ib physics exams strategy for 2021 and 2022

How EXACTLY Physics IB Exams Will Change in 2021 and 2022

exam technique ib physics Jun 08, 2021

Shocking Fact! Not all topics in IB Physics are represented equally in the final exams and you must be strategic to maximise marks and minimise effort.

If your aim is to get good marks in your IB Physics exams then you need to study strategically. This means you should have a ‘plan of action’ for your exam revision. This plan should be based on evidence and calculated hunches.

I get it.

You don’t have the time or resources to build out a ‘plan of action’ based on evidence and calculated hunches. What does that even mean??

Good news. I’ve got time.

Great news! I’ve built out a ‘plan of action’ and revision strategy for you.

IB Physics Exam Changes: Covid-19

The global pandemic meant that exams in May 2020 (and some in May 2021) were cancelled. It also resulted in most students in year one of IB Physics missing a great deal of schooling. For those IBDP1 students, the IB tried to streamline the exams to reflect the missing teaching time and make the exam process a little more fair.

The following changes were made to the assessment of IB Physics in May 2021 and 2022:

  • Remove Paper 3
  • Remove Group 4 Project

This means that:

  • You do not have to study your Option Topic
  • You do not have to complete the Group 4 project

This threw all the previously understood exam weightings out of whack! The big question then becomes:


What are the new IB exam weightings for IB Physics in May 2021 and May 2022?


Think about it.... for IB Physics, if they remove Paper 3, then they remove 20% (SL) and 24% (HL) of the assessment weighting of the final grade.

It took a while for the IB to announce the effect these changes would have on the exam weightings, but it was finally released as below. 

Here are the new assessment weightings for IB Physics (SL and HL) in 2021 and 2022:


There will be a greater weighting on Paper 1 (30%) and Paper 2 (50%). The importance of your internal assessment is unchanged at 20%.

Whilst the percentage weighting of each paper has increased - the numbers of marks remains the same, so no extra work for your in each of these papers!

Another unanswered question was:

Will they change Paper 1 and Paper 2 to assess practicals in a written paper?

The IB have confirmed that, there will be no formal assessment of the prescribed practicals or associated skills as normally found within section A of paper 3. It must, however, be stressed that experimental skill development is required to support the internal assessment and remains an important aspect of the subject.

These changes are real and quite useful - thank goodness. However, some adjustments will need to be made by you. You will have to adapt your individual study to maximise your marks in IB Physics May 2021 and 2022.

The question will now be...

How should I study IB Physics for the May 2021 and 2022 exams?

Here’s my advice....

Prioritise These Topics

The first part of our ‘plan of action’ is to focus on longer term revision. In this blog post, I’ll analyse how heavily- weighted each topic is represented is IB Physics exams. The idea is that you would focus your revision primarily on the most heavily-weighted topics. The graphs below show the average percentage that each topic in IB Physics makes up of your final IB mark.

STANDARD LEVEL

This means that if you are a Standard Level student and only ever studied Topic 2: Mechanics then you could achieve a whopping 18% in your final IB Physics exam! That’s without ever touching an internal assessment! Now.... you and I both know that you are not going to adopt that strategy. However, it’s certainly worth spending more time on Topic 2 than Topic 6.

The first part of your strategic ‘plan of action’ is to revise the Standard Level topics in the following order:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 7: Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Topic 3: Thermal Physics
  • Topic 8: Energy Production
  • Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Topic 1: Measurements and Uncertainties

NOTE: This detailed analysis is based on two key assumptions:

  1. Exams in 2021 and 2022 do not assess Paper 3 (Option Topic)
  2. Format of exam papers 1 & 2 closely follow that of historic examinations


HIGHER LEVEL

For a Higher Level student, it’s tempting to forget about Topic 1 altogether - isn’t it? You certainly don’t want to spend weeks revising Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation for the sake of 4% in your final IB Physics mark...

The first part of your strategic ‘plan of action’ is to revise the Higher Level topics in the following order:

  • Topic 2: Mechanics
  • Topic 4: Waves
  • Topic 11: Electromagnetic Induction
  • Topic 12: Nuclear and Quantum Physics
  • Topic 7: Nuclear and Particle Physics
  • Topic 5: Electricity and Magnetism
  • Topic 9: Wave Phenomena
  • Topic 10: Fields
  • Topic 3: Thermal Physics
  • Topic 8: Energy Production
  • Topic 6: Circular Motion and Gravitation
  • Topic 1: Measurements and Uncertainties

NOTE: This detailed analysis is based on two key assumptions:

  1. Exams in 2021 and 2022 do not assess Paper 3 (Option Topic)
  2. Format of exam papers 1 & 2 closely follow that of historic examinations


Recommendations

  1. You want to start by making sure you have thoroughly understood the most heavily examined concepts listed above, either during lessons or when working independently at home. Make revision notes on these.
  2. If you are struggling with the most heavily examined topics, you can overcome these difficulties in a few hours with the right strategies (more on that soon).

SUMMARY

Start being strategic in your revision and you’ll be more efficient and effective in your results. In the months and weeks before the exams, prioritise the most heavily examined topics. You’ll want to make effective revision notes on these topics and practice exam-style questions, split by topic.
In the weeks preceding the exams, your study strategy will alter slightly, depending on the intricacies of each paper. Past papers will become a focus of revision and the most heavily examined topics will change.

You can read more about how to use past paper more effectively in this blog post about my magic marking grid.

Hope this helped!

Sally