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This page provides and introduction to the purpose of the Internal Assessment in the IB. It provides an overview and introduction for both the teacher and student to their roles and responsibilities. There is also a list of possible studies for students and teachers to consider, which may have some use for extended essay research in geography.

General Overview

The internal assessment is based on fieldwork . The IB describe fieldwork as involving the collection of primary data in the field and the subsequent treatment, display and analysis of this information using appropriate skills. The material is presented in a written report.

Internal assessment is a compulsory part of the course for both SL and HL students. The IB see it it as providing the learning opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of a broad range of geographical skills and knowledge as well as an opportunity to pursue their personal interests, away from the limitations and constraints of the taught examination based curriculum.

It's recommended that the internal assessment should, as far as possible, be integrated into normal classroom teaching. However, It is an independent piece of writing and although the teacher can facilitate group fieldwork opportunities, to establish a context of investigation, the students are free to design and conduct their own investigations into any topic providing it has relevance to a specific element of the specification.

The internal assessment requirements at SL and at HL are the same. The teaching time allowed is 20 hours and the weightings are 25% at SL and 20% at HL.

Students are required to undertake fieldwork collecting primary information and produce one written report that is based on a fieldwork question.

The Role of the Teacher

The written reports submitted for internal assessment must be the student’s own work.  However, there is an important role for the teacher to facilitate the internal assessment. The IB stipulates that the is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that students are familiar with the following:

  • the requirements of the type of work to be internally assessed, including the methods of information collection, regulations on group work and the format of the written report

  • the ethical guidelines and risk assessment advice given under the internal assessment  with the IB syllabus

  • the assessment criteria; students must understand that the work submitted for assessment must address these criteria effectively.

Things the teacher should do

Teachers can set the geographical context for the investigation, establish the fieldwork question and methodology. Alternatively this can be done in student groups or individually

Provide and ensure a safe and (relatively) risk free environment for data collection

Ensure all students understand the the basic meaning and significance of concepts that relate to academic honesty, especially authenticity and intellectual property.

Ensure that the students follow the assessment criteria and that their internal assessment is entirely their own work.

Provide feedback to students on the first draft only.

Document on the appropriate form any situation where excessive support was needed.

Authenticate all work submitted to the IB for moderation or assessment to ensure the absence of any known instances of suspected or confirmed malpractice.

Ensure that each students signs the coversheet for internal assessment to confirm that the work is his or her authentic work and constitutes the final version of that work.

A teacher can check student authenticity through one-to-one discussion to scrutinize any of the following:

  • the student’s initial proposal
  • the first draft of the written work
  • the references cited
  • the style of writing compared with work known to be that of the student

Indicate on the cover form in the relevant component any suspicion or evidence of malpractice or unreliable work

Sign the cover sheet to confirm that the authenticity of the student work

Things the teacher should not do

Heavily annotate or edit first drafts

Provide feedback and guidance on more than one draft

Return submitted assessment once the authenticity form has been signed

Group work

The IB allows the internally assessment in part to be conducted in groups the following statement sets out their position on group work.

The fieldwork topic, fieldwork question and methods of information collection may be chosen by the teacher, the whole class, small groups or individuals. In the early stages of the investigation, students may collect fieldwork information in groups and collaborate on these findings and suitable methods of presentation.

Once the research is completed and the necessary fieldwork information and possible methods of presentation exchanged, the emphasis must be on individual work. The writing of the report, the justification of methods, the analysis and the conclusion must be entirely the work of the individual student.

IB Guidance

Teaching Time

It is recommended that a total of approximately 20 hours should be allocated to the work at both SL and HL. This should include time for the following:

  • explaining the requirements of the internal assessment
  • running through geography course ethical guidelines
  • establishing a thorough and appropriate risk assessment
  • data collection at the site
  • guidance for specific internal assessment components
  • consultation and feedback between the teacher and student
  • checking authenticity

. Checklist/Moderation Sheet

Choosing a fieldwork investigation

The opportunities and constraints of your local environment will determine the scope of choice for your fieldwork investigation.The investigation must be manageable in terms of scale and the site accessible. The topic chosen for investigation must be on a local scale but can be based away from school. The IB recognizes that for logistical or security concerns, the school site may need to be used and for the this purpose there are often some very good opportunities on campus.

The following is a list of possible fieldwork opportunities within some of the course components. It has been adapted from the WJEC documentation for A level.

