The quality of your chemistry textbooks and study guides is extremely important to success in IB Chemistry.
Simple logic: Bad resources mean bad results.
I got an overall mark of 95% in IB Chemistry HL, so I know a bit about which chemistry resources work for the IB. Here is my honest opinion of the most useful IB Chemistry resources.
I used this book as my main textbook for most of IB Chemistry. It covers every topic in-depth and is focused on the syllabus, so you won’t get off-topic information. In some cases the textbook could be more concise, but then again, the true strength in Pearson’s textbook is its comprehensive coverage of all required content.
The image above is the old version of the book: I believe there is a new version for the 2016 syllabus.
How best to use
This textbook is the perfect for learning material for the first time, but not so much as a tool for revision. I would read through this textbook to grasp a firm, basic understanding of the chemistry topics before proceeding to other study guides or books.
When textbooks failed, I went to chemguide. I cannot overstate how helpful this website was to my learning in IB Chemistry. Even though the website is not aimed at IB students specifically, the website does an excellent job in clarifying some of the more difficult concepts in much greater detail than IB chemistry textbooks, in my honest opinion. Also, chemguide can offer alternative explanations and I found these alternative explanations very helpful when textbooks didn’t cut it.
How best to use
Use chemguide and other useful websites and online videos when you feel that your textbooks are not explaining the concepts well. The Internet is a great complement, and it’s mostly free!
IB Chemistry study guide
by Cameron Lumsden
This study guide is a super-practical revision guide that teaches you all the tips and tricks that you wish you had learned from the get-go.
Why Lumsden’s revision guide is great
- it is super concise
- explains how to solve difficult problems step-by-step,
- sheds rare and relevant insight into some complex chemistry concepts which are not covered in many textbooks like Pearson’s,
- shares honest, practical, penetrating advice on getting the best marks from the perspective of an IB student
The usefulness of this revision guide is incredible. When I picked up this book in my final year as an IB student, I was shocked by how almost every page was full of relevant and practical exam pointers.
The formatting isn’t the most professional, but that’s not the why you buy this book. The thing that this guide nails is its practical and detailed advice—in this respect, the guide is stellar and unbeatable.
One limitation is that the book only contains Core topics and no Options topics.
If you had to buy or borrow one book, this one would be it.
How best to use
Like for any revision guide, do not simply rely on it as your only source of information. Revision guides are most effective when they are used as a complementary resource to textbooks, because revision guides never cover everything that you need to know.
I used Lumsden’s book in my final IB year. It helped me clear up many confusions and showed me how to solve difficult IB problems that no other textbook or resource had shown me. Lumsden’s guide gave me a no-rubbish approach to doing well in IB Chemistry at a time when time and efficiency were of the utmost priority, and for this reason his guide has earned my highest recommendation.
IB Chemistry Study Guide
by Geoffrey Neuss
Geoffrey Neuss’s study guide became my main study guide in my final IB year. The primary strength of Neuss’s study guide it its relentless focus on the syllabus and its requirements. In practice, that principle translates into a concise but complete coverage of everything from core to additional HL content to Options topics. The main advantage that Neuss’s guide has over Lumsden’s guide is the former’s inclusion of all Options topics. On the flip side, Neuss’s guide only offers a succinct revision of content, and does not include any (or much) practical advice on problem solving and exam-taking—the domain where Lumsden’s guide shines through.
The image above is the updated version of the book: I used the previous edition.
How best to use
I used this study guide consistently throughout my final IB year. I used it to reinforce concepts that I was learning in class and from the textbooks. I also made notes using this study guide because it is complete whilst being succinct, making the process of taking notes far easier than condensing information from a textbook.
Richard Thornley’s YouTube Channel
I personally never watched Thornley’s eccentric and informative videos involving Garry’s Mod (a simulation game on Steam I think?) and other peculiar teaching methodologies, but I have heard so many of my IB friends and students praise Thornley’s videos that it’d be unreasonable for me to leave them out of this list.
While we’re at it, I may as well mention Khan Academy—arguably the world’s premier and most extensive free educational resource founded by Harvard graduate Salman Khan. All topics of chemistry are covered as well as numerous other subjects like mathematics, history, economics, physics, biology, and so on. Check it out!
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