The Written Examinations

This is how the examinations work: 



The EXTENDED RESPONSE  questions (maybe you might refer to them as ‘essays’) are found after the data analysis and structured factual recall questions in Paper II.

SL students answer 1 from a choice of 2; HL students answer 2 from a choice of 3. (Very little choice!!!!).

The Extended Response question is broken down into three parts (a, b & c), giving a total of 15 marks. There is an additional mark available for “… the construction of the answer.” Usually one of the three parts carries significantly more marks than the other 2 – maybe 8 out of the 15.

The parts a, b & c are all loosely connected but in the new style of syllabus there is much greater width in the scope of those connections, so they may not at first seem too obvious. There may be components asking about the Nature of Science and Applications. Be careful in the choice of question!

Pay special attention to COMMAND TERMS! (Before you start this sort of exam ANSWER, you should completely understand what each command term requires in an answer.)

Again – Be very careful in choice of question to answer! It is worth roughly and quickly jotting down rough notes for each of the 3 components of each of the two (or three) Extended Response questions and then making an evaluation of which answer might garner most marks for you.

You should have 20-25 minutes to answer an Extended Response question. This includes planning time. Of course you do not hand in your planning but you should see it as OBLIGATORY before writing an answer.


  1. The Extended Response question is not answered as a conventional essay with which you are familiar in non-science subjects.
  2. Answer only inside the given, bordered space.
  3. Of course, it goes without saying that a written answer must be legible. The examiners are flexible people but if an answer cannot be read, it cannot be marked. Write in pen, except for any drawings.
  4. Pay attention to COMMAND TERMS – these tell you what sort of answer is required.
  5. Answers should be written in enumerated (numbered or bullet-pointed) form but should consist of complete sentences if appropriate.
  6. Never repeat the questions. Maybe abbreviate question parts as sub-headings only.
  7. DO specifically answer what is required. Examiners are very flexible – there may be several ways to obtain marks – but they will never give marks for anything which is not required by the question.
  8. Do not repeat yourself. A mark is a mark only once.
  9. Space answers out – leaving lines and putting sub-headings, etc.
  10. An Extended Response answer should probably total a maximum of two sides of normal writing, including any diagrams.
  11. You may use diagrams. If so, make them large and make them the focus of any part of an answer. Unless specifically required, a diagram will NOT add marks if it is simply repeating what has been written in the text. Diagrams, if drawn, must be drawn properly and with care; they should not simply be tiny, illiterate illustrations of your written answer.
  12. If you obligatorily spend time planning, then so must you obligatorily spend time checking your answer at the end.


In many, many ways the example below is not good!

  • It is too focussed upon one area of the syllabus and is not broad enough for an IB question.
  • The answer is too long! (This answer was written also as a learning tool, so almost everything and anything was included. Do remember that there are often several ways to obtain marks. There may well be some content which is obligatorily necessary in the answer, but there is just as likely a statement in the mark scheme which reads, ” …. award marks to any of ….”.)
  • No diagrams are included in the answer.
  • I had no lined, exam paper available!

Nevertheless the layout and content should be checked out as a reasonable model for an Extended Response answer.

COMMAND TERMS (in this question):

  • State: “Give a specific name, value or other brief answer without explanation or calculation.”
  • Describe: “Give a detailed account.”
  • Outline: “Give a brief account or summary.”

Here is (the question and) the answer in Word, as imaged by scribd (which does not do a very faithful job!):

Here are scans of the written answer:



Eyyy! edited small