The 2014 IB Science changes

New syllabus guides for IB Diploma Biology, Chemistry and Physics will be released in early 2014. You'll need to prepare for some extensive but exciting changes to your teaching - learn more from IB curriculum developer Andrew Allott.

You can expect a new concept-based approach...

The new syllabuses - what to expect

The IB Diploma science syllabuses are currently being revised to ensure science teaching and learning remains forward-looking, up-to-date and incorporates the latest scientific developments and technologies. You can expect to apply some major changes to your teaching from September 2014.

You can expect:

  • New internal assessments across all subjects, with a specific focus on scientific investigation
  • A new concept-based approach called the nature of science
  • Changes to options for all subjects 

New internal assessments

Compulsory for Standard and Higher Level students, the IA is worth 20% of a student's final assessment. The new assessments require students to pursue a scientific investigation on an area of their own personal interest within the scope of their subject of study.

As in previous years, the IA offers a chance for learners to draw on their own interests and carry out independent scientific work, with clear support from their teacher in the planning stages. This would include ensuring the student understands the assessment criteria, and often supporting learners while they choose a topic.

Some example investigations could include:

  • Extracting data from a database and analyzing it graphically
  • Hands-on lab investigation
  • An interactive and open-ended simulation investigation

The nature of science

Part of the IB's wider shift to concept-based learning (CBL), the nature of science is a new methodology that supports subject knowledge and skills acquisition through broader conceptual themes and ideas. Highlighting the importance of key scientific issues like ethics, objectivity and the understanding of science, this approach brings these important concepts to the surface, and ensures they are clearly linked into learning.

Studies have shown that CBL supports student critical thinking, questioning ability and research skills, preparing them for adulthood in the 21st Century. CBL is most effective when it is fully integrated into teaching and learning, and the IB strongly advocates this approach.

So for example, if you were teaching Genetic Modification and Biotechnology, you could link in the wider idea of assessing risks related to scientific research. This could incorporate discussion on issues like genetically modified crops or livestock.

New options

The number of options across Biology, Chemistry and Physics have been reduced; the new courses will offer students a choice of one option from four per subject. These will be:


  • Neurobiology and behaviour
  • Biotechnology and bioinformatics
  • Ecology and conservation
  • Human Physiology


  • Materials
  • Biochemistry
  • Energy
  • Medicinal chemistry


  • Relativity
  • Engineering physics
  • Imaging
  • Astrophysics

Andrew Allott was an IB Diploma student in 1974. Since then he has worked extensively on IB Biology curriculum review, in addition to authoring the IB Biology Course Book and Study Guide.

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