Why is IB Physics so hard?

exam technique ib physics
why is ib physics so hard

Many students are shocked by the level of difficulty when they start their IB Physics lessons in school and panic when they receive the results of their first class test.

Here's a message I got last week:

These scores can be really shocking for some IB Physics students - especially ones who sailed through their GCSE qualifications and are expecting a 7 in IB Physics.

Are you one of these IB Physics student wondering why physics is so hard??

You might be wondering if you chose the right subject. You might even be considering dropping down from Higher Level (HL) to Standard Level (SL) before you've given the course a chance.

You ask why IB Physics is so hard....?

It's hard for three reasons:

  1. IB Physics requires advanced problem-solving skills. It's not like other subjects. It requires an underpinning of maths and problem-solving ability before you even think about the physics involved.
  2. IB Physics starts with the hardest topic. The IB Physics specification usually means that Mechanics is taught within the first month of lessons. Mechanics is hard! AND it's the most heavily-weighted topic in the final exams.
  3. The past paper questions seem more difficult than the concepts because the exam technique required to answer the questions is a skill in itself!

So you might be happily learning Mechanics for the first month of the course and are suddenly hit with a class test that includes Mechanics past papers questions and... guess what...?

You fail.

(or you don't get the high marks you are use to - which is not a failure but it feels like one)

This is not a reason to despair. Honestly!

The hard fact is that you will really only be capable of tackling IB Physics past paper questions when you have had time to develop the problem-solving skills necessary to ace the exam. That’s why mechanics questions feel so hard AND that’s why mechanics is taught at the start of the course. It takes two years to develop these skills.

Another hard fact is that Mechanics will make up a significant portion of your final exam paper (almost 11%!) and the mechanics exam questions tend to be convoluted, with many different concepts woven into one question. It takes two years to learn how to do these questions - you are not going to be good at them within one month of starting the IB Physics course. You should spend the next year developing and practising Mechanics past paper questions.

If you'd like to know which topics to focus your revision on in IB physics, I have listed the most heavily-weighted exam topic in this exam breakdown post

I have news for you… when you start IB Physics, you are at the stage of developing these necessary problem-solving skills:

  • You are going to find it difficult/frustrating.
  • You are going to fail a lot of questions before you start to see the answers more clearly.

It’s honestly all part of the process and I know that if you keep working - you will be fine (and get a great mark!). 

I've been teaching IB Physics since 2004, and I've been working online with IB Physics students worldwide since Jan 2014.

I can tell you that it's not all hard and you can make your life much easier.

What I've discovered is that there are 7 tasks that you can include in your individual study right now that will help you get that 7 in IB Physics

and it's all about being strategic.

This free guide walks you through how to be strategic in your study to maximise your marks in IB Physics and it follows 7 simple steps.


The 7 Steps are:

  1. Not all IB Physics topics are examined equally - find out which topics to prioritise in your individual revision.
  2. How to write your revision notes very quickly- you'll get a free revision note template
  3. The power of your mindset - find out how to adjust the way you think to become an ace at IB Physics
  4. How to improve quickly using past papers - download our free magic marking grid to improve your exam technique in IB physics exams
  5. Learn from other IB students mistakes - I'll tell you the most common mistakes other students make in their IB physics exams (so you don't make them!)
  6. Easily add 9-11% of to your final grade - I'll introduce a super-simple technique to add 9-11% to your final IB physics grade
  7. Where to get further help - I'll discuss different places you can get extra IB tutoring to help you maximise your marks in IB physics

You can download this free guide for much more help and information on the 7 simple steps that will make IB Physics feel much easier.

Hope this helps

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