A Complete Guide to IB Physics (HL & SL) in Singapore by Our Top IB Physics Tutors

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The Complete Guide to IB Physics (HL/SL) in Singapore

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) aims to equip IB students with the essential knowledge and real-world application skills to prepare them for their further studies in university as well as in their future careers. Through the IBDP Curriculum, IB students will study subjects that develop their open-mindedness, intercultural understanding and holistic development. During the 2-year course, IB students will be required to study 6 subjects, one from each subject group, in addition to completing the central core elements including the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course and the Extended Essay (EE).

With such a rigorous course, both IB students and their parents may be concerned for the students’ ability to do well in IBDP. Additionally, Singapore has always been one of the top-performing countries in the IB Examinations, thus making it an extremely competitive environment for students to excel in. As the Top Provider for Physics Tuition, MindFlex understands the concerns and worries that many IB students have. As such, our team at MindFlex has put together an Ultimate Guide to IB Physics, including some resources that will be helpful to any IB students that go through the IB Physics (HL/SL) Curriculum.

1. An Overview to IB Physics

IBDP students are expected to study one course from each subject group, namely Studies in Language and Literature, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Sciences, Mathematics, and the Arts.

Under the Sciences Group, IB students have the choice to choose Physics as one of the 6 subjects offered under this particular group. Choosing Physics in the IBDP Curriculum further provides students with the option to choose between IB SL Physics and IB HL Physics, with the latter being a more rigorous and content-heavy level of the subject. Should students choose to take up this subject, students must understand that it is imperative to achieve good grades as well as to develop creative and logical thinking in order to thrive in our data-rich world today.

It is also important to keep in mind that the IBDP Curriculum involves several components where students are assessed throughout the curriculum, which would mean that IB Physics students have to be consistent in their learning of the IB Physics syllabus. IB students will also have to pick up skills such as scientific thinking and quantitative reasoning, which require immense critical thinking and are not easy to master. Here at MindFlex, we have a large pool of experienced IB Physics tutors ranging from part-time tutors to ex-MOE teachers to help your child in their IB Physics journey.

2. Difference between SL (Standard Level) and HL (Higher Level) in IB Physics

Under the IBDP Sciences Curriculum, Physics is the most fundamental of the experimental sciences and is one of the more popular Science options that many IBDP students take on to fulfill the Science Group in their studies. Before delving into the specifics of the IB Physics curriculum, it is important that we first understand the key differences between SL Physics and HL Physics that are both offered under the IBDP Curriculum.

While there are core skills and activities common to both IB SL Physics and IB HL Physics, the main difference between SL and HL Physics is one of breath and depth, with the former focusing on breath while the latter delving into the depth of the subject. IB Physics students at HL are required to study some SL Physics topics in greater depth as well as to take on additional topics not covered in the IB SL Physics level. Some of these topics include Electromagnetic Induction, Quantum and Nuclear Physics, and Fields. Additionally, IB Physics students at HL are also expected to study extension material of a more demanding nature, which is not offered to IB Physics students at SL level.

3. Objectives of IB Physics

The primary objective of the IB Physics Curriculum is to develop IB Physics students’ abilities in comprehending, interpreting and critiquing scientific theories and concepts learnt, as well as to hone the students’ abilities in applying these theories into their practical lessons. Through these objectives under the IB Physics Curriculum, it is expected that students are able to inculcate in twenty-first century problem-solving and reasoning skills into their academic and daily lives.

The following Assessment Objectives are aimed towards encouraging students to hone these skills.

1. Knowledge and understanding
IB Physics Students are expected to demonstrate an ability to understand and memorise scientific facts, concepts and terminology while applying the relevant methodologies and techniques.

2. Problem Solving
On top of knowing the scientific facts and information, IB Physics students are required to be able to select and apply their knowledge to solve various problems, in both real-world contexts as well as in abstract problems in the field of Science. Under the IB Physics Curriculum, students are also expected to be able to solve problems independently, in teams, and even in different regions in order to stimulate the way scientific research is conducted within the wider community.

