The IB Physics is generally regarded as a difficult subject, and not without reason. Scoring well in the subject requires a proper foundational and advanced knowledge of physics, its applications, and its limitations (genuine interest in physics definitely helps!). This usually deters students from believing that they can score a 7. However, IB Physics is one of the subjects where the highest percent (about 20% for HL, 15% for SL) of students score a 7. Here are some suggestions on how to achieve a score of 7:
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1. Be thoroughly familiar with the syllabus
The IB exams are structured very closely to the syllabus, which in turn contains all the topics and sub-topics you could be tested on. Therefore, it makes sense to know what you need to cover for the exam. In the exam paper, the first few questions are from the first few topics on the syllabus, and the rest follow in the same order. Try to connect topics that are related (such as, circular motion and simple harmonic motion, or the relationship between atomic physics and electricity) and mark the ones you have trouble understanding as and when you cover them. This helps you keep track of topics to be revised, and easily identify your weak and strong areas, as well as understand how the topics in physics flow.
2. Know your strong and weak areas
Alongside marking out problem areas, use classroom time to help yourself. Ask a question immediately if you don’t understand the teacher’s explanation, until the topic is clear. If there are still doubts remaining, mark the topic for further review at home. Apart from classroom discussions, you use school tests and mock papers as a barometer for identifying weak areas. Once you’ve identified them, start with topics that are translatable to other topics. For example, linear motion helps to understand projectile motion. Keep building on areas you are strong in, and consider forming your IA around them.
3. Flag tricky questions
A good practice is to cover all the example and exercise problems once you’ve finished a topic. Make a note of the problems that give you trouble, and clearly state what concept it tests, so you can come back to it after you’ve reviewed the topic. In general, you must be comfortable with solving and manipulating equations, and identifying hidden variables and units. When you’re reading a question, try to analyse what it’s asking, decide what laws of physics could apply there, and think about the quantities that are provided. Then, build from there.
4. Learn through real world applications
Physics is a very applied subject; most of the formulae you will learn in IB Physics have real-world applications. Tying the theory your textbook teaches to real-life occurrences will solidify your understanding of the formulae as well as help you remember relevant examples.
5. Practice is key
Attempting past years’ papers is very important! Go back at least 7 years, if not 10, during your practice. Make sure you practice these exams as you would do an actual exam: time yourself, don’t refer to your book, and write down complete answers. Do bear in mind that there will be certain questions from past papers that you cannot attempt because the syllabus has changed; skip those questions but attempt the rest. Refer to the mark schemes to check your answers. If you get any answers wrong, use the mark scheme to understand what you absolutely need to mention.
6. Constant revision is underrated
This applies to most subjects, but especially to Physics. Students who score a 7 on IB Physics practice every day, and clarify doubts as soon as they arise. While you’re practicing, jot down the type of mistake you made: was it conceptual? Did you forget to convert units? Did you make a conceptual error or apply the incorrect formula? Because the concepts in IB build on each other, you need to make sure that you are clear on all topics from year 1 before you move on to topics from year 2. While this interconnection automatically allows for constant revision, you can further strengthen it by reviewing topics right after you finish them.
7. Do not ignore your IAs
Scoring well on the internal assessment (IA) is an easy way to maximise your chances of getting a 7 in IB Physics. Firstly, pick a topic you find enjoyable, since you’ll be working on the same project for a long time. Secondly, make sure you start early. Remember that there is no time pressure on the IA, and you’ll have several chances to submit revised versions according to your teacher’s feedback to ensure you’re getting the best score possible. Additionally, make sure you understand the grading rubric to make sure you’re meeting the exact requirements.
While this may seem like a lot, it really has more to do with having the discipline and motivation to practice and study Physics daily rather than cram it last minute. With these tips, you’ll be maximising your chances of scoring a 7.
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