Arguably, this is the most stressful time in the last 2 years for IB students.  Not only are the exams here, but they have a frequency that is quite scary, like dominoes toppling one immediately after the other. In addition of course, there are 6 subjects that all need the revision of 2 years of work in a short period of time.  If that was not enough, the Physics exams are even worse because they are so tough – they will sometimes feel like a personal attack on the mind!

Last year saw the first exams for this new version of the course. When the exams were taken, two of the questions were considered by most students to be so hard, that they were thought to be ‘unfair’. So much so, that a petition was set up to complain to the IB. This blog is in part, aimed at trying to give a different perspective to these kind of exams – aimed at allowing students to stay calm and not panic.

The overall results last year were fine – typical of what would be produced in the past.  This was because the grade boundaries were lower than normal.  This was to cater to the fact that the exams were found to be quite tough. This in itself tells you that it is not worth worrying about the ‘hardness’ of the exam – the exams you sit will be HARD – very hard – so hard, you will have never seen an exam harder. That is usually the way it feels for students … and it does not matter. If the exams are really hard, then everyone does poorly and the grade boundaries are lowered.

What about the couple of questions that will be really tough – don’t worry – if they are so tough that hardly anyone can answer them, then they will make no difference to the grades produced – because they did not discriminate between students – so do not worry about them.

Fact: You do not need to do well in an exam to get a ‘7’. You just need to do better than other students. This means that when the exam seems tough, keep going. Never give up because every mark will mean that you are slightly higher in the cohort of students and therefore more likely to get the higher grades.

Remember that unlike exams from the previous versions of the syllabus, there are no choices in the IB exam now – you must answer every question, so try your best. The marking schemes tend to work on the basis of short pieces of information triggering the marks.  If the question is a descriptive one, rather than mathematical, and you do not know how to answer, then think for a moment about the topic area and then neatly write down all of the information you can think of about the topic – you might then hit a marking point.

Some students know that the IB will ask about the Nature of Science in the exams. And your teachers have probably said that they do not know what these questions will be like.  Well this is right – we don’t because we have not had these before – so don’t worry – if no one knows what to write then it is the same for everyone and it will not matter. Again, the way to approach weird questions about the nature of historical development of science is leave these questions towards the end of the exam time, and write down everything you can think of about the topic – even basic information – again we are just trying to hit a marking point. If you don’t know how to answer the question, literally ignore the question, identify the topic and again, write everything down.

Finally, consider getting together in groups over these last few days, work together through problems – help each other and explain answers to each other – in this way, you will become stronger. All students should have done enough revision now, to be able to have some confidence in talking to other Physics students about the material.

And of course… good luck!