helen-louise (baratron) wrote,
helen-louise
baratron

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IB stress

I am stressed on behalf of one of my students, who took the International Baccalaureate diploma chemistry exam today.

Something went *very* wrong, and they were told they weren't allowed the data booklet or even a periodic table for Paper 1. I've NEVER heard of a public examination where you weren't allowed a periodic table for chemistry. Even my university exams, we got a periodic table!

The IB Paper 1 is an absolutely terrifying exam at the best of times. It's an hour long, multiple choice - but it is the HARDEST multiple choice exam ever. It takes me an hour to do one of the papers, and I'm a graduate chemist who's been teaching chemistry for 3 years. If it's true that they're not allowed a periodic table for Paper 1, I need to know, so I prepare my kids appropriately.

Let's say you get a multiple choice question about the electronic configuration of silicon. Armed with my l33t chemical knowledge, I know that silicon is in group 4, period 3, and can work out within seconds that it thus has the electron configuration 2,8,4, and can attempt to add 2+8+4 to work out the atomic number must be 14. But it takes me maybe 3-5 seconds to do that without a periodic table, compared to instantaneous lookup with.

Now, let's consider krypton. A-level and IB students need to be able to give electron configurations up to krypton. Krypton is a noble gas, ok, group 0, uh... must be the 4th period... 2,8,18,8? I don't actually know if that's right, I'll have to give the detailed breakdown. 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3s10 4p6. OK, so ignoring the time it took to put the html around that - 10-15 seconds to get krypton? again, compared to instantaneous with a periodic table. As for adding 2+2+6+2+6+2+10+6 without a calculator when stressed and upset... I don't even want to figure out how long it would take me.

Let's look at some of the other 4th period nasties. Arsenic? Germanium? Selenium? They don't even study the chemistry of these elements, how are they supposed to just magically know what Group they're in?

Yeah. I'm not at all surprised that the poor kids were in tears when they got given the data book for their Paper 2, and could see how much they'd messed up by not having it for Paper 1 :/
Tags: damn students
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