3. Inquiry Approaches
IB Physics students are expected to systematically and logically investigate various situations in both real-world and abstract concepts. This involves organising information and analysing it in a systematic manner, drawing logically sound conclusions, and testing IB Physics students’ own ability to ask and answer questions.

4. Formulate, analyse and evaluate
IB Physics students are expected to make scientific hypotheses, research questions and accurate predictions throughout their studies, while being able to conduct scientific research on relevant scientific primary and secondary data. IB Physics students are also required to be able to apply methodologies and techniques, and communicate scientific explanations and reasonings that are logically sound and precise.

5. Communication and interpretation
IB Physics students are expected to translate and interpret real-world problems into the context of Physics, and bring their scientific knowledge into common real-world situations. IB Physics students should also be able to demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate methodologies and concepts to be used in various different contexts, all while being able to communicate accurately and concisely.

4. IB Physics Exam Format

The IB Physics assessment at SL and HL level comprises both Internal Assessments and External Assessments. The Internal Assessment, contributing to 20% of the final assessment, is an integral part of the course and is compulsory for both SL and HL students. However, the External Assessment for SL and HL levels differ in terms of exam format, weightage and marks. The following states the assessment criteria for IB Physics at SL and HL levels as shown below.

 IB Physics (SL/HL) Examination Format

Here’s a Overview on the IB Physics (SL/HL) Examination Format!

4.1. Standard Level (SL)

External Assessment (3 hours, 80%)

Paper 1 (45 minutes):

No use of calculators. (30 marks, 20%)

30 multiple-choice questions on core material, about 15 of which are common with IB HL Physics. No marks are deducted for incorrect answers.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Paper 2 (75 minutes): 

Permitted use of calculators. (50 marks, 40%)

Short-answer and extended-response questions on core material.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Paper 3 (60 minutes): 

Permitted use of calculators. (35 marks, 20%)

Section A:

One data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work.

Section B:

Short-answer and extended-response questions from one option.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Internal Assessment (20%)

This component is first internally assessed by the teacher and then externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course.

Scientific Exploration

Students are to individually investigate an area of Physics and write a piece on it.

4.2. Higher Level (HL)

External Assessment (4.5 hours, 80%)

Paper 1 (60 minutes):

No use of calculators. (40 marks, 20%)

40 multiple-choice questions on core material, about 15 of which are common with IB HL.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Paper 2 (145 minutes): 

Permitted use of calculators. (95 marks, 36%)

Short-answer and extended-response questions on the core and AHL material.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Paper 3 (75 minutes)

Permitted use of calculators. (45 marks, 24%)

This paper will have questions on core, AHL and option material.

Section A:

One data-based question and several short-answer questions on experimental work.

Section B:

Short-answer and extended-response questions from one option.

Note: The Physics data booklet will be provided for this assessment.

Internal Assessment (20%)

This component is first internally assessed by the teacher and then externally moderated by the IB at the end of the course.

Scientific Exploration

Students are to individually investigate an area of Physics and write a piece on it.

More information can be found under the IB Physics (HL/SL) Syllabus.

5. Challenges Faced in IB Physics

5.1. Inability to Achieve Full Content Mastery

IB Physics students are expected to achieve content mastery in the field of Physics in order to ace in the subject. This would mean that students have to learn, digest and memorise large amounts of content, which may be overwhelming and daunting to many IB Physics students.

With core topics such as thermal physics and mechanics, as well as additional challenging topics including wave phenomena and electromagnetic induction at IB Physics HL level, students may find it difficult to achieve content mastery for all the topics taught under the IB Physics Curriculum. Furthermore, if students are struggling to learn the basic theories and concepts, this may hinder them from answering higher-order thinking questions that build on these foundational scientific facts and information.

5.2. Insufficient Resources for Additional Learning and Revision

With the IB route being less common than the A Level route in Singapore, there would naturally be fewer resources and assessment books available for IB students than for the A levels. In fact, there are only a few credible IB Physics assessment books that are in line with the IB syllabus, one of which being the Oxford IBDP Assessment books.

Apart from resources and assessment books, there is also the lack of past year IB Physics Examination papers that students can access for their revision and practice towards their examination. As a result, students may not have enough practice to be truly confident to sit for their various Internal and External Assessments, which could prove to be detrimental to their IB Physics grades.

