IB@Nesbru vgs

Satelite site for the IB Diploma programme at Nesbru videregående skole


Chemistry is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills. It is often called the central science, as chemical principles underpin both the physical environment in which we live and all biological systems. Apart from being a subject worthy of study in its own right, chemistry is a prerequisite for many other courses in higher education, such as medicine, biological and environmental science, and many branches of engineering and serves as useful preparation for employment. The course accommodates both students who wish to study chemistry as their major subject in higher education and those who do not.

Nature of the group 4 subjects

Group 4 students at standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) undertake a common core syllabus, a common internal assessment (IA) scheme and have some overlapping elements in the options studied. They are presented with a syllabus that encourages the development of certain skills, attributes and attitudes.

While the skills and activities of group 4 science subjects are common to students at both SL and HL, students at HL are required to study some topics in greater depth, to study additional topics and to study extension material of a more demanding nature in the common options. The distinction between SL and HL is one of breadth and depth.

Practical/investigative work is a compulsory component of the group 4 subjects. SL students are required to take part in 40 hours and HL students 60 hours of laboratory-related activities as part of the subject.

Prior learning

Past experience shows that students will be able to study a group 4 science subject at SL successfully with no background in, or previous knowledge of, science. Their approach to study, characterized by the specific IB learner profile attributes—inquirers, thinkers and communicators—will be significant here.

However, for most students considering the study of a group 4 subject at HL, while there is no intention to restrict access to group 4 subjects, some previous exposure to the specific group 4 subject would be necessary. Specific topic details are not specified but students who have undertaken the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) or studied an international GCSE science subject would be well prepared. Other national science qualifications (such as Naturfag Vg1 SSP in the Norwegian curriculum) would also be suitable preparation for study of a group 4 subject at HL.

Syllabus outline

Core syllabus and additional higher level

Topic 1: Stoichiometric relationships

  • Introduction to the particulate nature of matter and chemical change
  • The mole concept
  • Reacting masses and volumes

Topic 7: Equilibrium

  • Equilibrium
  • The equilibrium law (HL only)

Topic 2: Atomic structure

  • The nuclear atom
  • Electron configuration
  • Electrons in atoms (HL only)

Topic 8: Acids and bases

  • Theories of acids and bases
  • Properties of acids and bases
  • The pH scale
  • Strong and weak acids and bases
  • Acid deposition
  • Lewis acids and bases (HL only)
  • Calculations involving acids and bases (HL only)
  • pH curves (HL only)

Topic 3: Periodicity

  • Periodic table
  • Periodic trends
  • First-row d-block elements (HL only)
  • Coloured complexes (HL only)

Topic 9: Redox processes

  • Oxidation and reduction
  • Electrochemical cells
  • Electrochemical cells (HL extension)

Topic 4: Chemical bonding and structure

  • Ionic bonding and structure
  • Covalent bonding
  • Covalent structures
  • Intermolecular forces
  • Metallic bonding
  • Covalent bonding and electron domain and molecular geometries (HL only)
  • Hybridization (HL only)

Topic 10: Organic chemistry

  • Fundamentals of organic chemistry
  • Functional group chemistry
  • Types of organic reactions (HL only)
  • Synthetic routes (HL only)
  • Stereoisomerism (HL only)

Topic 5: Energetics/Thermogenetics

  • Measuring energy changes
  • Hess’s Law
  • Bond enthalpies
  • Energy cycles (HL only)
  • Entropy and spontaneity (HL only)

Topic 11: Measurement and data processing

  • Uncertainties and errors in measurement and results
  • Graphical techniques
  • Spectroscopic identification of organic compounds
  • Spectroscopic identification of organic compounds (HL extension)

Topic 6: Chemical kinetics

  • Collision theory and rates of reaction
  • Rate expression and reaction mechanism (HL only)
  • Activation energy (HL only)


Students follow one option chosen between the options outlined below. The options consist of core topics studied by all students and additional higher level topics studied only by HL students.

Option A: Materials

  • Materials science introduction
  • Metals and inductively coupled plasma (ICP) spectroscopy
  • Catalysts
  • Liquid crystals
  • Polymers
  • Nanotechnology
  • Environmental impact—plastics
  • Superconducting metals and X-ray crystallography (HL only)
  • Condensation polymers (HL only)
  • Environmental impact—heavy metals (HL only)

Option C: Energy

  • Energy sources
  • Fossil fuels
  • Nuclear fusion and fission
  • Solar energy
  • Environmental impact—global warming
  • Electrochemistry, rechargeable batteries and fuel cells (HL only)
  • Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission (HL only)
  • Photovoltaic and dye-sensitized solar cells (HL only)

Option B: Human biochemistry

  • Introduction to biochemistry
  • Proteins and enzymes
  • Lipids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vitamins
  • Biochemistry and the environment
  • Proteins and enzymes (HL only)
  • Nucleic acids (HL only)
  • Biological pigments (HL only)
  • Stereochemistry in biomolecules (HL only)

Option D: Medicinal chemistry

  • Pharmaceutical products and drug action
  • Aspirin and penicillin
  • Opiates
  • pH regulation of the stomach
  • Anti-viral medications
  • Environmental impact of some medications
  • Taxol—a chiral auxiliary case study (HL only)
  • Nuclear medicine (HL only)
  • Drug detection and analysis (HL only)


Assessment in all group 4 subjects follows a common assessment framework.

Student learning is continuously assessed in the forms of topic tests, practical laboratory assignments, theoretical assignments, student presentations and bi-annual examinations. All assignments and examinations are assessed using established criteria.

The final assessment from the IB consists of the following components:

The internal assessment component is assessed by subject teacher and moderated externally by the IBO at the end of the course. This component makes up 20% of the final grade and consists of an individual investigation.

The external assessment component consists of three examinations at the end of the course.

Adapted from the IB Chemistry guide © International Baccalaureate Organization