Was the SL paper 2 too difficult?
Tuesday 13 July 2021
There has been a lot of discussion on the IB physics teachers group about the difficulty of the physics exam in particular the SL exam, this has been provoked by the low grade boundaries in the 2 papers.
7 - 60%
6 - 53%
5 - 47%
4 - 40%
3 - 23%
2 - 20%
1 - 17%
7 - 60%
6 - 44%
5 - 26%
4 - 14%
3 - 8%
2 - 6%
1 - 4%
Remember the grades are supposed to be defined by the following table (this might be out of date, I haven't checked for a new version, but the principle is the same).
Can you really claim that a student gaining 14% in paper 2 has a reasonable knowledge and adequate understanding of the subject? I don't think so, a reasonable knowledge should be more like 40%. This exam was too difficult which means it was not suitable for testing students at this level. If we took the extreme case that nobody could answer any of the questions then either everyone would get 1 or 7, there would be no differentiation. In sport climbing route setters have the same problem, if its too easy everyone gets to the top, if too difficult no one gets off the ground. The competition would have to be run again and I guess the IB would go by the predicted grades. The situation here isn't so extreme but there would be a point when they would have to say the exam was null and void. The situation is quite extreme though, I wonder how much they relied on predicteds to get the final grade. There must have been some correlation otherwise there would be about 2 grades difference between students in schools doing the exam and schools taking the non exam route. I thought I might analyse the exam to see what is going wrong.
Paper 2 is supposed to be 50% Objective 1&2 50% objective 3, these objectives are related to the command terms.(this is a shortened list).
Let's see how the paper stands up. I'm afraid I can't post the paper here, if you want a copy email me or leave a comment.
So, there are too many obj 1 and 2 questions, it should have been too easy! But look at the number of obj. 1 questions, only 12%. Let's take a closer look.
- 4c is drawing arrows on an N vs Z graph, this is not easy, I think its more of a "plot" than a "draw" and that's obj. 2.
- 5bii is draw the position of nodes from the information given. I think this is deduce obj. 3.
- 6d State 2 reasons why future energy demands will increasingly be reliant on sources such as photovoltaic cells. The IB definition of state is: " Give a specific name, value or other brief answer without explanation or calculation ." This is not a state question. Outline may be more appropriate. " Give a brief account or summary " obj. 2
- 4a Write down the A and Z numbers (6 in total) for an electron capture reaction. This isn't even on the syllabus, it's a deduce and calculate question.
So there we have it, no easy marks in the whole paper!
In extreme cases I advise students who have very little understanding of the concepts to simply memorise all definitions and laws so they can at pick up some easy marks. That advice would have got them zilch. The difference between a 1 and a 2 can cost a student their diploma.