IB Chemistry teaching

How does teaching IB chemistry differ to teaching chemistry within your own national system?

In some ways this question is impossible to address as of course there are many different national systems so apologies if I have to make some generalisations. In fact if you are used to teaching Chemistry at a pre-university level within your own national curriculum you will not find that there are many major differences. After all, chemistry is chemistry and concepts such as equilibrium, redox and acid and bases are universal. For most teachers the contents of the core (and the AHL for Higher Level) should not be significantly different from what you are used to[1]. Some of the material on some of the options you are likely to be familiar with as well but there is other material on some of the options (e.g.Targeted Alpha Therapy (TAT) and Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) in Option D: Medicinal chemistry) that you may well find is unique to the IB for this age group.

Apart from some of the syllabus content I think that there are essentially two major differences between teaching IB Chemistry and teaching Chemistry to 16-19 year olds in other systems.

Being aware of the other demands on students

In most systems chemistry teachers really do not need to concern themselves too much with the other subjects that students are studying. However the Diploma nature of the IB means that there are constant demands being made on students and they will need to be able to organise their time carefully. During the two years they will have big essays to write such as their EE and their TOK essay and they will have much internally assessed coursework to complete. All of these pieces of work will have defined deadlines. It can be really helpful for someone in your school – usually the IB coordinator- to draw up a calendar of all the deadlines in all subjects. The calendar below is an example of this. It might be slightly out of date now but the precise details do not really matter as each school will be different anyway depending upon which subjects they offer. The important thing is to see that the number of deadlines is large.

Using your school’s own calendar each of your students can highlight which ones apply to their own particular six subjects and the IB core (TOK and EE). Personal tutors can guide their tutees in this. Students can then plan their work and timetable accordingly. What this means is that you cannot make unreasonable demands on them. You may be covering a topic and at the end of one lesson you might like them to complete some homework overnight doing examples before you move on with the topic in the next lesson on the following day. This may well be unreasonable as they may have other commitments. What you will need to do is learn to negotiate with them and agree a date when it is reasonable for them to complete the work.

Putting chemistry into context

As well as the purely chemical content of the syllabus you will also need to incorporate several other types of content into how you plan and teach your chemistry. Separate help is given on this site for all of these but as you teach you will need to also include examples of:

  •  Nature of Science
  •  International-mindedness
  • Theory of Knowledge
  • ICT
  • Utilization

In addition you will be engaged in the Group 4 Project and may well have to supervise students who choose chemistry as the IB subject for their Extended Essay.


  1. ^ There may be some differences between the core content and what you currently teach depending on which national system you are working in. For example, teachers from the US might be surprised how much organic chemistry there is on the core/AHL as in the United States organic chemistry is not covered in any great detail until university. 
All materials on this website are for the exclusive use of teachers and students at subscribing schools for the period of their subscription. Any unauthorised copying or posting of materials on other websites is an infringement of our copyright and could result in your account being blocked and legal action being taken against you.