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Advanced Higher Physics 2009 Marking Scheme For Essay

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. 

Link: 2009-2014 Past Papers

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 2009 to May 2014 for IB Biology SL and from November 2013 to May 2014 for 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 theIB Physics SL past papers and IB Physics HL past papersfrom May 2011 to November 2014 on their website. This is the only safe place to get IB Physics past papers to download. 

Each paper and each mark scheme costs 1.99 Pounds or a little over $3. One full exam (including paper 1, paper 2, paper 3, and the mark scheme) will cost you about $12. Buying all of the past papers and mark schemes from May 2011 to November 2014 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 (November 2014 and May 2014) 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.


What’s next?

Learn more about IB Physics:

Learn more about the IB Program through our other articles:

Want to improve your SAT score by 240 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:


The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, or A Level, is a main school leaving qualification in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is available as an alternative qualification in other countries.

A Levels require studying an offered A level subject over a two-year period and sitting for an examination at the end of each year (A1/S and A2, respectively), proctored by an official assessment body. Most students study three or four A level subjects simultaneously during the two post-16 years (ages 16–18) in a secondary school, in a sixth form college, in a further and higher education college, or in a tertiary college, as part of their further education.

A Levels are recognised by many universities as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for admission in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and many such universities partly base their admissions offers on a student's predicted A-level grades, with the majority of these offers conditional on achieving a minimum set of final grades.


A Levels were introduced in 1951 as a standardised school-leaving qualification, replacing the Higher School Certificate. The examinations could be taken on a subject-by-subject basis, according to the strengths and interests of the student. This encouraged specialization and in-depth study of three to four subjects. The A Level at first was graded as simply distinction, pass or fail (although students were given an indication of their marks, to the nearest 5%), candidates obtaining a distinction originally had the option to sit a Scholarship Level paper on the same material, to attempt to win one of 400 national scholarships. The Scholarship Level was renamed the S-Level in 1963.

Quite soon rising numbers of students taking the A-level examinations required more differentiation of achievement below the S-Level standard. Grades were therefore introduced. Between 1963 and 1986 the grades were norm-referenced:[1][2]


The O grade was equivalent to a GCE Ordinary Level pass which indicated a performance equivalent to the lowest pass grade at Ordinary Level.

Over time, the validity of this system was questioned because, rather than reflecting a standard, norm referencing simply maintained a specific proportion of candidates at each grade, which in small cohorts was subject to statistical fluctuations in standards. In 1984, the government's Secondary Examinations Council decided to replace the norm referencing with criterion referencing: grades would in future be awarded on examiner judgement[3] thus eliminating a possible inadequacy of the existing scheme.

The criterion referencing scheme came into effect for the summer 1987 exams as the system set examiners specific criteria for the awarding of B and E grades to candidates, and then divided out the other grades according to fixed percentages. Rather than awarding an Ordinary Level for the lowest pass, a new "N" (for Nearly passed) was introduced. Criticisms of A level grading continued, and when Curriculum 2000 was introduced, the decision was made to have specific criteria for each grade, and the 'N' grade was abolished.

In 1989, Advanced Supplementary (AS) awards were introduced; they were intended to broaden the subjects a pupil studied post 16, and were to complement rather than be part of a pupil's A-level studies. AS-Levels were generally taken over two years, and in a subject the pupil was not studying at A-Level. Each AS level contained half the content of an A-Level, and at the same level of difficulty.

Initially, a student might study three subjects at A-Level and one at AS-Level, or often even four subjects at A-Level.[citation needed] However, due to decreasing public spending on education over time, a growing number of schools and sixth form colleges would now arrange for their pupils to study for three A-Levels instead of four.[4]

A levels evolved gradually from a two-year linear course with an exam at the end, to a modular course, between the late 1980s and 2000. By the year 2000 there was a strong educational reason[clarification needed] to standardise the exam and offer greater breadth to students through modules[5] and there was also a pragmatic case based on the inefficiency of linear courses where up to 30% of students were failing to complete or pass.[6]

Curriculum 2000 was introduced in September 2000, with the first new examinations taken in January and June of the following year. The Curriculum 2000 reforms also replaced the S-Level extension paper with the Advanced Extension Award.

The Conservative Party under Prime MinisterDavid Cameron initiated reforms for A Levels to change from the current modular to a linear structure.[7] British Examination Boards (Edexcel, AQA and OCR) regulated and accredited by the government of the United Kingdom responded to the government's reform announcements by modifying specifications of several A Level subjects.[8]



Prior to Government reforms of the A Level system, A-levels consisted of two equally weighted parts: AS (Advanced Subsidiary) Level, assessed in the first year of study, and A2 Level, assessed in the second year of study. Following the reforms, while it is still possible to take the AS Level as a stand-alone qualification, those exams do not count toward the full A Level, for which all exams are taken at the end of the course. An AS course usually comprises two modules, or three for science subjects and Mathematics; full A Level usually comprises four modules, or six for sciences and Mathematics. The modules within each part may have different weights. Modules are either assessed by exam papers marked by national organisations, or in limited cases by school-assessed, externally moderated coursework.

Subjects offered[edit]

Main article: List of Advanced Level subjects

A wide variety of subjects are offered at A-level by the five exam boards. Although exam boards often alter their curricula, this table shows the majority of subjects which are consistently available for study.



The number of A-level exams taken by students can vary. A typical route is to study four subjects at AS level and then drop down to three at A2 level, although some students continue with their fourth subject. Three is usually the minimum number of A Levels required for university entrance, with some universities specifying the need for a fourth AS subject. There is no limit set on the number of A Levels one can study, and a number of students take five or more A Levels. It is permissible to take A Levels in languages one already speaks fluently, or courses with overlapping content, even if not always fully recognized by universities.


The pass grades for A Levels are, from highest to lowest, A*, A, B, C, D and E. The process to decide these grades involves the uniform mark scheme (UMS). Under this scheme, four-module A levels have a maximum mark of 400 UMS (or 200 UMS each for AS and A2), and six-module A levels have a maximum mark of 600 (or 300 UMS each for AS and A2). The maximum UMS within AS and A2 may be split unequally between each modules. For example, a Physics AS may have two exam modules worth 90 UMS and 150 UMS, and a coursework module worth 60 UMS. The 'raw marks' i.e. actual score received on a test may differ from UMS awarded. On each assignment, the correspondence of raw marks to UMS is decided by setting grade boundaries, a process which involves consultation by subject experts and consideration of statistics, aiming to keep standards for each grade the same year on year. Achieving less than 40% results in a U (unclassified). For passing grades, 40% corresponds to an E grade, 50% a D, 60% a C, 70% a B, and 80% an A. The A* grade was introduced in 2010 and is awarded to candidates who average 80% UMS across all modules, with a score over 90% UMS in all A2 modules.[14] In Mathematics, which comprises six 100 UMS modules, only the C3 and C4 modules count towards this requirement. In Further Mathematics and Additional Further Mathematics, where more than three A2 modules can be taken, the three best-scoring A2 modules count. There is no A* grade at AS level.

International comparisons[edit]

Wales and Northern Ireland[edit]

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