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Hardest Topic in IB Physics SL

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Hey guys and girls 

Just wanted to get some opinions on what everyone thinks are the hardest topics within the SL Core in Physics 

Topics are 

1 - Measurement and Uncertainties 

2 - Mechanics 

3 - Thermal physics 

4 -Waves 

5 - Electricity and Magnetism 

6 - Circular Motion and Gravitation 

7 - Atomic, Nuclear and Particle Physics 

8 - Energy Production 

Cheers :) 

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I was in HL physics, and thought that gravitation was extremely difficult to understand. But circular motion was like a piece of cake though. Another topic that I found difficult was electricity and magnetism, like electromagnetic induction for instance. I only fully understood that stuff once I did calculus in maths. Thermodynamics was difficult too, especially the first law, but after a while, things got easier. As for SL, I've heard from my friends that gravitation and waves were pretty difficult for them.

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IMO chapter 5 (electricity and magnetism) was the SL topic I found the hardest, mostly due to having to get my head around voltage, the circuit laws, and potential dividers.  Waves was a bit difficult in certain areas, especially understanding the concept of diffraction at first, but it was pretty manageable.  

2 hours ago, Vioh said:

I was in HL physics, and thought that gravitation was extremely difficult to understand. But circular motion was like a piece of cake though. Another topic that I found difficult was electricity and magnetism, like electromagnetic induction for instance. I only fully understood that stuff once I did calculus in maths. Thermodynamics was difficult too, especially the first law, but after a while, things got easier. As for SL, I've heard from my friends that gravitation and waves were pretty difficult for them.

Just wondering, but how did calculus help with EM induction and similar stuff?  It didn't really help much for me (except the last bit in EM induction for HL)

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4 hours ago, SC2Player said:

Just wondering, but how did calculus help with EM induction and similar stuff?  It didn't really help much for me (except the last bit in EM induction for HL)

Maybe it was just me, but I didn't want to use the formulae booklet in physics at all (perhaps in maths, but not in physics). I preferred to actually know all the formulae by heart, or at least be able to derive them on the spot. In EM induction (and also, alternating current), there are many formulae for different things, and these formulae are all very much similar to each other. That's why I got very confused, especially with sine and cosine, like when to use which? But after learning about differentiation and integration, these things were much easier to understand. For example, for the Faraday law, the emf is just the rate at which the flux changes, so all we need to do is to derive it with respect to time. So if the flux is defined using cosine, then after differentiation, we would have the sine for the induced emf. All of these can easily be derived during the exam, and that's exactly what I preferred.

The same thing can be said about the position-velocity-acceleration graphs that we have to learn in mechanics. But in mechanics, we at least have the intuition of our every day life to understand how these graphs would look like. For example, if the distance-time graph is linear, then it's intuitive to deduce that the car is moving at constant speed (i.e. velocity graph would be a horizontal line). That is a really simple example, but with intuition, calculus is not really necessary to understand mechanics. On the other hand, I don't think we can have intuition for things like flux and induced emf, or like the power produced by the alternating current. So all we have is the formulae. But without calculus, I would have a huge knowledge gap, because I wouldn't even know why the formulae are the way that they are.

What's worse was that our class did electromagnetism during the first year of IB, but calculus was not taught until the second year. So when we reached to the chapter of alternating current, I was completely frustrated and confused because none of the formulae made any sense to me. Most of my friends just skipped the lesson. To be honest, I personally believe that not having calculus as part of the syllabus for IB physics is one of the biggest weaknesses of the IB program..

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