Introduction to IB Physics

International Baccalaureate

The IB has a mission statement in which we have highlighted the distinctive components of this curriculum.

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

More than for other curricula, teachers need to understand that their students are learning a complete Diploma for which international mindedness lies at the heart. Students usually study six subjects, three at Higher Level and three at Standard Level. In addition, they research an Extended Essay, present on Theory of Knowledge and participate in an unassessed Group 4 science project.

With all of this going on, students should be reassured that perfection is not possible, nor is it rewarded. It is normal for students to achieve the maximum Level 7 in Higher Level physics with just 60-70% in the exams. Similarly, students aiming for a very respectable Level 5 need just 50%. This is good news, as it is possible that some members of your class could be new to physics altogether - every IB Diploma student must select at least one science to at least Standard Level.

If you haven't already, it's a good idea to make friends with your school's IB Coordinator, especially if you are the only physicist at your school. They will have an overview of the 'crunch times' for each subject (particularly Internal Assessment deadlines) and be able to advise on school matters to do with planning and assessment.

For more information about the 'Core' of the IB Diploma and how you as a physics teacher can play your part, check out the IB Core section of this site.

Formal IB documentation including the indispensible Subject Guide can be found on My IB in the Programme Resource Centre by clicking on Physics. With all this information available, you might wonder about the point of this site! Well, unfortunately its not that simple. The IB will not tell teachers what they should do; their philosophy is that there are many ways to teach the programme and this should be left up to the teacher. In the past many teachers have interpreted the criteria wrongly and their students have suffered. What we do on this site is to give an example of how to do it - for you to use or to compare with.

Extended Essay

For students submitting their extended essay from 2018 and beyond thing will be a little different. the IB has produced extensive material setting out everything from the responsibilities of the school...

Theory of Knowledge

Although I was involved in team teaching the whole of the TOK course for a couple of years I am certainly no TOK expert however I know someone who is, Richard van de Lagemaat. So, as an introduction I...

Group 4 project

During their normal science classes students work alone or in pairs, the purpose of the group 4 project is to introduce students to the idea that science is a group activity performed by teams and that...

Individual investigation

This section contains information and resources relating to the Internal Assessment, which in physics takes the form of an investigation where students work as individuals.In a nutshell, students are...


Perhaps you came into physics teaching to share the wonders of the universe, to equip the next generation of scientists and engineers with understanding and skills, or simply because you are the best-qualified to do so at your school! Whatever your motivation, we will probably agree on some of the most challenging aspects of this profession:

  • Communicating abstract concepts
  • Teaching the art of problem solving
  • Combatting misunderstandings due to everyday language
  • Engaging students in the big ideas when they'd rather be watching pop Science documentaries
  • Overcoming mistrust in science (or infallible belief in its objectivity)
  • Fitting everything in - the information, practical work, questions and assessments

We believe that this site can support all physics teachers, new or experienced, in overcoming these challenges. The most powerful tool is probably the Activities. Students across an entire class can learn from interactive simulations and quizzes at their own pace, freeing you up to help or extend those who need it. For Higher Level topics we have also included Problem-Based Learning (PBL) resources, to stretch your students' thinking. Why not set up Student Access to track their progress?

For more traditional teachers, we have saved screenshots of Chris' smartboard notes to help you with what to provide as a stimulus for recall during socratic discussions or lectures. Within topics, we have included student sheets for all of the Required Practicals and many optional extras. There are more than enough questions to fill your 2-year course too - multiple-choice, problems and tests for all topics are included in the lesson folders. Why not click on the Circular motion and gravitation topic (the briefest) to see the sorts of resources you can expect across the board?

Most importantly, get in touch if you think we're missing something - we update the site regularly based on your suggestions.

Approaches to T&L

I was going to call this section "unit planners" but unit planners are just a way to help organise the course, encouraging teachers to think about approaches to teaching and learning. Before making a...

Practical work

After many years of development this web site now contains rather more practicals then anyone could actually do in the two year course. I thought it might be worth making a page showing the practicals...

Student access - groups

Imagine if you could ask your students to read a page of this website and your mark book automatically checked that they have done this reading assignment? Perhaps you want students to write a comment...

Circular motion and gravitation

Circular motion and centripetal force Quantities used to define motion in a circle. Centripetal acceleration Centripetal force Examples of circular motionGravitation Newton's universal...

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