Oceans and Coasts

  • Field survey of wave characteristics (wave height, frequency, wavelength) along a stretch of coast
  • Field survey of changing erosion and deposition on a stretch of coast before and after a storm to look at the impact of processes on coastal features (possibly using previous field work records)
  • Field survey of raised beaches to look at their distribution, height and post-glacial modifications
  • Mapping areas of weathering and mass movement and their relationship to geology maps
  • Field survey of coastal erosion features: cliff height and profiles (hard rock / soft rock contrasts), mapping of incidence of faults, joints, and bedding planes to study the distribution of micro features e.g.caves, arches and stacks and the relationship between erosional features and geology maps
  • Field survey of beach profiles: long and cross transects to map changes in beach material, gradient, pebble length (long axis) and pebble roundness along a transect from low to high tide and across the width of the beach (linking to the process of longshore drift)
  • Field survey of a single or double spit using a range of transects to study shape, size and type of deposits on windward and lee sides (linking to the process of longshore drift)
  • Field survey of sand dunes using transects to show dune topography, plant zonation and succession
  • Field survey of a salt marsh using transects to show salt marsh topography, plant zonation and succession
  • Field survey of impact of humans on coastal environments - foot path erosion, trampling of dunes, beach litter (in and out of season, before or after each clean up)
  • Field survey of coastal management schemes along a stretch of coast threatened by either erosion or flooding to investigate the impact of management structures on sediment transfer e.g. groynes; undertake cost benefit analysis or study shoreline management plans

Freshwater and Drainage Basins

  • Field measurements of infiltration rate variations due to soil type, vegetation, relief and antecedent conditions
  • Field measurements of river discharge
  • Field measurements of throughfall
  • Field survey of drainage basin characteristics: land use, vegetation, slope, soil permeability / infiltration and their impact on river discharge
  • Field survey to compare the characteristics of two drainage basins
  • Field measurements of discharge over selected times in a year to look at river regimes in relation to seas
  • Field measurements of a minor storm event and its impact on discharge in a small stream catchment
  • (Field) survey to investigate flooding recurrence levels and areas of flood risk/ vulnerability (GIS)
  • (Field) survey of the impact of a sustained period of drought on water supply and water use, vegetation, sales of summer products (ice creams, salads) and summer activities
  • Field survey of the impact of a single extreme weather event
  •  (Field) survey of the impact of human activity (urbanisation, agriculture and deforestation/afforestation) in drainage basin
  • Field measurements of dissolved (solute) and / or particulate organic carbon carried by water (using filters or making observations about water colour, etc.)

Extreme Environments - Glacial environments

  • Field survey of size (height of back wall etc.) shape, orientation and distribution of corries in a defined area
  • Field survey of distribution and characteristic features of a glaciated valley (long and cross sections, occurrence of striations, distribution of erosional and depositional features, post glacial modifications)
  • Field survey of distribution and formation of depositional features (glacial v fluvio-glacial deposit analysis – size, shape, stratification) in an area of lowland ice sheet glaciation
  • Field survey of size, distribution, shape and stoss end orientation of a drumlin swarm (‘basket of eggs
  • topography)
  • Field survey of scree to measure slope, degree of sorting, mapping of source and extent of scree and vegetation colonisation to assess if scree is an active or fossil feature
  • Field survey of glacial till: till fabric analysis (situation, orientation and shape) to map provenance and movement of ice in a defined areas
  • Field survey of kettle holes / lakes to investigate succession (hydrosere)
  • Field survey of vegetation succession on moraines (lithosere in an area of glacier retreat)
  • Field survey of discharge from meltwater streams (currently glaciated environment)
  • Survey of glacier mass balance (currently glaciated environment)

Urban Environments

  • Visual survey of variations in townscape / landscape
  • Field survey of changing service provision in village
  •  Field survey of changes in or characteristics of suburbanised villages: population size and structure, employment characteristics, housing and community spirit
  • Field survey of changes in rural areas associated with rural change: holiday homes, language issues, population size and structure, employment and house prices and problems of service provision
  • Field survey of building age, type and quality for evidence of gentrification
  • Field survey of the social characteristics and service structure of inner cities
  • Field survey of employment changes (quality and number of jobs) in Development Area / Enterprise zones
  • Field survey of central areas of a city to look at changes in land use, quality of the environment, footfall and characteristics of cultural quarters
  • Field survey of central areas of a city to identify the ‘core’ and ‘frame’, zones of assimilation and discard
  • Field survey of student districts in urban areas: population characteristics, service provision, attitudes of local residents and housing quality/tenure
  • Field survey of variations in ethnicity within urban areas
  • Field survey of variations in levels of deprivation in urban areas: environmental quality, unemployment rates, crime levels, housing tenure, council tax bands, benefit uptake
  • Field survey of the environmental quality of purpose built business park
  • Field survey of the environmental, social and economic impacts of a single, large tertiary employers e.g. a hospital complex
  • Field survey of impact of tourism on honey pot sites
  • For urban or rural re-branding – assessment of the success of flagship projects e.g. sports sites, festival sites, tourism projects to assess environmental, economic, social and cultural impacts
  • For any rebranding / regeneration projects – assessment of their sustainability in terms of linkage and involvement to local community, conflicts, economic success, quality of jobs, impact on poor people in an area and likelihood of being value for money and a permanent success

