What You Need To Know About the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023 (First Exams 2025)

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What You Need To Know About the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023 (First Exams May 2025)

If you’re starting IB Physics in September 2023, then you’ll be taught the brand new IB Physics specification, with your IB Physics exams in May 2025.

 

This is a big change and I’m sure you’ll have some questions on how this will affect you. This blog post will summarise the change to the IB Physics specification and will answer some of your frequently asked questions about the new spec.

 

Contents

  1. It’s a New IB Physics Syllabus for IB Students AND Teachers…
  2. Structure and Topics in the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023
  3. Important Skills in the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023
  4. New IB Physics Syllabus 2023: Practical Work
  5. Mathematics Needed in IB Physics 2023 Specification
  6. How the Internal Assessment Will Change for New IB Physics Syllabus 2023
  7. How IB Physics Exams in 2025 Will Be Different
  8. FAQs Regarding the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023

 

Before we dive in, here's a quick heads up:

We've prepared a Free Learning Objectives Checklist specifically for this new syllabus. Grab it now and let's conquer this new syllabus together!

Download Your Handy New IB Physics Syllabus Guide Learning Objectives Here

 

It’s a New IB Physics Syllabus for IB Students AND Teachers…

 

I know this might sound obvious, but I just want to remind you that this isn't just a new chapter for IB Students. Your teachers are also learning to master the changes in this new IB Physics syllabus. There are a lot of changes for IB Physics teachers: the topic content has all been swapped around AND the way we have to teach the topics is different too.

I guess I’m saying, let's be patient with teachers as they strive to deliver an awesome physics education.

I’m going to immerse myself in this new IB Physics specification, so if you feel that you are not getting the information you need from school - keep an eye on the GradePod website for up to date information on the new IB Physics specification.

 

Structure and Topics in the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023

 

The new IB Physics syllabus 2023 is organised around five key themes:

 

  1. Space, time, and motion (for all the sci-fi enthusiasts!)
  2. The particulate nature of matter (delving into the building blocks of our universe)
  3. Wave behaviour (riding the waves of light and sound)
  4. Fields (more like magnetic and electric fields than grassy ones)
  5. Nuclear and quantum physics (taking a trip into the quantum realm)

 

In this revamped IB Physics syllabus 2023, these themes help group related topics together, making the content more integrated. Questions have been included to delve deeper into each topic and establish links with other areas of the course. The syllabus can even tie in with events like Earth Day or Women’s History Month, adding a real-world context to your physics learning journey.

 

Now… I know what you’re thinking!

You’re thinking… I don’t want ‘integrated content’ and ‘context’, I JUST want to know what to study for the IB Physics exams in May 2025. 

 

I understand that.

 

My mission is to make these May 2025 IB Physics exams as straightforward as possible for you. 

 

Important Skills in the New IB Physics Syllabus 2023

 

The new IB Physics syllabus 2023 puts a heavy emphasis on you honing critical skills. You'll be focusing on three main tools: 

 

Tool 1: Experimental techniques, 

Tool 2: Technology 

Tool 3: Mathematics

 

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. 

 

Tool 1 (Experimental Techniques) and Tool 2 (Technology) will be developed through practical work in class. 

 

New IB Physics Syllabus 2023: Practical Work

 

The practical work component is changing in the new IB Physics syllabus 2023. Gone are the prescribed practicals, and instead, your teachers now have the freedom to design practical work that caters best to your class. Expect more hands-on experiments, simulations, and tech use – all tailored to your class's learning style and interests.

 

My guess is that your teacher will develop a practical scheme of work, consisting of a range of experiments. 


Tool 1: IB Physics Experimental Techniques

 

Your teacher should set up these experiments to allow you to learn how to measure the following variables, using the appropriate apparatus:

  • Mass
  • Time
  • Length
  • Volume
  • Temperature
  • Force
  • Electric current
  • Electric potential difference
  • Angle
  • Sound and light intensity

 

EXAM TIP: Paper 1B will focus on data analysis and experimental technique. I’d make sure you know exactly how to measure the variables above and possible systematic and random errors that might arise.

 

You should understand the appropriate level of precision for these variables too. For example, you’d want to measure the length of a wire to the nearest millimeter, any less precise would not be appropriate. 

 

Tool 2: IB Physics Technology

 

The experiments you carry out in class should allow you to use modern technology to both collect and analyse the data.

 

Technology you should be using to collect the data includes:

  • Datalogging sensors and/or smartphone apps (e.g. measuring light intensity using a smartphone sensor)
  • Spreadsheets and databases to extract data
  • Generate data from models and simulations.
  • Carry out image analysis and video analysis of motion (e.g. use a slow motion camera to analyse the motion of a toy parachute in freefall)

 

Technology you should be using to analyse the data includes:

  • Use spreadsheets to manipulate data. 
  • Represent data in a graphical form. 
  • Use computer modelling.

