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  • Writer's pictureolivershearman

3 Key Changes: IB DP Sciences Update: 2023 Onwards

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

From this year, the new science syllabus will be starting in August 2023 and the first examinations will start in May 2025. The new updates have a primary focus on:

“A relevant and effective physics / chemistry / biology education needs to reflect societal change with a greater focus on skills and the interconnectedness of concepts, contexts and content, and facilitate deep learning and student understanding.”

However, the above sentence leads to different interpretations in the three different subjects. These are discussed further below. While the changes to the science curriculum are thematically striking, they are not that large in terms of change of content or vision of the subjects. Taken as a whole the core model of the IB DP model remains the same and can be seen here in visual form:

Returning then to look at the major triple sciences, all three subjects will no longer have three papers for examinations, but only two. In the past, there were three papers, the first with multiple-choice questions, the second on short-answer and extended-response questions and the third and final on data-based, short-answer and extended response questions with different options.

The first paper (paper 1) will have two sub-parts which are paper 1A: multiple choice questions and paper 1B: Data-based questions. The second paper (paper 2) will have data-based, short-answer and extended-response questions. The weighting of the papers versus the scientific investigation remains at 80% for the examinations and 20% for the investigation.

Further, each of the sciences has had a recategorization and culling of some of its content. There will no longer be optional materials that Higher Level (HL) students can select from. Instead students will be taught all of the Standard Level (SL) material and HL material as applicable to those students with no options remaining. I believe this will give a clearer path for all students and more cohesion to these subjects.

All three of the subjects have taken different routes to recategorize their topics and themes in this review and the new themes and topics for the major sciences are shown below.


Physics is becoming aligned to five broad organizing themes:

  • Space, time and motion

  • The particulate nature of matter

  • Wave behavior

  • Fields

  • Nuclear and quantum physics

The official image describing these changes is shown below.


Chemistry is being divided into two major topics: Structure and Reactivity.

Those two overarching topics are then divided into three sub-topics respectively.

Structure is split into:

  • Models of the particulate nature of matter

  • Models of bonding and structure

  • Classification of matter

Reactivity is split into:

  • What drives chemical reactions?

  • How much, how fast and how far?

  • What are the mechanisms of chemical change?


Biology will be separated into four main themes:

  • Unity and diversity

  • Form and function

  • Interaction and interdependence

  • Continuity and change

These four themes will each have the four levels of organization for biology to categorize the sub-topics. The four levels of organization are molecules, cells, organisms and ecosystems. The official image describing these changes is shown below.

While not necessarily leading to sweeping and rapid change in the IB DP core sciences, these changes seem to be in the right direction - to my mind - in terms of removing content and giving clearer guidance on what is expected from students. What I would hope to see in the coming months and years is a flourishing ecosystem of support texts, materials and guidance to support both teachers and students in the implementation and learning for these subjects.

For now, I guess we can reference the old syllabus of content for the majority of learning such as my physics materials which have held up well until this point (link here - please click!). Once the course has truly begun and is being implemented, then it will give teacher-authors such as myself more work and supportive course material to develop in the future for what is optimistically a more modern and streamlined set of subjects for students to experience.

Let us all see as only time will tell…

Also worth noting that for astronomy and astrophysics related word problems, then pelase consider this item.

Cheers and stay curious

Thanks for reading - Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist

(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)

Official and useful links:

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