How I Got a 7 in Chemistry HL in 2 weeks (Pre-made Schedule Incl)🏅
I went from a 5 to a 7 in Chemistry HL in the final 2 weeks before my exams and this is the exact strategy that I used. Follow my customised Crash Course calendar to secure a top grade. Let's turn last-minute cramming into effective learning.
Table of Contents
Unlike students that had it all figured out months before their exams, I'd neglected Chemistry HL for half the year. So, I devoted 2 weeks of full effort to the subject before the final exam. I learnt heavy content efficiently, practised a lot of chemistry and used effective study methods to maximise my revision.
Since it worked so well, I taught the strategy to 15-20 Chemistry students. They followed my intense Crash Course calendar below, learnt to study effectively and ended up scoring 6s and 7s on their mock exams.
But what I learnt was that each student needs to personalise it to their own schedule and revision style. Tips for following the revision calendar:
Decrease or increase the total hours spent on a topic depending on your own level of understanding.
It doesn't need to be 2 weeks of continuous chemistry. Disperse the 14 days of work within a month even.
Heavily prioritise and focus on your weaknesses. Do not ignore them.
2-Week Crash Course Calendar
This is the intense crash course calendar. All the studying and practising you need to do is scheduled within these 2 weeks.
How To Use The Calendar?
Plan + Prioritise Topics → Read the "How To Plan Your Studying?" section. Highly important.
Every Topic's Study Sessions → Go to the "How You Should Ideally Study?" section. Study using these scientifically proven methods. Don't waste time making or summarising notes.
Paper 2 Question Practise → This is now 50% of your ENTIRE Chemistry grade. Do not ignore these questions. Follow the schedule and give ample time to it.
Timed Past Papers → Practising full-length past papers is important. However, keep in mind: gaining conceptual understanding comes before simulating exam conditions.
Review of Past Papers → Keeping track of your strong and weak topics is crucial to your revision during the two weeks. Personally, I made a spreadsheet of the mistakes I made per past paper.
How To Plan Your Studying?
In the next two weeks, you NEED to prioritise revising A) your weak topics AND B) the most common topics in past papers.
List All Your Weak Topics In RED
The mistake I made was that I studied topics in chronological order and ended up wasting days on the concepts I already knew. Instead, you need to plan your limited time better.
Go through the syllabus of the official IB Chemistry Guide right now and list all the topics that you are confused or unsure about, in red, on a separate file/paper. I made this 'Priority Topics' list before starting my revision and ended up with a huge list of 50+ topics that I couldn't even recognise, to be honest. Yes, it is scary but you have to do this or else you won't end up studying the things you actually need to give time to.
Prioritise the Most Commonly Assessed Topics
Once you have identified your weak topics, you need to find the most common topics within past papers and add them onto the Priority Topics list. Despite what some say, there are certain topics that are more likely to show up and are more central to your exams.
Topic 4/14 Bonding and Topic 10/20 Organic Chemistry are the two main topics that you need to prioritise. I, personally, think they should be given a significantly higher amount of studying time.
Organic chemistry makes up 14% of the paper 2 exams averaged from 2017-2019 and can be a source of easy marks if you know it well enough. Bonding makes up 13% of those papers as well. The concepts within this bulky topic are central to understanding the properties and mechanics of all reactions and their products in chemistry. Bonding NEEDS to be prioritised: it is deeply connected with the majority of the syllabus.
Gaining a strong understanding of Topic 4 and 10 was the most beneficial thing I did for paper 2!
Spend time finding other sub-topics and types of questions that show up consistently over the last few years and add them onto your priority revision list.
Most Common Subtopics From Paper 2 (2017-2019):
20.1 Types organic reactions HL (6% of questions per paper, on average)
4.3 Covalent structures (5%)
6.1 Collision theory and rates of reaction (5%)
16.1 Rate expression and reaction mechanism HL (4%)
1.2 The mole (4%)
1.3 Mass and volume (4%)
3.2 Periodic trends (4%)
5.3 Bond enthalpies (4%)
15.2 Entropy and spontaneity (4%)
18.2 Calculations involving acids and bases (4%)
10.2 Functional group chemistry (4%)
How You Should Ideally Study?
