°C. On the right, the Pressure-Temperature graph illustrates Gay-Lussac's Law with an upward linear trend, signifying that pressure is directly proportional to temperature when volume and number of moles are constant.

Once you have a section of graphs you can start to analyse the relationships between the variables represented in your graphs and to annotate them with useful reminders and notes. You can use the following questions to as prompts:

  • What mathematical relationship is shown between the two variables in the graph? (e.g. are they directly proportional, indirectly proportional, etc.)
  • What does the gradient of the graph represent?
  • Is the gradient constant or varied? Why?
  • What does the intercept of the graph represent?
  • What does the area under the graph represent – if anything?
  • Are there limits to the graph?
  • Does the graph extend to infinity? Why?

This section is more helpful in exams than you might expect. Annotated graphs are a way to cover the important relationships between key variables in your topic in a very concise way. Simply sketching out a graph can be a huge help when figuring out how best to structure a detailed and precise extended-response answer in an exam.


What to write: Experiments


The IB specification specifies that you should carry out a number of practicals as part of your two year course.

For now... don’t worry if you haven’t done these in class yet, they will be summarised in your textbook and your job is simply to open your textbook to the correct topic, identify the experiments that are related to the topic you’re working through and to summarise them in this section here.

Use the following prompts to help you capture all the important points:

  • What is the title of the experiment?
  • What are the independent, dependent and control variables?
  • Draw a brief sketch of the apparatus
  • Give an extremely brief method (no more than two sentences)
  • What table should you draw?
  • What did the graph look like between the independent and the dependent variable?
  • What conclusion was drawn?
  • Where did errors occur? Were the errors systematic or random?


An image of a section titled COMMON EXPERIMENTS from handwritten IB physics revision notes. It shows two experimental setups. On the left, the Specific Heat Capacity experiment is depicted with a sketch of a calorimeter setup including a thermometer, heater, and liquid of known mass. Notes detail the process: turning on the heater, calculating power input, recording temperature changes every 30 seconds, and calculating energy input to determine specific heat capacity. On the right, Boyle's Law is demonstrated with a diagram of a closed system with a trapped volume of air, a pressure gauge, and a pump. Instructions include recording initial pressure and volume, increasing pressure to record new volume, and verifying Boyle's Law by showing that pressure is inversely proportional to volume.

Remember! You don’t need to include a complete write-up of the experiment and you shouldn’t go into too much detail here. My example above should give you an indication of the approximate level of detail required.


What to write: Other Notes


In the ‘Other Notes’ section of your revision notes, you’ll include the learning objectives that haven’t been covered by the previous sections of your notes (formulae, definitions, diagrams, graphs, experiments).

You can also include any insights that you’ve gained by completing past papers. This part can’t be filled out until you’ve done a few past papers, of course, but it’s important to include here any lessons you learn when doing example questions, especially where you lost marks so that you can avoid repeating the mistake in the real exam.

My example shows you the sort of things that might end up in this section.

An image showing a section titled OTHER NOTES from handwritten IB physics revision notes. It outlines key points related to kinetic theory and thermodynamics. Notes include the assumptions of kinetic theory such as molecules being perfectly elastic, spherical, identical, with negligible volume and no intermolecular forces. It reminds to always use temperature in Kelvin for calculations and that average kinetic energy is directly proportional to temperature, derived from the equation for average kinetic energy. Additionally, it points out that there is no change in temperature and hence no change in average kinetic energy during a phase change.

Writing IB Physics Notes: Conclusion

If you use my free revision note template and complete the sections methodically, you’ll end up with the entire IB Physics course condensed into just 10–15 sides of A4. How much more manageable does that seem than an entire textbook?

As if that wasn’t enough... in the process of writing the notes, you’ll also find you’ve (fairly seamlessly) learned a good chunk of the course content along the way.

You can now pat yourself on the back for the awesome pile of notes you’ve created, set aside your textbook and now focus on practising exam questions and improving your exam technique. The enormity of the course now fits into your pocket and, more importantly, into your head!

Check out this complete set of notes for Thermal Physics!

This image shows page 1 of the completed handwritten ib physics notes for thermal physics.

This image shows page 2 of the completed handwritten ib physics notes for thermal physics.

This image shows page 3 of the completed handwritten ib physics notes for thermal physics.



Get Your Blank Template For Physics Revision Notes HERE

Honestly? I think watching the video on this blog post will explain everything much better than writing it all down! Watch the 4 minute video with your revision note template to hand.


FAQ's About IB Physics Notes


Why should you adopt this method for writing your IB Physics notes?


Let’s dive into the reasons:

  • Using a well-organised template keeps your notes tidy and your thoughts clearer. Imagine having all your essential formulas, key definitions, and critical diagrams at your fingertips, organised in a way that makes sense!
  • Writing your own notes forces you to engage actively with the IB Physics syllabus. It’s not just about reading and re-reading your textbook; it’s about condensing and applying the information. 
  • This method allows you to write revision notes that target and enhance your individual weaknesses. Whether you need more visuals, detailed explanations, or straightforward bullet points, your notes can be tailored to maximise your personal learning.
  • Structured revision notes make completing IB Physics past papers much easier. You'll have all the formulae, definitions. graphs, diagrams and notes at hadn't when you start to tackle exam-style questions. This is about working smarter, not harder.
  • These notes are designed to align directly with the IB Physics syllabus. They ensure that you are studying the most relevant and exam-applicable material. No more guessing what to study!

Do I need to write notes?


Condensing the entire IB Physics syllabus into detailed revision notes is crucial. Effective notes highlight essential facts and provide a quick reference as you progress to solving IB Physics past papers and preparing for the IB Physics exam.

Should I write the revision notes myself?


Personalised revision notes help you thoroughly understand the IB Physics HL and IB Physics SL syllabus, identify weak areas, and encapsulate the content in your own words.

Is practicing past exam questions a better use of time?


While working through IB Physics past papers is vital, having a strong foundation built from your own revision notes is key to success. Don’t underestimate the power of well-organised notes—efficiency is crucial.


What Should You Do After Writing IB Physics Notes?

Writing revision notes is a vital part of my 4-step success path on how to study IB Physics. Can you spot this step in the path below?

The next step is to start practising exam-style questions. I'll deep dive into this in my article "How To Study IB Physics", where I help you take your revision notes and use them wisely in improving your exam technique and problem-solving skills. I'll see you there!


Hope this helps

This image shows Sally's handwritten signature.

Don't forget to download your
FREE IB Physics Syllabus 2025 Checklist

Thumbnail for the IB Physics Complete Checklist with a female student smiling and holding books, advertising GradePod's Free Learning Objectives Checklist for exams in May 2025, featuring the text 'Know What You Need to Study in the New IB Physics Syllabus with Our Easy-to-Understand Guide. Download Now!