What’s the real soft science?
Unbeknownst to many, there is a constant and ongoing battle between the four IB sciences at Portage Northern. The IB program is designed to be hard to allow students to face challenges and overcome them, but students from the three most difficult IB science classes, IB Physics, IB Chemistry, and IB Biology, always have clashing opinions about which class is the toughest. There are many reasons that make each class hard in its own way, but IB Biology is by far the most challenging class, and students taking it to face many challenges and hardships.
A major reason that makes IB Biology harder than the other IB sciences is the fact that it is based on pure memorization. “We are required to have long essays and content memorized and be prepared to write them out for the test,” says junior Andre Walker, an IB Biology student. While chemistry and physics are based on conceptual understanding, biology is different in that it is solely based on memorizing information and writing it out to prove your knowledge. “The concepts are very hard to understand and we only have a couple of days to know the material well before the test,” says junior Maggie Brown, another IB Biology student
Another problem faced by the IB Biology kids is the mark scheme used by IB. Long hours are spent studying and trying to understand concepts, but all that does not help if the mark scheme was not clear, which it often is not. IB requires certain terms to be included in each explanation, which makes it more difficult. Many times, students feel frustrated due to the fact they know the material and they have studied well, yet they can’t seem to meet IB’s requirements. “I spend hours upon hours studying before a test but when the test finally comes, I always miss certain marks because the way that I explained my answer didn’t meet up with IB’s curriculum. It doesn’t really matter how much you study, it’s just whether or not you have met the requirements of IB,” Walker explains.
The IB Chemistry and IB Physics students also have certain advantages that the IB Biology students do not have. “The first year of chemistry is a soft science,” states junior David Le. “They have retakes, which is an entire gift for a class like an IB science I. IB biology students don’t get retakes like IB Chemistry does, nor a gigantic adjustment like IB Physics does.” In contrast, all the IB Biology students sometimes get is a very small adjustment that might or might not change grades to where students would expect them to be, especially considering the time and effort they put into passing these tests.
Another point many students have brought up is the fact that chemistry is always included and discussed in biology. With the IB marking scheme and the depth they expect students to go into, it is important to discuss the chemistry of every topic, along with knowing it big picture and understanding the biology behind it. This forces the IB Biology kids to study multiple areas and topics, unlike the IB Chemistry or IB Physics students, who are focused only on one area of science.
The purpose of IB classes is to challenge students in ways and areas which they have not been challenged before. The students in these classes know what they are getting themselves into, and they are all competitive and willing to step up to the challenge. There are definitely many reasons that make some classes more tough and challenging than others, like is seen with IB Biology compared to IB Chemistry and IB Physics.
Do you agree? Is IB Biology the toughest IB science? Email your thoughts to [email protected] for the chance to be published in our March edition.