After planning your 2 weeks of focused studying, let's understand HOW you can efficiently revise these topics.
We're used to half-copying the textbooks, calling them "notes" and telling ourselves we'll come back to read them later. It makes no sense and we don't have time for this. Instead, you should be focusing on active learning and frequently testing yourself on the content.
So I'm going to introduce you to my simple and effective study strategy. Feel free to change it up to your preferences. But this is how you should ideally revise your topics in your daily study sessions:
Practise 20-30 topical paper 1 questions
Gain a broad understanding of weak/common concepts + quizzing yourself
Active blurting: write down all information you can recall for a group of topics from memory
1. Active Recall with Paper 1 Questions
The paper 1 exam is now 30% of your entire Chemistry grade. Don't underestimate the importance of doing these questions in every study session.
Always start studying a topic by testing yourself. In chemistry, I did this by attempting 20-30 topical multiple-choice questions before I started learning any topic that day. Even if I didn't remember or know anything about the topic, I forced my brain to recall and logically find an answer.
We aren't taught to do questions before studying, so it was hard. But treating this simple practise as a starter really enhanced my actual studying.
They are a good gauge of your knowledge and there are answer options that you can logically work through. Hence, it's considerably easier for topics you aren't familiar with. As you cycle through these questions, keep track of the topics you struggled with on the Priority Topics list.
2. Gain a Broad Understanding
Next, you need to start reviewing the key concepts and calculations from your Priority Topics list one-by-one. My main sources of revision were:
Cambridge's Chemistry for the IB Diploma Exam Preparation Guide
Richard Thornley's and MSJ Chem's Youtube Channels
Pearson's Chemistry IB Diploma Textbook
So, let's say I need to study 10/50 sub-topics from my list today. The first one is the oxidation of alcohols...hm okay...I don't really understand that.
I'd spend 20 minutes going through the exam prep guide with a Thornley video in the background. I'd make some rough notes and draw the reaction diagrams so that I can understand and simplify the concept in my head. But that's not all.
Continue to test yourself whilst you study and understand the content from a video or a book.
Quizzing and asking yourself questions while you learn is essential.
It's all well and good to look at the concept and go....ya I pretty much got that...cool. However, that doesn't prove anything. You need to test yourself. So, as soon as I feel like I've grasped a basic understanding, I'd jump to the chapter's questions and do a few or explain the topic out loud without using my resources.
Keep asking yourself: what do I still not understand? When you test yourself on what you just learnt, you force yourself to go back and connect the dots in your knowledge even more. This increases your retention of the information and almost guarantees a very good understanding of the topic.
3. Active Blurting
Once I generally studied 4-6 sub-topics, I'd test my understanding with active blurting. It is a very quick way to verify your understanding of the whole chapter. It forces you to test yourself on all the key concepts.
Essentially this means writing or "blurting" out ALL the information I could recall from memory, on a blank page.
List the main headings of the topic you are studying.
Write anything you remember about each heading. You can be as visual as you want with equations and spider diagrams mixed in with information and flow charts.
After you're done, identify your knowledge gaps and keep track of them on the Priority Topic list. Keep referring back to the syllabus guide.
Repeat this multiple times for each major chemistry chapter. Make sure to track the concepts you could and couldn't remember on the Priority Topics list.
This was honestly my favourite and most effective way to actively study chemistry. The key 🔑 is to repeat this process every time you revise a topic. After a few repetitions, the topic was completely mapped out in my head.
Active blurting proves whether you know the broad concepts of each topic well enough to explain and link them to each other without using any resources.
I know doing the entire 2 years of Chemistry HL in 2 weeks is incredibly challenging. You should definitely have a more gradual approach if you're earlier on in the IB. But creating an intense study schedule and practising effective study techniques before the exams worked extremely well for me and many others.
If you have any questions or want me to share the google calendar with you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.