Introduction to IB Chemistry and how IB tuition can help

Updated: Jan 12, 2019

IB chemistry is one of the science subjects that students can choose from. Like other sciences, Chemistry is experimental in nature. The study of Chemistry in the IB combines academic rigour with practical and experimental skills. Students will learn about the chemical principles in biological and environmental systems. In this blog post, we will also explore how IB tuition can help students perform better in IB Chemistry.


The IB chemistry course is a very important foundational course for numerous university subjects, including medicine, biological science and environmental science. It is important to note the IB chemistry also helps to develop important mathematical skills and logical thinking skills for students. Moreover, students will get a clearer idea about how scientists conduct experiments, and communicate their ideas amongst the scientific community.


In particular, students will have the opportunity to learn important scientific experiment skills, including experiment design, data collection, data analysis, and evaluative skills.


Below are some of the major aims of the IB Chemistry course:

- To understand and appreciate scientific study in the modern era

- Learn a range of knowledge, skills and techniques used in modern scienceLearn to analyse and evaluate scientific data

- Develop communicative skills that is appropriate for sciences

- Learn fundamental chemistry skills and knowledge required in further education

- Become aware and develop a good understanding of the ethical implications of the application of science


It is important to also understand the assessment of both the HL and SL course


For the HL course, there are 4 assessments that count for marks


Paper 1: In this paper, students will need to answer 40 multiple choice questions. This assessment counts for 20%. This assessment will cover the core topics and the HL topics. One hour is the allowed time for this exam


Paper 2: This paper counts for 36% of the total marks and includes data response and short answer questions. 2.25 hour is the allowed time for the exam. Similar to the paper 1, the assessment will be on the core and HL topics


Paper 3: Data response and short answer questions will be the focus of this paper, which counts for 24% of the marks. The time allowed for this paper is 1.25 hours. Students typically will pick one of the option topics and answer questions only on one option


Individual investigation: In this project, students need to do an experiment and experimental write up from start to finish. Firstly, students will need to design an experiment and write out the procedures. Then, students will need to conduct the experiment


For the SL chemistry course, the content is just half of what HL students will learn, because SL students will only learn the core topics. Students will need to undergo the following assessments


Paper 1: The paper 1 for SL students is similar in style to HL students, in that the paper 1 is still a multiple choice paper. However, due to the fact that the SL curriculum has fewer topics, SL students will only need to answer 30 multiple choice questions instead of 40.


Paper 2: Again, this paper is similar to the HL paper, except that it is slightly shorter in terms of duration and the number of questions due to the fact that SL students study fewer topics


Paper 3: Again, the exam style is similar to the HL. Students will need to study one of the options and then answer exam questions related to one of the options


Individual investigation: SL students and HL students will have the same requirements for this assessment



Should you pick HL Chem or SL Chem?


Firstly, it is important to understand what is the difference between HL and SL chem. As mentioned above, HL students need to learn 20 topics, whereas SL students only need to learn 10. Essentially, the 10 extra topics that HL students will need to learn are extensions to the SL topic. For example, while SL students need to learn the SL portion of bonding, HL students will also need to learn HL portion of the topic. Typically, the HL portion of topics are more challenging than the SL ones. In terms of the exams, the HL exam includes many more tricky questions compared to the SL exam and requires stronger problem solving capabilities. This means that HL students will need to learn double the amount the content that SL students learn and the extra portion that HL students learn is considerably harder compared to the Sl topics. It is fair to say that to get a Level 7 in Chemistry HL would require more than double the time to get a Level 7 in Chemistry SL.


Thus, it is important to understand that HL chemistry is significantly more challenging and more time consuming to study relative to SL Chemistry. Compared to many other subjects, such as economics or business, the gap between HL and SL chemistry is significantly harder.


Therefore, we suggest only students who have a very strong passion for Chemistry or absolutely have to take chemistry HL to do Chemistry HL. Who are the students that absolutely have to do Chemistry HL? It is the students that want pursue university subjects that require Chemistry HL, such as Medicine. It is important for students to do their own research to find out the university requirements of their dream university subject and decide whether to take chemistry HL. Such information is normally available in the websites of universities.


If there is no university requirement for you to take Chemistry HL, taking Chemistry SL would be a wise choice, because Chemistry SL is significantly easier than chemistry HL. Instead of doing Chemistry HL, we would recommend other HL subjects that are easier, such as business or economics.




