Practical scheme of work & IA

  • Virtually everything you need to know about practical activities and internal assessment for IB Diploma Chemistry.

  • How to design and set up your own IB Chemistry practical programme.

  • Full details on more than 30 excellent practicals (including many to cover all the mandatory components) for the Core/AHL/Options including pdf worksheets for students.

  • Suggestions for other resources to gain ideas and specific details for practicals suitable for the IB.

  • Advice and examples for Individual Scientific Investigations.

  • Teachers' notes for all the practicals containing background information and useful tips.

  • Full details and advice on how students can maximise their IA marks and guidance through the moderation process.

  • Suggestions and advice is given on possible different experimental ways of that can be used to cover the mandatory practical areas.

  • The Group 4 Project explained together with suggested ways to run it in your school.

  • Examples, advice and resources for the five different ways in which ICT must be brought into practical work.

  • Examples of marked and moderated student IA reports.

  • Help and resources for setting up a new Chemistry laboratory including a full list of suggested equipment and chemicals.


Practical work is an important component of IB chemistry. Approximately 25% of the total teaching time should be devoted to the practical scheme of work (40 hours at SL and 60 hours at HL). This includes the ten hours devoted to the Individual Scientific Investigation which makes up 20% of the final assessment mark under the heading 'Internal Assessment' with the external examinations providing the remaining 80%. Practical skills are also examined to a small extent in Section A of the externally assessed Paper 3. The 40 or 60 hours devoted to the practical scheme of work also includes ten hours spent on the Group 4 Project, although this is not assessed.

Much of the practical work will likely involve experiments in a school laboratory. However practical activities can be interpreted quite liberally. For example, a well-planned visit (as opposed to a 'tourist visit') to a university research laboratory or industrial site such as a power station or sewage works, virtual labs or molecular modelling can also be included. Similarly data obtained from secondary sources or simulation experiments rather than hands-on practical work is also acceptable.

One of the great strengths of the IB practical programme is that there are no 'set' experiments or investigations that your students must undertake. However there are some mandatory areas listed under the 'Applications and Skills' sections for some sub-topics in the Guide. For example, all students must perform a titration and also determine the molar mass of an unknown gas etc. but the precise ways in which these are done is left to the teacher or student. You are completely free to design your own practical programme. This can be quite daunting for a teacher new to the programme but what I have tried to do in this section is cover everything that you will need with many suggestions and examples. The great strength of being able to design your own programme, most of which does not have to be assessed, is that practical work can be fully integrated into good chemistry teaching.

Why do practical work?

It is worth getting students to consider why practical work is so important. Ultimately, of course, chemistry is an experimental science and the whole of chemistry is based on observations. Some of the reasons are:

  • to re-enforce the theory
  • to develop theory from practical observations
  • to learn specific techniques
  • to gain confidence in manipulative skills
  • to develop an appreciation of the benefits and limitations of scientific methodology
  • to address the IB assessment criteria (only for the Individual Scientific Investigation)
  • to have fun

When devising your own programme you should bear all these aims in mind. Just the ten hour Individual Scientific Investigation will be assessed according to certain criteria and samples from some students will be sent to the IB for moderation.


Links on the left provide examples of practical schemes of work and details (including the background and teacher's notes) of many specific experiments that could be used for both Standard Level and/or Higher Level. These are separated into examples of practicals that cover the mandatory areas and other good practicals that can also be performed. Full information and details on how the Individual Scientific Investigation is assessed and moderated with useful tips on how students can achieve high grades is provided, together with genuine examples of IA reports that have been marked and moderated. Information and examples of the requirements for using ICT in practical work are also given as well as how to go about doing the Group 4 Project. For teachers setting up a new IB chemistry laboratory there is a suggested list of equipment and chemicals.

Selected Pages


Mandatory laboratory components 18 November 2018

There are no specific experiments or practicals that all students must perform. Apart from the ten hours for the Individual...

Internal Assessment 25 September 2021

In the past the term 'Internal Assessment' was applied to the whole 40 hours (SL) or 60 hours (HL) practical programme....

A new laboratory? 15 October 2018

If you are working in a brand new school or one which is being refurbished you may be involved with or consulted over the...

Reflective statement 14 October 2018

A reflective statement written by each student on their involvement in the group 4 project must be included on the coversheet...

Practicalities 14 October 2018

It is worth considering that the Group 4 Project is not assessed and the students do not need a lot of knowledge of subject...

Group 4 Project 14 October 2018

The IB Group 4 Project is probably unique in forming part of any Chemistry programme for 16-19 education. It came into being...

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