When you take the IB Physics exam, you'll be nervous no matter what. But having seen a practice test beforehand will be a huge benefit since you'll know the format of the test cold and will be used to the length and style of the test.
In this article, I will at least try to get you familiar with the exam format by exposing you to IB Physics past papers, both free and paid. I'll also share strategies on how best ot use these IB Physics tests for your own exam prep.
Where to Find Free Past Papers
Disclaimer: these free past papers should be used at your own risk. They are not authorized by the IBO and may have possibly been photocopied and put up online without their consent.
This link includes access to paper 1, paper 2, paper 3, and the mark schemes (answer keys) from each testing session (May and November) for both time zones (for each session, IBO creates 2 different formats for tests taken in different time zones) from May 1999 to May 2018 for IB Physics SL and IB Biology HL.
As I said before, I am issuing a warning for all of these tests. They may be free, but you risk downloading viruses or causing other harm to your computer by accessing some of them.
Note: I am including links to all copies of real IB Physics past papers I could find. I only recommend using those from 2009 to present. Since there have been a couple syllabus changes since 2009, older tests will most likely be too different from the current test to be useful.
I have not been able to find any unofficial IB Physics past papers (ones created from scratch). You should be very wary of any you find. I DO NOT recommend using them, as they may be very different from the actual IB Physics exam.
Where to Find Paid IB Physics Tests
The IBO sells the IB Physics SL and HL past papers from May 2015 to November 2018 on their website. This is the only safe place to get IB Physics past papers to download. To find them, click "Shop Exam Papers." From there, you can sort by year and scan the pages to find Physics papers.
Each paper and each mark scheme costs $3.99. One full exam (including paper 1, paper 2, paper 3, and the mark scheme) will cost you about $24. Buying all of the past papers and mark schemes from May 2015 to November 2018 can end up costing hundreds of US dollars, so if you are looking to spend as little as possible, I recommend just purchasing the most recent (May 2018 and November 2018) past papers as they will be closest to what you learned.
3 Strategies to Use IB Physics Past Papers Effectively
Because each practice test takes 3 hours for SL or 4.5 hours for HL, it's important that you get the most out of each test. Here are important tips to keep in mind when you're taking the tests:
#1: Take papers 1 and 2 all at once if possible.
The IB Physics SL and IB Physics HL papers are a marathon, forcing you to sit and concentrate for 2 hours for SL and 3 hours and 15 minutes for HL. You need to build up endurance so you don't make careless mistakes at the end of the test. By taking the practice test in one sitting, you build up important endurance for the real test. If you don't have time in your schedule for a 2-hour or 3-hour 15-minute session, then splitting it up over multiple days is OK. Just make sure you follow the next rule:
#2: Keep strict timing on each section with a clock.
It is ESSENTIAL that you get used to the timing pressures on the IB Physics papers. Here is the timing:
IB Physics SL
- IB Physics SL Paper 1—45 minutes
- IB Physics SL Paper 2—1 hour 15 minutes
- IB Physics SL Paper 3—1 hour
IB Physics HL
- IB Physics HL Paper 1—1 hour
- IB Physics HL Paper 2—2 hours 15 minutes
- IB Physics HL Paper 3—1 hour 15 minutes
In this time, you are expected to complete:
IB Physics SL
- SL Paper 1: 30 multiple-choice questions
- SL Paper 2: 2 parts, Section A: answer all of 3 or 4 short responses and Section B: pick 1 essay question (you choose between 3 options)
- SL Paper 3: Answer all of the questions for your 2 options: 4-6 short response questions that each can have between 2-5 parts
IB Physics HL
- HL Paper 1: 40 multiple-choice questions
- HL Paper 2: 2 parts, Section A: answer all of 5 short response questions that each can have between 3-10 parts and Section B: pick 2 essay questions (you choose between 4 options)
- HL Paper 3: Answer all of the questions for your 2 options: 5 or more short response and/or essay questions with multiple parts (varies based on the options that you covered in your class)
Don't give yourself even 2 extra minutes - this can allow you to do more questions and improve your score substantially. We want to use these practice papers as reliable indicators of your real score.
#3: Review your answers.
At the end of every test, make sure you review every mistake you made, and every question you got correct. If you bypass this step, you're not going to learn from your mistakes, and you'll continue making them over and over again. A rule of thumb is to spend at least 1.5 hours reviewing every full practice tests. This takes a lot of time, but emphasize quality of learning over quantity of learning. I'd rather see you take 2 tests with detailed review than 5 tests with no review.
Learn more about IB Physics:
- The Complete IB Physics Syllabus: SL and HL
- IB Physics Study Guide (Coming Soon!)
Learn more about the IB Program through our other articles:
- The Complete List of IB Courses and Classes
- Which IB Courses Can I Take Online? Can I Get an Online IB Diploma?
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As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.