5.3. Insufficient Time to Complete the Paper Due to Poor Time Management

The IB External Assessments are extremely rigorous and students usually find themselves struggling to complete the paper due to poor time management or insufficient practice. Regardless of how well-versed with the syllabus content students are, without proper time management, students will still be unable to score well in the IB Physics examinations.

MindFlex recommends students to work on their time management by setting aside time to practice their exam papers under timed conditions in order to simulate real-life exam settings. This way, students will be able to build up their time management skills as well as to familiarise themselves with the speed and accuracy required to complete their paper and do well.

5.4. Feeling Uncertain During Practical Sessions

While some students are competent in learning, understanding and communicating the scientific information taught under the IB Physics Curriculum, it becomes a different ballgame when students have to conduct scientific research and experiments. This involves students applying the relevant concepts and methodologies while conducting hands-on activities to find the accurate answer to the question.

In practical sessions, some students might be confused about the steps on how to get started with conducting scientific experiments, and may also be uncertain about whether they are applying the correct concepts and theories into their experiments. Additionally, different experiments conducted by different students would result in varying results, which further adds to the uncertainty that some students have as to whether they have done the experiment accurately.

6. IB Physics Tips and Resources

With the number of challenges listed above, the IB Physics curriculum would seem daunting. However, these challenges can be resolved and overcome with adequate support and help. Here at MindFlex, we have compiled a short list of tips to score for the IB Physics Examinations!

6.1. IB Physics Tips

1. Create a Personalised Study Plan

It is common for any student to get distracted by their smartphones and social media, amongst the many distractions around us. As such, it is necessary to bring a sense of discipline and structure into a student’s study plan in order to ensure that one is focused on learning the topics covered in the IB Curriculum.

The study plan should be personalised and curated based on every student’s own strengths and areas of weakness in the field of Physics, thus ensuring that more emphasis is placed on the areas that students require more practice and attention in. Moreover, it is important that the study plan that students create for themselves is realistic and attainable, so as not to discourage themselves as they work towards their goal(s). More importantly, it should consist of concrete plans and actions, which will better ensure that students stick to their plan and remain on top of the IB Physics curriculum.

2. Practice, Practice and Practice

It is no secret that learning Physics involves lots of practice in order to drill in the scientific concepts and help students to achieve complete content mastery. However, with a lack of practice, students will not only struggle to understand the content that they learn in lessons, but they will also experience poor time management due to the insufficient exposure to the different types of examination questions. This then translates into doing badly in the IB Physics examinations, which would be detrimental to students.

As such, it is important that students have sufficient practice for every topic that is learnt. MindFlex recommends that students set aside time to have some topical revision and practice after every topic is taught in school, on top of keeping up with school homework and tutorials. This way, students will get sufficient practice by the time they sit for the IB Physics (SL/HL) examinations and assessments.

3. Clear All Doubts

Oftentimes, many students, including IB Physics students, will let all of their doubts accumulate and leave their burning questions unanswered as they procrastinate dealing with them. These doubts and uncertainties could have been easily cleared with a simple question or consultation session with a teacher or tutor, should students be more confident and prompt in dealing with them.

Here at MindFlex, we recommend that students clear all of their misconceptions as promptly as possible, because the sooner students’ doubts are cleared, the faster they can gain mastery in that topic before the examination.

Apply for a free tutor request at MindFlex today to ensure that you / your child has all their questions answered and doubts cleared in time for the IB Physics Examinations! Requesting for an IB Physics Tutor through MindFlex is absolutely free with 0 obligations – just fill in the form and leave the rest to us!

6.2. IB Physics Resources

Here, we have compiled our top 7 resources for your child to aid him/her in their IB Physics preparation.

1. IB Physics Mobile Application

IB Physics is a site run by an IB alumni that hosts comprehensive IB Physics revisions notes in the form of PDFs. These notes are well-presented and concise, as opposed to what you will find in the textbook. From formula booklets to syllabus guides, IB Physics houses important resources that will aid students in their IB Physics revision!

