Internal Assessment


In the past the term 'Internal Assessment' was applied to the whole 40 hours (SL) or 60 hours (HL) practical programme. Now it very specifically only applies to the Individual Scientific Investigation. The Individual Scientific Investigation is scheduled to take ten hours of the Practical Scheme of Work and is the ONLY part that forms the 20% of the final internal assessment component mark. There are a few marks devoted to the type of skills and understanding covered in the mandatory laboratory components in Section A of Paper 3 in the external examination (see  Experimental work questions for practice examples)  but none of the practical work counts towards the internal assessment mark apart from the Individual Scientific Investigation. The great strength of this is that it enables teachers to plan their own practical programme as an integral part of their 150 hours (SL) or 240 Hours (HL) teaching course without having to worry too much about assessment. It means that students can learn through practical work and reinforce their understanding and they do not have to write up each and every practical to an agreed set of criteria. The downside is that all the 20% of the internal assessment marks are placed on just one single 10 hour investigation. This means that many teachers will use much of the practical programme to 'Scaffold' the Individual Scientific investigation, i.e. to teach students the skills necessary for them to achieve a high mark in their individual investigation.

What is the Individual Scientific Investigation?

The point of internal assessment is that it allows students to demonstrate they can apply their skills and knowledge, and at the same time can pursue their personal interests, without the exact time limitations and other constraints associated with the written examinations. The internal assessment task consists of just one scientific investigation which should take about ten hours and be presented for assessment in a 6-12 page write-up. The investigation should be complex and commensurate with the level of the course although Standard Level and Higher Level students will be marked according to the same set of criteria. It should have a purposeful research question together with the underlying scientific rationale for it. Although the investigation can follow a traditional hands-on approach there is much more scope that can be used and, in fact, it is permissible that all the data employed can be obtained from secondary sources. This is perhaps to accommodate the fact that in the near future students will be able to do an online IB Diploma chemistry course where traditional supervised practical work will no longer be possible. The IB lists some of the possible tasks that could be used.

These include:

• a laboratory investigation using a hands-on approach.

• analysis and/or modelling using spreadsheets.

• using a database to extract information leading to graphical analysis

• a hybrid of the above three, i.e. using a spreadsheet or database together with a more traditional hands-on investigation.

• the use of an interactive and open-ended simulation.

Note that some of the tasks could consist of appropriate and relevant qualitative chemistry that is also combined with quantitative chemistry.

The Individual Scientific Investigation is marked out of 24 according to five different criteria: personal engagement, exploration, analysis, evaluation and communication. These do not all have equal weighting. Exploration, analysis and evaluation are each worth a maximum of six marks, personal engagement is marked out of two and the maximum mark for communication is four. Once the total mark out of 24 is obtained it is scaled  by the IB to a mark out of 20 which makes up the internal assessment component mark. Samples of student work from each school are moderated to try to ensure a consistent standard.

Almost all students will carry out their Individual Scientific Investigation during the second year of their two-year course. I have attached links (on the left) to attempt to break down the whole process into manageable sections to help your students achieve to their maximum potential. This includes preparing students beforehand, choosing the research topic and the production, assessment, internal standardization and moderation of the Individual Scientific Investigation. There is also an IA example & marking exercise for you to practise your marking together with several examples of genuine student IA reports that have been moderated so you can see how your marking compares both with the IB itself and with other IB chemistry teachers from around the world.

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