This blog is being written at the end of quite a stressful weekend for the students.  The first two Physics exams (P1 & P2) were on Friday and then the final P3 today.

Part of my build-up for the students is to always tells them that the best way to revise is to look a past exam papers, go through the questions topic by topic, and then look at the marking schemes.  There should obviously also be a place for doing complete exams, to get a feel for the ‘balance’ of a paper and the timing, but again, past exam questions are the key.

With this in mind, the students were stressed somewhat because of the fact that this was the new syllabus with potentially new styles for the exams and really importantly, no option to miss out topics by not choosing a particular question in P2 (Section B) – there are no choices, there is only – do it all!  For those students that were a little weak, and relied on being able to miss some of the topic areas (e.g., SHM or Capacitors for those that do not love the maths), this was nerve-wracking.

The other thing I tell students is that no matter how many papers you have looked at in the past, the ones that you sit will always seem to be the worst papers you have ever seen – so don’t worry about them being hard – they will be.  I guess I should also point out that I tell them this with a slight smile on my face and my tongue somewhat in my cheek.

Unfortunately this year, it does seem like the first papers of the new syllabus have been very tough.  P1 had a slightly different feel to it, with less questions based on images of some form and quite a few question in which the students felt the answer linked to a particular use of a word in English i.e., not to physics principles.  Paper 2 was described by some students as a complete and utter nightmare, like none they had experienced before!

This was followed by lots of complaints on the web, both about the papers and also, about the fact that some teachers were apparently not teaching the new syllabus but in fact, had taught the old syllabus – which meant that the emphasis in many areas was wrong, the focus for experimentation was wrong and some key areas like capacitors, were simply not covered.

Also note that the paper is defined at TZ0 – a designation that is used in November exams to indicate that it is not time-zoned.  As such, I suspect that the whole world sat the same paper – is this good or not – not sure, but generally this would not be considered a good thing – which is why the IB time-zone the papers!

Finally, there was a notice sent out to centres to remind students to read the front page of the exam carefully and follow the instructions – I suspect this is because of the different Section B where there are now no choices – some students may have only been answering a limited number of questions because that is what they thought they should do – not good.

Thank goodness for Paper 3 today – it seems to have saved the day somewhat, in being relatively straightforward.

So what do we do now?  The game is not over yet. PLEASE make sure that you find a little time to have a chat with your students.  Get a feel from them of what they felt – they will not remember very well, but they will give you their ‘gut feelings’ about the papers and the particular questions they did not like.  Then see if you can form a loose link with any other IB schools and go through the paper with them.  Finally, ensure you get a G2 form and FILL IT IN – the IB want your feedback and they do take it into account.  Those teachers that know me, know that I do not follow a ‘party line’ – I speak as I see – so when I say that the IB ‘do’ take note, they will.  Just don’t expect too much once the results are published – it is too late then.

Remember the G2 form.

Finally, before we start this all over again, there are two big things to also consider:

  1. How do we support the students when they get their results?
  2. How do we learn from this first year to make the next year better?

Both of these items will be discussed in the next four blogs.  Until then… be happy!