 Climate and Energy

  • Survey of impact of thermal power station (oil and coal fired) on local microclimate, water air pollution levels, transport movements and employment
  • Survey of social, environmental and economic impact of nuclear power station on designated area
  • Survey of impact of energy efficiency measures on a named community, to include recycling, use of solar panels
  • Survey of impact / potential impact of solar energy farm on neighbourhood
  • Investigation of potential sites for location of wind farms
  • Survey of impact of coal mining on a former mining area, exploring image, culture, health issues and environment, socio-economic impact and measures to rebrand
  • Survey of environmental impacts of alternative energy schemes, eg wind farms, solar energy farms
  • Survey of potential impact of a new power station

Population Change

  • (Field) survey of the impact of migration on a particular community: provision of shops, services, schools, places of worship, distribution of groups, housing types, employment, official services (language), index of segregation
  • (Field) survey of the distribution of ethnic food outlets and restaurants in a designated area
  • (Field) survey of variations in ethnicity within urban areas
  • Field survey of variations in levels of deprivation in an urban with a high proportion of immigrants: environmental quality, unemployment rates, crime levels, housing tenure, council tax bands, benefit uptake
  • Survey of how people use social networks to maintain contact with families


  • A spatial study of the impacts of globalisation within an urban environment
  • A evaluation of the impacts of fair trade status on a settlement or province
  • A field survey of congestion and impact on air quality in an urban environment
  • A field survey of  wellbeing along a transect in an urban environment
  • A field survey of the characteristics of deprivation in contrasting places
  • A field survey on the impacts of a new shopping complex, TNC or infrastructure

School Campus Opportunities

  • A field survey of the impact of the school campus on local ecology
  • A field survey of the spatial occurrence of micro climates on campus
  • A field survey of the impacts of climate change on the learning environment
  • A spatial study of social/ethnic segregation in school.
  • A field study of the sphere of influence of school on the local area/region.
  • A field survey into the impacts of school campus on local transport and congestion
  • A field survey on the environmental impacts of school campus on the local area
  • A field survey of th socio-economic impacts of the school on housing and or local business investment
  • A spatial study of the impacts of students in the local area
  • A spatial study of the social and environmental impacts of too many bicycles in your local town.

Types of information for collection

Primary information

Primary information forms the basis of each investigation. This information must come from the student’s own observations and measurements collected in the field. Fieldwork must provide sufficient information to enable adequate interpretation and analysis and should be focused sufficiently so that it remains local scale.

Primary information may include both qualitative and quantitative information. This depends on the geographical context and aims of the investigation.

Quantitative information is collected through measurement and is interpreted later in graphs and if appropriate statistical analysis.

Qualitative information is collected though observation or subjective judgment and does not involve measurement. Qualitative information may be processed or quantified where appropriate or it may be presented through images or as text.

Secondary information

Secondary information can only be a minor supplement to the investigation. It  involves the collection of information from sources that have already been compiled in written, statistical or mapped forms.

All secondary information must be referenced, using a standard author–date system, such as the Harvard system. This includes information from the internet, where references should include titles, URL addresses and dates when sites were visited.

Selected Pages


IA - Student Guide 28 August 2018

This pages provides the assessment criteria and a step by step student guideline for students to use whilst writing their...


IA - Teacher Support - Data Presentation 28 August 2018

This pages provides a step by step guideline for teachers to use in the classroom in preparing the students for their internal...

IA -Teacher Support - Analysis, Conclusions and Evaluation 28 August 2018

This pages provides a step by step guideline for teachers to use in the classroom in preparing the students for their internal...

IA - Teacher Support - Introduction and Methodology 28 August 2018

This pages provides a step by step guideline for teachers to use in the classroom in preparing the students for their internal...

IA - Graded Exemplars 11 December 2017

You can find example student reports here.

Examplar 2 16 September 2017

You can read through a full successful script of a freshwater themed internal assessment here.Our fieldwork question for...

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