Chemistry updates

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This page contains the latest updates on the Diploma Programme (DP) chemistry course.

The new DP chemistry course will be launched in February 2023 for first teaching in August 2023. First assessment will take place in May 2025.

Below you will find an overview of the course updates. For a technical breakdown of the DP curriculum and assessment methods for this course, read the chemistry subject brief (SL & HL)(PDF, 307 KB).

Overview of the new course

A relevant and effective chemistry 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.

The chemistry curriculum is built on two broad organizing concepts: structure and reactivity. Each of these concepts is subdivided into topics and subtopics, which are all connected through the idea that structure determines reactivity, which in turn transforms structure.

Skills in the study of chemistry


Structure refers to the nature of matter from simple to more complex forms


Reactivity refers to how and why chemical reactions occur

Structure 1.

Models of the particulate nature of matter

Reactivity 1.

What drives chemical reactions?

Structure 2.

Models of bonding and structure

Reactivity 2.

How much, how fast and how far?

Structure 3.

Classification of matter

Reactivity 3.

What are the mechanisms of chemical change?

Conceptual learning

The new chemistry course is moving towards a reduction in content and highlights concepts that underpin learning. The course aims to develop understandings that connect factual, procedural and metacognitive knowledge and recognizes the importance of connecting learning with conceptual understanding. This includes a non-linear, ongoing process of adding new knowledge, evolving understandings and identifying misconceptions.

Conceptual understanding will enable students to be aware and critical of their own knowledge, and to transfer and apply skills and understandings to new or different contexts in creative, generative, autonomous and dynamic ways.

The syllabus structure has been re-imagined, incorporating subject specific concepts—structure and reactivity—within a framework that focuses on models and concepts that enable teachers to create their own pathway for the two-year programme.

Greater emphasis on skill development

The practical nature of the subject is emphasized by the inclusion of a section in the guide ‘Skills in the study of chemistry.’ These are framed by the approaches to learning (ATL) skills and categorized into different aspects, including inquiry skills and techniques appropriate at this level of study.

DP sciences graphic

Nature of science

Nature of science (NOS) is an overarching theme in the DP biology, chemistry and physics courses that explores conceptual understandings related to the purpose, features and impact of scientific knowledge. DP chemistry students will have the opportunity to analyze, discuss, challenge, and refine their understanding of the scientific ideas and concepts encountered during the course. An understanding of NOS is valuable on several levels:

  • it develops scientific literacy
  • it provides a framework in which students can more easily access the chemistry course content
  • it supports student learning.

Experimental programme

Practical work

Practical work continues to be a central aspect of the DP chemistry course. Teachers are encouraged to develop their own practical scheme of work allowing students to gain a deeper understanding of the subject content and associated concepts, as well as to provide opportunities to develop a wide range of practical and investigative skills. The practical scheme of work should be broad and balanced to provide students with the opportunity to experience a wide range of tasks, from closed to open inquiry, and from hands-on experimentation through to the use of simulations and modelling, incorporating technology where appropriate.

Collaborative sciences project

The collaborative project from the current course will be given a refresh.

The collaborative sciences project is an interdisciplinary sciences project that addresses real-world problems that can be explored through the range of subjects in the sciences group.

Through this project students will:

  • integrate factual, procedural and conceptual knowledge developed through the study of their science discipline(s)
  • apply their collective understanding to develop solution-focused strategies that address the issue
  • develop an understanding of how interrelated systems, mechanisms and processes impact a problem
  • evaluate and reflect on the inherent complexity of solving real-world problems
  • develop an understanding of the extent of global interconnectedness between regional, national, and local communities
  • be empowered to become active and engaged citizens of the world
  • gain appreciation of collective action and international cooperation
  • strengthen their ATL skills, including teambuilding, negotiation and leadership.

The collaborative sciences project provides an excellent opportunity for students to work with those taking other DP sciences courses, either in their own school or from other IB World Schools.

Changes to the assessment model

External assessment

All students will only sit two external examinations.

Paper 1A includes multiple-choice questions on the syllabus and paper 1B includes data analysis questions. These papers provide an opportunity to assess some of the experimental skills and techniques.

Paper 2 includes short-answer and extended-response questions of intertwining skills, concepts and understandings placed into a suitable chemistry context.

Other changes include the removal of the option topics (materials, biochemistry, energy and medicinal chemistry). From the current four options some of the content was incorporated into the course at either standard level or higher level.

Internal assessment

The ‘scientific investigation’ (internal assessment) will also see a change, with the opportunity for students to collaborate and support each other within small groups. Where appropriate, students will be able to share similar methodologies, provided that the independent or dependent variable differ, and the data collected is unique to each student.

Students will continue to submit an individual report with a maximum word count of 3,000 words.

The revised criteria will place a greater emphasis on higher-order thinking skills with 50% of the marks allocated for Conclusion and Evaluation.

What are universities saying about the subject?

"IB chemistry introduces fundamental and applied themes which cover a good breadth of chemistry knowledge. The emphasis of scientific inquiry, understanding of global problems, exposure to real-world scenarios and developing techniques in the chemistry laboratory are important skills for an undergraduate student. The IB chemistry program design provides a smooth transition to a Bachelor of Science degree in Medicinal Chemistry at Monash University Malaysia."

Associate Professor – Monash University Malaysia