 

It’s your teacher’s responsibility to include this into your lessons over the two year course at school. You do not need to prepare this for exams.

 

Mathematics Needed in IB Physics 2023 Specification

 

OK - this is a biggie and relates to Tool 3. 

 

Tool 3: IB Physics Mathematics

 

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. Linearize 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.

 

How the Internal Assessment Will Change for New IB Physics Syllabus 2023

 

The internal assessment, rebranded as "scientific investigation," encourages more collaboration. You will be allowed to work in small groups on an experiment but will still write individual reports.

 

There is no difference between an SL and HL IB Physics Scientific Investigation.

 

The IB Physics scientific investigation is an integral part of the physics course, contributing 20% to the final assessment in the SL and the HL courses. 

 

The maximum overall word count for the report is 3,000 words.

 

The following are not included in the word count.

  • Charts and diagrams
  • Data tables
  • Equations, formulae and calculations
  • Citations/references (whether parenthetical, numbered, footnotes or endnotes)
  • Bibliography
  • Headers

 

The following details should be stated at the start of the report.

  • Title of the investigation
  • IB candidate code (alphanumeric, for example, xyz123)
  • IB candidate code for all group members (if applicable)
  • Number of words

There is no requirement to include a cover page or a contents page.

 

Rules when starting the new IB Physics Internal Assessment (Now Called Scientific Investigation)

  1. Each student is expected to formulate, investigate and answer a unique research question, seeking advice from their teacher.
  2. A student must not present the same set of raw data as another student.
  3. You are now allowed to work in small groups of no more than 3 students to collect data; however, you should all get your own set of raw data AND each person in the group should investigate a different independent variable.
  4. The student might seek support from peers when collecting data.
  5. You can organise your own groups.
  6. The teacher must provide guidance to ensure that all students are fully engaged in the collaborative activity. Students must clearly understand the requirement to conduct an individual investigation.
  7. A report by the group is not permitted

 

How the new IB Physics Scientific Investigation (Internal Assessment) is Assessed.

 

The grading criteria in the new IB Physics syllabus 2023 have also been streamlined. There are just four criteria, each equally weighted: research design, data analysis, conclusion, and evaluation.



How IB Physics Exams in 2025 Will Be Different

 

Changes are also afoot in the assessments under the new IB Physics syllabus 2023. NOTE: these changes will be applied to the May 2025 IB Physics Exams. All exams before this session will follow the existing format.

 

The external assessment now consists of only two exams: Paper 1A with multiple-choice questions, and Paper 1B focusing on data analysis. Paper 2 will have short-answer and extended-response questions that cover different areas of the course.

 

The images below show the exact details of the IB Physics exams in 2025.

 

Change can feel daunting, but remember – we're all in this together, teachers and students alike. The changes in the new IB Physics syllabus 2023 are all designed to enhance your understanding and enjoyment of physics. So let's get ready to embrace this exciting new chapter in your IB Physics journey!


FAQs Regarding the New IB Physics Specification 2023 (First Exams 2025)

 

1. Why are people talking about the new IB Physics syllabus 2023?

Well, there's been a big shake-up. The IB guys thought it was time to freshen up the physics course. So, they've made some changes to make it more engaging and relatable. New themes, more skills, revised practicals, and updated assessments - all designed to help you get a better handle on physics.

2. Are we just learning the same stuff but with new names?

Not really. The same fundamental physics principles are there, but they're grouped differently. The new syllabus is structured around five main themes like 'Space, time, and motion' and 'Nuclear and quantum physics.' It's all about understanding how different topics connect.

3. What's the deal with this 'skills' thing?

The new syllabus wants you to become a pro at certain skills, not just cramming content. You'll focus on three main tools (experimental techniques, technology, and math) and also improve your inquiry skills. These are all about exploring and designing, collecting and processing data, and concluding and evaluating.

4. So, are we still doing labs and experiments?

Definitely, but it's going less structured. Your teachers now have the freedom to design practical work that fits your class best. So expect more hands-on stuff, simulations, and using tech. The aim is to make the practical work more about exploration and less about ticking boxes.

5. Exams. What's changed?

Instead of loads of exams, you'll now have just two external ones. Paper 1A is multiple-choice questions, and Paper 1B is all about data analysis. Paper 2 will have short-answer and extended-response questions from different parts of the course. So, it's about being able to apply what you've learned in different ways.

6. What about our internal assessment?

The Internal Assessment has been renamed Scientific Investigation. You'll now have the option of working in small groups to collect data together. You'll still write an individual report, but you'll be able to collaborate on the experiment itself. It's a chance to work together, share ideas, and solve problems.

7. How is the new IB Physics Scientific Investigation graded?

Grading is simpler. There are just four grading criteria, each with equal weight (25% each): research design, data analysis, conclusion, and evaluation. So it's less about how much you remember and more about how well you understand and can apply what you've learned.

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

GET YOUR COPY HERE
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