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How to Study for IB Chemistry SL/HL Test

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Studying for the IB tests can be stressful. But, if you have everything planned out, you’ve got nothing to worry about! Preparing for the Chemistry test is the same as preparing for any other science exam. Let me give you a gist of what the best way to prepare for your test is:

  1. Go through the IB Chemistry syllabus
  2. Recall through the paper 1 MCQs
  3. Assimilate the topics from the syllabus in chunks & recall chapter-wise questions
  4. Prepare for the IB Chemistry test using paper 2 questions and revise

Now that we got an outline of our process, let’s go through it in detail:

Going through the IB Chemistry Syllabus

The first and foremost thing to pick up while going through the IB chemistry syllabus is the IB chemistry guide provided by IB. The guide covers all the topics in the syllabus that are covered in the examinations. It is vital to read the brief of the 3 important sections in the IB chemistry guide before you begin learning the topics from the IB chemistry syllabus. The three sections are as following:

  • Understandings: This needs to be revised and studied for the exams. You will tend to save time by reading the most crucial topics rather than reading unnecessary points.
  • Applications & Skills: This section covers and lists all possible calculations done under the specific topic. One tip I can give you for sure is that to thoroughly understand the calculations, practice is of utmost importance! Find questions of these types i.e. with the specific calculations and practice them as many times you can. This is a guaranteed way to improve your exam performance in this section.
  • Guidance: This section talks about what may or may not come in the exam or whether you would need to memorize a formula or a fact. It also gives you a brief of what your depth of studying should be in the particular topics of the IB chemistry syllabus.

The key reason to go through the guide before anything else first is to understand what is required to be learned and what should not be missed out. The IB will only ask questions from its IB Chemistry syllabus hence you should be thorough of what you’ll be asked in the exam. This is only the first step to the best way to prepare for the test.

Recall through Paper 1 MCQs

Now that you have revised the topics, it is time to test yourself! This need not be done at the end of the revision. This can be done at different times while studying:

  • You can either start by answering MCQs before delving into the revision of the concepts from the syllabus. This will help you understand which topics are your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, according to that, you will be able to segregate your time efficiently; skim through topics that you know and spend more time on topics that you think need more revision. 
    • If you do not know the answer to the question, try to force yourself to think of the most logical response to the question and work through the paper. 
    • If you do it beforehand, you’ll immediately know where your mind goes blank at which specific question. That’ll let you know that you need to revise that specific concept no matter what.
  • After completing 4-5 concepts of revision, you can test yourself on these 4 concepts specifically. This will let you know how you have revised and if you’ve done it well. Furthermore, after the test, continue with the next 4-5 topics and then attempt MCQs based on the next 4 concepts and see how it goes. 

TIP: Do not take your MCQ paper lightly as it carries 30% of your grade. If you ace this paper, it will guarantee you these marks. 

Assimilate the topics from the syllabus in chunks & recall chapter-wise questions

Studying the syllabus topic wise can keep you organized in terms of what you will be revising for the exam. One topic from the IB chemistry syllabus every day should take you 13 days to extensively cover all 13 topics. Once you have a basic knowledge of all the topics, you can go ahead and repeat the cycle. Only this time, you can speed up the revising process by taking up two topics a day. This will just brush up your memory of what you learned in depth throughout the 13 days before the second cycle. In order to be more organized, you can put up a timetable! I was always keen on having a timetable not only because it kept my time management in check, but also because it was fun to make and cross out the day after finishing the topic for that said day. Going through the syllabus 3 times is more than sufficient to be well versed with the significant concepts of the IB chemistry syllabus before the exam.

Also Read : How to get a 7 on your Biology IA

Adding on, how does one maximize their understanding of the key concepts of the IB chemistry syllabus? Is it easy? It is easy if you really attempt to focus and understand whatever you read. You can attempt to follow this process to revise:

  1. To begin, study materials that help give you a broader understanding of the concepts. Materials like the Pearsons or Cambridge IB textbook will aid you in doing just that. Additionally, you can refer to youtube videos as well since some of the videos give you an exhaustive explanation of how every problem is solved. 
  2. Next, you can make your rough notes from the study material that you have gone through. Chemistry is considered a visual subject too, therefore, while you make your rough notes, make sure to include diagrams along with your textual information. A personal opinion is that anything represented in the form of a diagram makes it easier to understand, as the mindset of reading paragraphs is not applicable when you refer to said diagrams. 
  3. Once you have all your notes, a good tip would be to convert all your notes into questions. These can be called recall questions; every point on the IB chemistry syllabus can be turned into a question, and you’ll be able to recall the answers since you wrote the notes. 
  4. When you finish revising a topic, do not forget to go back to it. You need to actively test your understanding on the specific concept which means you will have to test yourself either using the recall questions you formulated or the question bank (chapter-wise) questions for the particular concept. 
  5. Lastly, focus on studying the concepts you believe you are weaker in and keep revising them using the process above until you are completely comfortable with it. You should be able to answer almost any question that is asked of you based on that topic. The recall questions will assess you on each of these topics. 

Prepare for the IB Chemistry test using paper 2 questions and revise

Upon gaining a broader perspective of all the concepts from the IB chemistry syllabus, practicing paper 2 questions should become your priority now. This paper is crucial since it accounts for 50% of your Chemistry grade. 

Unlike MCQs, attempting to answer paper 2 questions without a strong conceptual understanding can be quite difficult since logic isn’t the only key to answering it. Therefore, I’d suggest you try to incorporate this into your revision sessions in the previous steps. Thereby, you will simultaneously answer the questions every now and then as you understand the concepts. Make sure your concept understanding is strong

While you start off answering with absolutely no revision, you will understand that you won’t be able to answer a lot of questions. Therefore you will progress to making recall questions and revising concepts by testing yourself. Once you have a stronger grasp of your concepts, you should feel confident about your ability to answer the question after all the revision. If you are, this is your sign to start practicing extended answer questions!

To conclude, I would like to say that the entire revision and studying process for the chemistry test can be monotonous, but keep in mind that persistence is crucial. Every step of the way is important for you to be confident with your answers while you attempt the question paper. You might get stressed or irritated in between but that shouldn’t stop you from continuing the process. Being patient is also just as important because getting the 7 you desire isn’t going to come easy! Also keep in mind that understanding goes a long way when compared to just memorizing the points. All the best!

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