Academic Group 4 Group 5 Subjects

Overview of HL Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics (Part 2)

HL Physics:

HL Physics covers a myriad of topics from the motion of planets to sub-atomic particles alike. The papers are tested as:

  • Paper 1 (Multiple Choice Questions)
  • Paper 2 (Open Ended Questions)
  • Paper 3 (Option topic: Engineering Physics, Relativity, Optics and Astrophysics)

Many of these topics can be abstract and demand a strong conceptual understanding of how each of these physical phenomena work. Such that this understanding can be applied when the IBO plays around with different variables and deviously imaginative scenarios. It is also worth noting that around 80% of HL Physics questions are based on quantitative calculation rather than qualitative explanation. HL Physics also requires the completion of an IA involving a basic research project on how Physics concepts may be applied to physical phenomena. 

Should I take HL Physics?

I would recommend taking Physics to students who are patient and curious. Especially those who enjoy rationalizing the world around them in a mathematical manner. Physics can be confusing, but having the grit to work through the mental dissonance is what allows one to succeed in Physics, On top of this, it is highly rewarding once everything clicks. Be aware that HL Physics is very maths heavy, so those who have an aversion to maths may want to steer clear. HL Physics is definitely worth taking. Especially if you are interested in problem solving and are considering studying any field of engineering or STEM at the tertiary level,

SL Physics has a significantly lighter syllabus. It also has less memorization required than SL Chemistry and Biology. SL Physics is an option worth considering for those looking not to take any HL group 4 subjects. 

HL Chemistry:

HL Chemistry deals with the composition of matter at an atomic level and how they interact. It covers different kinds of elements, their atomic structure at a sub-atomic level, how these properties come into play, and consequently how these substances interact. Its testing format is similar to HL Physics, with:

  • Paper 1 (Multiple Choice Questions)
  • Paper 2 (Open Ended Questions)
  • Paper 3 (Medicinal Chemistry, Materials)

HL Chemistry relies on both heavy memorization as well as a strong conceptual understanding of the properties of different groups and compounds. HL Chemistry also requires the completion of an IA- a basic research on a Chemistry related concept. This typically involves collecting and analysing large volumes of laboratory data, which can be tedious. 

Should I take HL Chemistry?

HL Chemistry is relatively time consuming as there is a large amount of subject content. This requires memorization as inherent in subjects with more “qualitative” explanation style questions. At least in contrast to the more calculation based questions found in HL Mathematics and Physics. As such, apart from an interest in the subject, ensure that your other two HLs are not too time consuming. For instance, I would not recommend taking HL Chemistry alongside HL Biology and History. A curiosity similar to that aforementioned for physics would also be helpful. Ultimately, chemistry is quite a flexible subject as a pre-requisite. However, it is only worth it if it is enjoyable and that the time cost is manageable. 

Overall: Taking HL Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics 

As someone who has always tended towards more analytical, logical thinking, I found these three subjects interesting and highly complementary. Mathematics to me serves as the foundation for not only the calculations (it makes them much easier) but the foundation of how to think through problems which can then be applied to the subject matter covered in the Sciences. As such, if one is interested in taking HL Physics and Chemistry, I would advise taking HL Mathematics alongside for subject synergy. Both in terms of the type of thinking involved and the doors it opens in terms of university courses.

In terms of time management, having two group 4 subjects means that both subject content and IAs will be a considerable time commitment. This is especially if the IA involves a large amount of experimental data collection. As such, if one is to take on this subject combination, pacing oneself and avoiding last minute work is crucial. Taking on these often abstract-seeming subjects also means that one will often be lost when trying to understand complex numbers or quantum physics. So patience and a willingness to seek clarification when in doubt is key.

As someone who was quite set on majoring in a quantitative field, choosing these subjects was also quite a given. This was because at that point I wanted to leave the possibility of studying economics, computer science or engineering open. Additionally, from a pre-requisites perspective (at least in UCAS) this combination was balanced enough to allow for this. However, all three HLs are relatively infamous for their rigour. I personally would not recommend it to everyone as it does provide more benefit for individuals who are more quantitatively inclined. However, if one is considering any of the same subjects that I was considering, this combination (or Computer Science in place of Chemistry) is a good choice. 

All the best with your choices of subject combinations!

You may also like…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: