IB@Nesbru vgs

Satelite site for the IB Diploma programme at Nesbru videregående skole


Physics is an experimental science that combines academic study with the acquisition of practical and investigational skills. Among the experimental sciences it is perhaps the most fundamental, as it seeks to explain the universe itself, from the very smallest particles—quarks, which may be truly fundamental—to the vast distances between galaxies. Apart from being a subject worthy of study in its own right, physics is a prerequisite for many other courses in higher education, such as medicine and most branches of engineering.

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. Participation in a 10-hour interdisciplinary project involving all students from biology, chemistry and physics is a required part of the practical programme.

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: Physics and physical measurement

  • The realm of physics
  • Measurement and uncertainties
  • Vectors and scalars

Topic 8: Energy, power and climate change

  • Energy degradation and power generation
  • World energy sources
  • Fossil fuel power production
  • Non-fossil fuel power production
  • Greenhouse effect
  • Global warming

Topic 2: Mechanics

  • Kinematics
  • Forces and dynamics
  • Work, energy and power
  • Uniform circular motion

Topic 9: Motion in fields (HL only)

  • Projectile motion
  • Gravitational field, potential and energy
  • Electric field, potential and energy
  • Orbital motion

Topic 3: Thermal physics

  • Thermal concepts
  • Thermal properties of matter

Topic 10: Thermal physics (HL only)

  • Thermodynamics
  • Processes
  • Second law of thermodynamics and entropy

Topic 4: Oscillations and waves

  • Kinematics of simple harmonic motion (SHM)
  • Energy changes during simple harmonic motion (SHM)
  • Forced oscillations and resonance
  • Wave characteristics
  • Wave properties

Topic 11: Wave phenomena (HL only)

  • Standing (stationary) waves
  • Doppler effect
  • Diffraction
  • Resolution
  • Polarization

Topic 5: Electric currents

  • Electric potential difference, current and resistance
  • Electric circuits

Topic 12: Electromagnetic induction (HL only)

  • Induced electromotive force (emf)
  • Alternating current
  • Transmission of electrical power

Topic 6: Fields and forces

  • Gravitational force and field
  • Electric force and field
  • Magnetic force and field

Topic 13: Quantum physics and nuclear physics (HL only)

  • Quantum physics
  • Nuclear physics

Topic 7: Atomic and nuclear physics

  • The atom
  • Radioactive decay
  • Nuclear reactions, fission and fusion

Topic 14: Digital technology (HL only)

  • Analogue and digital signals
  • Data capture; digital imaging using charge-coupled devices (CCDs)


Students follow two options chosen from the options outlined below. Of the options detailed in the syllabus four are only available to SL students, three are available to both SL and HL students and three are available only to HL students. The options common to SL and HL students consist of a core topics studied by all students and additional higher level topics studied only by HL students.

Option A: Sight and wave phenomena (SL only)

  • The eye and sight
  • Standing (stationary) waves
  • Doppler effect
  • Diffraction
  • Resolution
  • Polarization

Option F: Communications

  • Radio communication
  • Digital signals
  • Optic fibre transmission
  • Channels of communication
  • Electronics (HL only)
  • The mobile phone system (HL only)

Option B: Quantum physics and nuclear physics (SL only)

  • Quantum physics
  • Nuclear physics

Option G: Electromagnetic waves

  • Nature of EM waves and light sources
  • Optical instruments
  • Two-source interference of waves
  • Diffraction grating
  • X-rays (HL only)
  • Thin-film interference (HL only)

Option C: Digital technology (SL only)

  • Analogue and digital signals
  • Data capture; digital imaging using charge-coupled devices (CCDs)
  • Electronics
  • The mobile phone system

Option H: Relativity (HL only)

  • Introduction to relativity
  • Concepts and postulates of special relativity
  • Relativistic kinematics
  • Some consequences of special relativity
  • Evidence to support special relativity
  • Relativistic momentum and energy
  • General relativity
  • Evidence to support general relativity

Option D: Relativity and particle physics (SL only)

  • Introduction to relativity
  • Concepts and postulates of special relativity
  • Relativistic kinematics
  • Particles and interactions
  • Quarks

Option I: Medical physics (HL only)

  • The ear and hearing
  • Medical imaging
  • Radiation in medicine

Option E: Astrophysics

  • Introduction to the universe
  • Stellar radiation and stellar types
  • Stellar distances
  • Cosmology
  • Stellar processes and stellar evolution (HL only)
  • Galaxies and the expanding universe (HL only)

Option J: Particle physics

  • Particles and interactions
  • Particle accelerators and detectors
  • Quarks
  • Leptons and the standard model
  • Experimental evidence for the quark and standard models
  • Cosmology and strings


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 24% of the final grade and is based on the practical programme (60h for HL and 40h for SL). This includes participations in an interdisciplinary project (10h).

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

Adapted from the IB Physics guide © International Baccalaureate Organization