The TutorsPlus guide to getting a 7 in HL and SL IB Chemistry exams

Experienced IB chemistry tutor and examiner, Margarita Mechkova gives some insight on how to maximise your chances of success in an IB Chemistry paper.

There are hundreds of IB Chemistry revision and study guides out there. But we thought the best source of information and insight on what it takes to get the best results in IB Chemistry is to speak directly to an experienced IB chemistry tutor and examiner.

We spoke to Margarita Mechkova, a Chemistry IB examiner with 27 years of experience, and one of our popular IB chemistry tutors to glean some insight on how to get the dream score of 7 on the HL and SL IB Chemistry.

Let’s start with Margarita’s general tips for these exams.

 chemistry students

1)Make sure you have a good understanding of the key concepts

Students need to have a good grasp of the key concepts and understand the context in which they can be used. So, for example, in free-response exam questions, you need to be able to quickly identify the key concepts that need to connect to answer the question well.

The answer can be written in bullet points, so long as the key concepts are mentioned in the answers.

2) Making mind maps

When revising for these exams, mind maps are probably the best method for allowing you to make a visual connection with the key concepts of Chemistry. When making your mind maps, make sure that you are clear about how all the key concepts connect, and how they relate to the syllabus units.

3) Spend time brushing up on bonding

Because Chemistry is a very sequential science where all concepts connect, it’s worth making sure you spend time on bonding. Bonding is the most fundamental concept in Chemistry, and you’ll find that virtually every question in a Chemistry exam will be deeply connected with it. Any property or any reaction can be easily explained with the bonds that exist in particular reactions.

Bonding is a vast topic, but I would say it’s probably the number one topic for revision.

4) Multiple-choice questions

The most important thing to say when tackling multiple-choice questions is to read the question carefully. This seems obvious, but sometimes the IB will deliberately make the question a little bit tricky. Firstly, make sure you are clear what the question is about, and then underline key words. Then try to eliminate the impossible answers.

Usually, that is fairly easy. But sometimes there are two possible answers that are quite similar and could both seem correct, and it’s easy to get caught out.

We also asked Margarita to tell us about some of the pitfalls that she sees in different papers in IB Chemistry. Here are the top three pitfalls she identified.

periodic table

5) Confusion over questions where you have to choose the right combination

These are questions where you are given three options, and you choose the right combination. These are very tricky. Sometimes they sound like three different questions, so be careful when eliminating the impossible answers.

6) Not thinking the questions through properly before answering

Firstly, when looking at the question, start by identifying which unit of the syllabus it comes from. This will guide your thinking before you begin answering the question.

Secondly, identify all the possible concepts you think should be part of the answer and then try to connect the concepts in a coherent paragraph or bullet points.

A good hint here is to look to see how many points are given for the answer (which will be shown in square brackets). If say the number of points is three, then you need to hit three concepts in your response.

7) Misunderstanding the exam command terms or the question asked

So, for example, when the paper asks you to ‘explain’ in an exam question, it means giving details.

As an examiner, I see a lot of students write down a lot of correct sentences about a topic they clearly know, but they don’t answer the question, which can mean they lose points.

Finally, we asked Margarita for some tips on how to make final improvements in the run-up to the exams to increase your chances of getting that important IB7. Here are her top 3 tips.

8) Do as many past papers as possible

This will make sure you understand the way the exams are phrased, and it will build your confidence because you will know exactly what to expect.

9) Make sure you understand the marking in the exams

This will ensure that you spend the right amount of time on the questions that can give you the highest number of points.

10) Make sure you understand the command terms in the exams

As I mentioned earlier, so often students just start writing down everything they know about a particular topic. You must make sure you have answered the question.

Margarita is a very popular IB Chemistry tutor. To book HL or SL IB Chemistry lessons with Margarita, get in touch with one of our team, or call us on 022 731 81 48. You can also email us at or fill in the contact form below. She is happy to do IB Chemistry revision sessions or regular lessons of an hour a week in the run-up to those final HL or SL exams.

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