When you look at the IB Chemistry Subject Guide much of the first 19 pages or so is taken up with material which is essentially the same for all Group 4 subjects and chemistry really only comes into its own with the syllabus which starts on page 20. Quite helpfully the syllabus is actually given three times. It starts with a syllabus outline (see below), this is then followed by the syllabus content and finally the detailed syllabus is given which also contains guidance for the teacher.

Syllabus overview

Background and rationale

In the past (up until 1997) there was an IB Standard Level only subject called Applied Chemistry in addition to Higher Level and Standard Level Chemistry. Applied Chemistry was essentially chemistry and society and at one point several of us met to decide what basic understanding of chemistry a student needed if they were going to be ‘chemically literate’ and be able to apply their chemistry to the problems of society. We came up with eleven separate topics which formed the core of Applied Chemistry and essentially these are the core topics of today – the only real change is that one topic ‘States of Matter’ has been replaced by ‘Measurement and data processing’. Applied Chemistry had another major influence on today’s syllabus too –the current options originate from Applied Chemistry as in the past Chemistry at both Standard Level and Higher Level was just a theoretical subject with no options.

Current syllabus

The syllabus ouline given on pages 20 and 21 of the guide is a helpful summary as it also gives suggested times that should be spent on teaching each topic. These times are not mandatory and are only a rough guide. It is worth noting that the times do not include the practical work which may also be done on each topic. Apart from Topic 1: Stoichiometric relationships, the remaining ten topics are covered in greater depth to make up the Additional Higher Level material (AHL) (Topic 21 is called Measurement and analysis but follows on from the spectroscopy covered in Topic 11). The guide gives the core then the AHL. In some ways it is easy to see the core as Standard level and then the core and AHL together for Higher Level.

Syllabus outline


TopicName of topicTeaching hours
Topic 1Stoichiometric relationships13.5
Topic 2Atomic structure  6
Topic 3Periodicity  6
Topic 4Chemical bonding & structure13.5
Topic 5Energetics/thermochemistry  9
Topic 6Chemical kinetics  7
Topic 7Equilibrium  4.5
Topic 8 Acids and bases  6.5
Topic 9Redox processes  8
Topic 10Organic chemistry  11
Topic 11Measurement and data processing   10
Total hours  95

 Core and AHL

TopicsName of topic

  Teaching hours

Core / AHL    

Topic 1Stoichiometric relationships13.5 / -
Topics 2 & 12Atomic structure  6 / 2
Topics 3 & 13Periodicity[1]  6 / 4
Topics 4 & 14Chemical bonding & structure13.5 / 7
Topics 5 & 15Energetics/thermochemistry  9 / 7
Topics 6 & 16Chemical kinetics  7 / 6
Topics 7 & 17Equilibrium4.5 / 4
Topics 8 & 18 Acids and bases6.5 / 10
Topics 9 & 19Redox preocesses  8 / 6
Topics 10 & 20Organic chemistry11 / 12
Topics 11 & 21Measurement & data processing[2]10 /  2
Total hours

 95 / 60


There are also four options. Each option takes up 15 hours of teaching time at Standard Level and 25 hours of teaching time at Higher Level. Both Standard and Higher Level students are expected to study just one of the four options.

Option A : Materials

Option B : Biochemistry

Option C : Energy

Option D : Medicinal chemistry


  1. ^ At AHL this topic is called, "The periodic table - the transition metals".
  2. ^ At AHL this topic is called, "Measurement and analysis".
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.