This blog was written by Dave Allen, an experienced IB Chemistry teacher. To read more Chemistry blogs for students and teachers, click here.

This is the fourth and final blog post on pre-IB Chemistry. I do hope you have found the mini-series interesting and helpful, hopefully it will have talked you into deciding to follow chemistry at diploma level!

This blog post will involve an introduction to lab (practical) work at IB level. You may or may not be aware that your IB course involves lab work. This is a good thing as chemistry is a practical science. You learn by doing and the practical side of the course should be used to introduce new parts of chemistry to you, as well as being used to reinforce theory that has already been taught in class.

At IB level you need to follow at least 60 hours of lab work for HL and 40 hours for SL. Both of these time allocations are set by the IB and are non-negotiable. That said, out of the 60 / 40 hour allocation, 10 hours is taken up with the ‘Group 4 Project (G4P). The G4P is something that everybody studying a science needs to do (so that is nearly all of the DP students!) It is a collaborative exercise where you work together with your peers on a project of your choosing. Well, not quite your choosing…. Teachers will give you a theme and you will then decide on a topic in this theme (for example, the theme given by your teachers may be ‘The School Environment’ and you and your peers may decide to look at ‘recycling in school’). There are many ways a school can organize the G4P so I will not elaborate as I may contradict what your school does.

10 hours lab time is also taken up with the ‘Internal Assessment (IA)’ or ‘Individual Investigation (II)’. It’s actually the same thing. It used to be called IA, is now called II but most teachers still call it by its old name (ie, IA). The II is worth 20% of your final mark and will be a chemistry investigation chosen by you on a topic of your choice. Most students will seek to extend something they have already been taught but this does not have to be the case.  This will probably be a lab based experiment but it could also be theoretically based, using an database for example.

Some other time in the practical side of the course is taken up with ‘prescribed practicals’  – these are labs that the IB states you have to carry out. Depending on how you look at this, there are 10 or 11 prescribed practicals. These are very important as you will potentially have exam questions on these at the end of the course. Listen closely to your teacher and ask questions about the method as these are sometimes the types of questions that the IB asks you.

The remainder of the time will be taken up by experiments of your teachers choice and should help enhance your understanding of the subject.

Do you have any questions about lab work? As with the other pre-IB blog posts, this is brief and just aims to give you a flavor of what to expect but if you do have any questions, please post them below and I will answer them.

Good luck!

Want to get ahead in the IB? Attend a Pre IB Summer School in Oxford, UK or Boston, US to meet students from all over the world and be taught by world-class IB teachers.