Hi, I'm Sally Weatherly and I'm an IB physics teacher. And this week I really want to talk about one of the challenges we all face, really from the very beginning of the IB physics course, it's something that really we should feel really good at because the answer's given straight in front of you, but actually it's a really tough skill to master and it does take a while to get really good at this.
Now What am I talking about?
I'm talking about answering multiple choice questions.
Multiple choice questions feature very heavily in IB physics, particularly when you come to your end exam at the very end, we have a whole paper devoted to multiple choice questions, and it's highly likely that throughout your course, your teacher will give you multiple choice questions. They'll do that for a number of reasons, to help assess your skill and your understanding of the course. And also because it's really easy for physics teachers to mark.
So today I'm going to talk you through how to improve in multiple choice questions very, very quickly.
I'm going to recommend some other people's resources who are free for this, because I know of a website that you should be using right now that genuinely will help you improve in IB physics multiple choice questions very, very quickly.
But before we start with all the actual practical advice, let's talk about WHY you need to be good at multiple choice questions.
As I mentioned, previously, paper one in IB physics is all about multiple choice and it's worth a significant proportion of your final grade. So in normal exams, when we're not going through a global pandemic, you would normally sit three papers at the end of the IB. Paper one is worth 20% of your final mark, and that's just solely down to answering multiple choice questions,
BUT we're not currently in normal times.
And they've announced, the IB, that 2021 and 2022 exams will be slightly altered to allow for that lack of learning or lack of one-to-one learning that you may be experiencing in class. So the exams in 2021 and 2022 have changed. They've removed paper three, which means that paper one, your multiple choice questions, and that paper has got a larger proportion of your final mark. So if you're sitting your IB physics exams in 2021 or 2022, your final mark down solely to multiple choice questions is made up of 30% multiple choice questions.
That's amazing, right?
Well, it's only amazing if you're really good at multiple choice questions.
And that's where I come in today.
For the rest of this episode, this weekly update, I am going to highlight the following things.
- I'm going to tell you a few more facts about paper one.
- I'm going to tell you what topics are most heavily weighted in paper one. So when you're preparing for that final exam in paper one, you knew which topics to focus on first.
- I'm going to give you real actionable advice on how to get better very quickly at multiple choice questions.
So let's start with the facts, okay?
No matter whether you're doing your exams this year, 2022, any year, Paper 1 has shown the same consistency since 2016, for standard level, it is 45 minutes long, and it has 30 questions in it. And for higher level it's one hour long. And it has, let me remind
myself, 40 questions in it. The questions follow the content of the course. So you tend to get questions on topic one first, then topic two, then topic three, and so on. So there are rarely any surprises in this paper one exam. One of the things that does throw some students off and they may not know early enough in the course is that you are not allowed a calculator in paper one. So while you're studying multiple choice questions in class or for homework and stuff, please start getting used to putting that calculator to one side because you're not allowed a calculator. And that's one of the biggest skills to overcome in the preparation for exams and class tests and so on.
But you are allowed a data booklet and that data booklet can be very, very useful to you when you're completing multiple choice questions,
BUT here's the killer.
50% of the questions in paper one have multiple steps and paper one is designed by these lovely examiners to be difficult. You will find this paper difficult. So in 50% of the questions, the answer is not as easy as it might sound. In 50% of those questions, you're going to have to do a number of different steps to get the final answer. So this is something that also we need to start practicing. It's not like GCSE or multiple choice questions or little quizzes you have on the internet. These multiple choice questions do require you to problem solve, and they do require you to have knowledge.
But the good news is is that the grade boundaries tend to be particularly low for paper one.
So even though it's designed to be difficult, and even though you may not find it particularly easy, the grade levels are, sorry, the grade boundaries are lowered to reflect that. So it is deemed to be a fair paper, and the interesting thing that I have seen about paper one since 2016, is you may only see one or two questions on topic one. So when you're looking towards your paper one exams, don't worry too much about multiple choice questions regarding topic one. They don't tend to feature very heavily. Now I know what you're wondering. Let me look at my notes.
You're wondering, well, if topic one doesn't feature very heavily, which topics do feature heavily?
And you might want to get a bit of paper to note this down.
We'll just start with the standard level paper. In standard level, the topic that features most heavily in paper one is mechanics. So you've, if you've started your IB physics course, it's likely that you've started learning mechanics. And if I were you I'd spend a great deal of time getting better at mechanics multiple choice questions, because they feature heavily in your final exam. Learn that skill now because it's going to make it easier for you in the longer run. Topic two mechanics is not the only one that features heavily. We have topic four, waves. This is in standard level. Topic five, electricity and magnetism, and topic seven, atomic nuclear and particle physics. So if you're looking at the end game, you really want to be good at topic two, four, five, and seven.
Also while you're studying these topics in class, make sure you put particular significance on getting good at multiple choice questions in these topics.
So that's standard level.
Let's have a think about higher level.
Higher level is slightly different.
Checking my notes here.
One thing that's the same is that topic two features very heavily in paper one for higher level. So if you're a higher level student and you have studied or are studying mechanics, make sure you are practicing or have practiced multiple choice questions for mechanics. They feature very heavily, same as the standard level. Also in paper one for higher level is waves. But as you know, in higher level, we're looking at topics four and nine for waves. So so far we've got, for higher level, topic two, mechanics topics four and nine, waves, topic 11, electromagnetic induction features very heavily and topic 12, quantum and nuclear physics feature very heavily. So if you're studying those subjects or you have studied those subjects, I would take time now to go back and make sure that your skill in answering multiple choice on these is more advanced than on the other subjects.
Now we're going to come to my advice for paper one.
Well my first piece of advice is to prioritize the most commonly heavily weighted topics as I previously explained, make sure you're really good at those topics I've just mentioned.