For more information, head over to https://ibphysics.org/ or download their mobile app from Google Play!

Revise IB Physics materials on the go with the IB Physics Mobile App

Revise IB Physics materials on the go with the IB Physics Mobile App


2. Chris Doner’s IB Physics Youtube Channel

Chris Doner’s YouTube channel has an extensive range of quality videos covering most of IB Physics SL and HL curriculum. His videos are highly regarded for being clear and easy to understand. Chris’ teaching is effective and IB aligned, so it is definitely a great resource for students who have trouble keeping up with the IB Physics curriculum in school. These are all videos you can revisit whenever and are free of charge! Check out Chris’ YouTube channel here.

Chris Doner's IB Physics Youtube Channel

Watch Chris Doner’s IB Physics Videos on Youtube to begin your revision online!

3. Studynova

Studynova is a great resource for all things IB Physics. From free lecture videos and quizzes to revision courses, Studynova aims to aid students in the IB Physics journey. Studynova has a plethora of IB Physics study notes, revision videos and even a free question bank with solutions provided! The creator of Studynova, Mitch Campbell also has his own YouTube channel covering IB Physics curriculum and he has a wide range of videos which are easy to understand and concise. Apart from all these free resources, Studynova also offers paid IB Physics courses which will cover content extensively as well as provide students with practice IB questions.

Check out Studynova and Mitch Campbell’s YouTube channel to find out more about IB Physics!

Studynova's IB Physics lecture videos are comprehensive and easy to understand

Studynova’s IB Physics lecture videos are comprehensive and easy to understand

4. Oxford IB Study Guides: Physics for the IB Diploma

All of the important concepts for the 2014 syllabus are reinforced in this detailed Study Guide. This study guide will ensure students develop a comprehensive understanding of key topics. This guide dissects concepts and breaks them down into bite-sized pieces, with illustrations and diagrams to cement understanding. Students will be able to build a strong foundation of assessment skill and gradually develop confidence that will help them tackle examination questions with ease.

Oxford IB Physics Study Guide

Pick up the Oxford IB Physics Study Guide for the most comprehensive and effective assessment book for the IB Physics Curriculum

5. Khan Academy

Khan Academy is becoming an increasingly popular IB resource that has been used by many IB Physics students across the world. With detailed theory videos that summarise all the Physics concepts taught in class, IB Physics students will be able to recap on the past theories learnt in school. Moreover, Khan Academy also provides summary notes and practice questions to assist students in their practice and revision for the IB Physics subject. With Khan Academy website, any IB Physics student will be able to access these free and highly effective IB Physics resources online anywhere, at any time.

Khan Academy IB Physics Website

Khan Academy IB Physics Website offers helpful resources and other materials that will assist any IB Physics students with their revision for the subject

6. IB Physics Tuition

For IB Physics students that need additional academic support in his/her IB Physics journey, you may consider enrolling him/her in IB Physics Tuition. With over 20 different choices, MindFlex has collated a list of IB Physics Tuition Centres that can help your child achieve their desired grades.

7. MindFlex IB Physics Home Tutors

If IB Physics Tuition Centres are not for you, why not give MindFlex’s IB Physics Home Tutors a try? With over 5,000 experienced and highly competent tutors, MindFlex holds one of the largest selections of IB Physics Home Tutors who are able to guide your child in their IB Physics preparation. Enjoy quality education at the comforts of your own home with MindFlex, and watch your grades improve!

7. Conclusion

Here at MindFlex, we know how rigorous and content-heavy the IB Physics Curriculum can be. From the amount of content mastery of scientific concepts required of students to the higher-order Application-style questions in the examinations, the curriculum may seem daunting and overwhelming for some IB Physics students. However, MindFlex believes it is definitely still possible to tackle and excel in the IB Physics Examination!

This is why at MindFlex, our Top IB Physics Tutors are available as an additional academic support to help you ease your burden as you take the IB Physics course. Our IB Physics Tutors can even help you to regularly clear your doubts and misconceptions, as well as guide you on the various scientific and analytical skills that are needed for you to score well in your IB Physics Examinations!

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