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Each subject in the IB has its own unique set of requirements and challenges. As a result, how you study will be different for each subject. Here we will take you through the essentials for studying Chemistry in the IB. 

  1. The Syllabus

The syllabus is an absolutely essential part of studying for any IB subject. The IB are very specific about what they want you to know! If you want to study as efficiently as possible, use the syllabus to guide your revision. This will ensure that you are not learning things that won’t be on the exam!

You can find the IB Chemistry syllabus in the subject guide beginning on page 20. It’s especially useful when you get to organic chemistry as it details all of the reactions you need to know! 

The syllabus has a few different sections for each topic. In the “understanding” section they lay out the concepts you need to know. The “applications and skills” section tells you what kind of questions you need to be able to answer. In the “guidance” section they expand on this. Finally, the right hand side of the table shows you how the concepts link to other subjects such as TOK.

2. The Data Booklet

Knowing your data booklet inside and out will help you be as efficient as possible in the exams. Getting used to using it right from the beginning of the course will help with this. 

The chemistry data booklet is full of tables and diagrams that are given without much context. Having a copy of the data booklet that you can annotate as you learn each topic can help you remember what each one is for. 

3. Don’t Shy Away from Diagrams

Often, diagrams are the easiest way to explain your answers in Chemistry. Students often shy away from them, thinking that they won’t be able to draw them well. Most of the time this isn’t the case! If you’re struggling, give drawing them on dotted paper a go. Here is a free print out of dotted paper. 

Chemistry diagrams are really great because they are so specific in what you need to include. If you take the time to learn these requirements (especially for organic chemistry) then you’ll be set! Check out mark schemes for past papers to see how they give marks for diagrams. Things to watch out for include when you need to include curly arrows and continuing bonds in polymers! 

4. Stay on Top of the Content

What makes IB Chemistry (at both SL and HL) challenging is the sheer volume of content in the course. Making sure that you stay on top of content as you go through the year can make a massive difference when it comes to revising for the exams. 

Be proactive with checking your understanding. Keep a running list of questions to ask your teacher or tutor as you work through homework and past paper questions. If you’re finding a concept particularly challenging, set a reminder to look at it again in a few days time. Frequent revision will help ensure that you aren’t forgetting concepts as new ones are introduced. 

If you want a more in depth look at revision for IB Chemistry, check out our free revision guide here. We have videos explaining specific topics (such as acids and bases) in depth on our YouTube channel. If you would like to speak with someone about your Chemistry questions check out our tuition services or speak to one of our student success coaches

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