Preparations for the new Physics course starting this September MUST start now to avoid potential disaster.

As all IB physics teachers should know, the revision of the Group 4 subjects has been essentially completed and the new syllabus for Physics begins this September – for first examination in 2016.

The truth is that we are still waiting for sufficient exemplar IA materials – material that teachers can blind mark to the new marking criteria, producing marks which match the accepted values.  Also, we are awaiting sample exams that reflect the changes which are about to ‘hit’ the external assessment.  All in all, it is probably fair to say that the state we are in at the moment, we should have been in 1 year ago – but somehow, the process has all been delayed.

It is likely that the delays have been caused by the IB’s real need to ensure that the changes that take place are well thought out and are best for the subject.  We could argue about whether this has actually been achieved or not, but this would be a waste of valuable time.  The most important point in all of this is that teachers now learn the new rules of the game and how to play it best for their students.  Some of these aspects are discussed below.

The main changes for Physics are:

–          The syllabus.

–          The coursework.

–          The exams.

The above are basically saying that the main changes are … everything!  And we will now cover the changes in a brief way – future blogs will focus on the above three areas in a lot more detail.

The Syllabus.  One of the main changes is that the options system has been greatly reduced.  There are now only 4 options available – all having an SL and HL version.  Teachers must choose 1 of these to teach.  The impact this has had on the core and extended core is that they have increased in size.  Since one option has now been removed, the extra hours that this creates, has been added to the core and extended core.  Further, the options that are no longer part of the course, have been sliced up and some of the material from the redundant options has been selectively used to supplement the main material.  This means that a lot of the core and extended core is material which was once part of the options and as such, may not be well-known to teachers – preparation will be needed.

The coursework.  This is made of two parts – the Practical Scheme of Work (PSOW) and the Internal Assessment (IA).  The IA will be a single piece of work which allows the students to investigate something of personal interest.  This sounds a little like an Extended Essay and although the IB are keen to ensure that this similarity is not promoted, it is worth thinking of it like this, at least in order to get the ideas sorted out – the work must allow the students to use their personal interest and design what they which to investigate, analyse and conclude.

The danger is that some students may not have such an enriched practical experience in light of this single piece of work and so, the IB still require a PSOW with the same number of hours.  Further, the IA will require good use of such practical skills and finally, the practical skills developed over the course will be examined.

The exams.  The format of paper 1 and 2 will be similar to the present exams – multiple choice questions and questions based on the core.  The difference will be in paper 3 where the questions will be essentially based on the option and also on the practical work.

In summary, the changes are significant and teachers must ensure they are prepared.  The IA may only be one piece, but the skills needed to ensure it is carried out efficiently should begin from the start of the course.  As such, the next few blogs will consider the above issues in more detail.