The next thing. And this is the resource that I really want to highlight to the whole world is a free website called gradegorilla.com. I know Mr. Grade Gorilla myself. He is a really genuinely lovely person and I hope to have him on my podcast in the next month or so. He has taken a great deal of time to building a website just for you, just for IB physics students, to help you improve your multiple choice questioning. It's set out perfectly. I'll be honest with you. I think he would say the same. It's not the most modern or amazingly designed website, but the technical knowledge behind it and the content and just the real feel of trying to help IB physics students is second to none. And I really, really do rate this website and what I always say to students who don't really want to study, who are thinking, oh, I've got to do a bit of physics tonight. I'll always just say, tell you what, head onto Grade Gorilla. It's not really like you're studying. You can answer some multiple choice questions. You can get some feedback on it, and actually you're doing work without even noticing. And the brilliant thing about it is that it's split out into sub topics of the topics that you're studying. So it doesn't mean you have to finish the whole topic like mechanics before you can start practicing these multiple choice questions. They're set out into smaller sub topics, which really make it easier for you to add it into your everyday study.
So that's my advice in terms of where to get practice problems and how to be assessed on multiple choice questions.
Now, when you're actually doing the question, you need to give yourself one and a half minutes per question, because that's how much time you'll have in your exam. You may want to find some form of timer or stopwatch, something that can time out one and a half minutes for you. You press the start on the timer and you try and do the question and you stop doing that question once one and a half minutes hits, it will be brutal to begin with, I'm not going to lie. Some questions will come through easily, but those 50% of questions I talked about that are multiple step and harder will be brutal. It'll feel horrible, but it's a good way of starting to work towards the time limits set within the exam.
The other piece of advice I'd give you is find as many ratio style questions as possible on the topic you're studying, because multiple choice questions in paper one, there tends to be quite a lot of ratio questions. I will add a couple of examples to my video blog in the page below it. And I'll add a couple of examples to my podcast page so you can get an idea about what these ratio questions are. If you can get the little technique on those ratio questions, then you're really racing ahead of most other physics students who are struggling with exactly the same things.
If you're preparing for a class test, or if you're preparing for a mock exam or your final exam, a piece of advice I would give you is to work through the paper initially skipping out the ones you really don't know because the difficulty of the questions, it doesn't get more and more difficult as you go through the paper, that's not how it works. As you go through the paper, you follow the content of the course. So actually you might find some really easy ones on topic eight at the end of the paper. And if you really struggle with the difficult ones at the start, you might not get to the end of the paper where the really easy ones are. So my strategy for working through a class test or working through a mock exam or an exam is to initially go through the paper as quickly as you can, answering the questions that are really obvious to you because that's some free marks, easy marks right there. It also improves your confidence, right? So you've got to the end of the paper. you're like, right, I've
done all the easy ones. They feel good. So you're ready to go back to the harder ones that you found more difficult. Now remember, 50% of these questions are designed to be difficult, but those 50% of questions are spread evenly throughout the paper. So the point I'm trying to make is if you get to question four and it's a really hard, difficult question, don't despair because other easy ones are further on. Just skip. You can go back to it, don't worry about it.
So let's suggest you've gone through the easy ones. You've gone through the whole paper and you've marked out the easy ones and given the answers to the easy ones, the next task is go back to the ones that you left behind and those ones you left behind, you have to come up with other tactics.
So a tactic would be to eliminate any clearly incorrect responses, for example, if you are looking for the speed of sound in a question, and one of the answers is 3000 meters per second, that's clearly incorrect because in your knowledge bank you know that sound and air travels around 330 meters per second. So that's clearly incorrect. Get rid of it. Quite often there are one or two responses from A to D that are clearly incorrect and it's good for you just to cross them out.
My next tip for tackling very difficult questions in multiple choice is centered around graph questions. You do tend to get quite a lot of graph questions and very, very often the answer is either in the gradient or in the area under the line. So if you're tackling a question to do with graphs, think about the gradient. Think about the area under the line and think about the units involved, quite often, there's clues there for you to really work through.
Any more bits of advice?
Actually you would be surprised about the number of times I think two answers could be right in a multiple choice question and you would be very surprised about how much time physics teachers spend debating the answer to one multiple choice question. I guarantee you we've spent a lot more than 1.5 minutes debating the answer to one question. They're not always very simple. I would say one question every year really stumps teachers. It really stumps the students. And that's okay because if you don't know the answer, here's my final bit of advice to you, just choose one, never leave anything blank, just choose one. You've got a 25% chance of getting it right. And if you use all the advice that I've given you already, it's much more than the 25% chance, it's a 50% chance, or it's a 75% chance of getting it right.
Multiple choice is something that you should and can develop quite quickly. You can get good at it quickly by using the skills and gradegorilla.com to really push that skill on. And I recommend you start doing that soon because it's a funner way, it's a more fun way of revising than sitting writing out notes or watching videos or anything like that, it's interactive. It's an active learning. And I think, you know what, get to the end of your day, you've probably done loads of other bits of homework, 15 to 20 minutes on gradegorilla.com will make a significant improvement into your grades in the long run, but actually it's not that hard for you to do right now.
So I hope you found all this advice useful.
I have gone through lots of actionable tips and lots of pieces of advice that I've raced through basically, I'll write a lot of it below and you may have taken notes, but if you want more help on this, I do have a study kit that
you can download, it's free. And that helps you along the process of looking at the strategies towards improving your grades in IB physics, looking at the strategies you can employ in your own individual study to make sure that you start improving rather than just doing IB physics.
So if you'd like a copy of my starter study kit for IB physics, you can download it from this page.
Great episode today.
I'll be back next week with something else
about IB physics, bye.