Apart from the options, there are 11 main topics that IB Chemistry SL students and 21 topics for IB chemistry HL


Topic 1 (Stoichiometry, recommended to use 13 hours to teach): In this chapter, students will learn to make many calculations that are essential to the study of chemistry, such converting between moles and molecules and calculating the quantity of products produced in a chemical reaction.


Topic 2 (Atomic structure, recommended to use 6 hours to teach): In this topic, students will learn about the fundamental elements of an atom and various chemistry concepts regarding an atom


Topic 3 (Periodicity, recommended to use 6 hours to teach): In this topic, students will learn about the trends in the periodic table, such as trends of melting point, boiling point and electronegativity.


Topic 4 (Bonding, recommended to use 13.5 hours to teach): Students will learn about various types of bonding and their unique qualities, including metallic bonding, covalent bonding etc.


Topic 5 (Energetics, recommended to use 9 hours to teach): Students will learn to calculate the enthalpy change during a reaction, and also experimental procedures that can be used to find out the enthalpy change of a reaction in an experimental setting. Moreover, students will learn other techniques to calculate enthalpy change, such as bond enthalpy.


Topic 6 (Kinetics, recommended to use 7 hours to teach): This chapter is all about rate of reaction. Students will learn about various methods to calculate the rate of reaction.

Topic 7 (Equilibrium, recommended to use 4.5 hours to teach): Students will be first be exposed to the concept of equilibrium. Then, students will learn about factors that shifts the position of equilibrium.


Topic 8 (Acid and bases, suggested to use 6.5 hour to teach): Firstly, students will learn about the characteristics and nature of acids and bases. Secondly, students learn about the ways to measure the acidity or alkalinity of a substance and also, the typical reactions between acids and bases.


Topic 9 (Redox reaction, suggested to use 8 hours to teach): Students will learn about the concept of oxidation and reduction, and the idea of oxidising agent and reducing agent. Moreover, students will learn to identify the oxidising agent and the reducing agent in a reaction.


Topic 10 (Organic chemistry, suggested to use 11 hours to teach): There are various sub-topics in this chapter. Students will learn about various types of organic structures, including alkanes, alkenes, alcohols etc. Moreover, for each of these organic structures, students will learn about the reactions.


Topic 11 (Data processing, suggested to use 10 hours to teach): Students will learn important experimental and data processing skills.


Topic 12 (Only for HL students, atomic structure, recommended to use 2 hours to teach): In this topic, students will learn more advanced concepts regarding atomic structure, such as the concept of orbitals.


Topic 13 (Only for HL students, periodicity, recommended to use 2 hours to teach): This is a more advanced version of topic 3, where students will learn more advanced theories regarding periodicity.


Topic 14 (Only for HL students, bonding, recommended to use 4 hours to teach): Students will learn more complicated and advanced concepts on bonding, such as the concept of sigma bond or pi bond.


Topic 15 (Only for HL students, energetics, recommended to use 7 hours to teach): Students will study more advanced concepts related to enthalpy, such as the use of enthalpy cycles.


Topic 16 (Only for HL students, Kinetics, recommended to use 6 hours to teach): More advanced concepts related to kinetics will be taught. This chapter is an extension to topic 5.


Topic 17 (Only for HL students, equilibrium, recommended to use 4 hours to teach): This is an extension to topic 7, where students will learn more advanced concepts related equilibrium.


Topic 18 (Only for HL students, acid and bases, recommended to use 10 hours to teach): Again, this is the extension to topic 8, and students will learn more advanced theres related to acid and base, such as calculating the acid and base dissociation constant and the concept Lewis acids.


Topic 19 (Only for HL students, redox reactions, recommended to use 6 hours to teach): This is the higher level portion of topic 9, where students will learn more advanced concepts, such as the standard electrode potential.


Topic 20 (Only for HL students, organic chemistry, recommended to use 12 hours teach): This is the higher level portion of topic 10, students will learn various new types of organic compounds and new types of reactions.


How would our IB tuition help?


Our IB chemistry experts have produced concise lesson notes on each topic that can help students master the fundamental concepts in a very short time frame. In each of our IB tuition lesson, our IB expert will explain and break down the complicated concepts in a simple manner. After breaking down concepts, we will go through sorted by topic IB style exam questions, where we will make sure our students can apply their concepts to solve exam questions.

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