Individual investigation

This section contains information and resources relating to the Internal Assessment, which in physics takes the form of an investigation where students work as individuals.

In a nutshell, students are required to complete one piece of internally assessed practical work. Assessment is conducted through observations of the student throughout the process and of their investigation report of 6-12 pages length. The entire process can be carried out in 10 hours, but the reality is that the most conscientious and most indecisive students can spend a little longer. While there is no word requirement or limit, most reports total in the region of 2000 words, which is half as long as an Extended Essay.

The individual investigation takes place in addition to the Group 4 project (10 hours for all students) and topic practical work for both HL (40 hours) and SL (20 hours) students. Within the topic practical work, there are 10 required experiments, which could be tested on paper 3.

You will find the following links useful:

Chris has carried out the following investigations to act as exemplar work:

Measuring e/m

The Lens makers equation

Trajectory of a balloon


Ideally the students will come up with heir own topic and research question but this will probably be beyond a good number of students, so we must be ready with some prompts, advice and in the last resort suggestions.

10 hours

My first reaction to the new proposal was "how is a lab going to last 10 hours"? Most of my students like to be finished with measurements as quickly as possible, especially if the class is before lunch. There aren't many labs on my 4psow that would stretch to 10 hours even design labs don't last that long. The misconception here is that the 10 hours is for hands on lab work, it isn't. In the pre 2014 IA model we were only allowed to count actual lab hours on the psow, not the time taken for analysing data and writing the report. The new subject guide makes it clear that this is not the case with the investigation, you can count the time to explain the process and assessment criteria as well as time used to advise the students in class. So, I should spend 10 hours of class time but that that time does not have to be the time spent taking measurements. Thank goodness for that,10 hours is more time than the average EE writer spends in the lab. This makes it seem much less intimidating, including time to write the report, a conscientious student could easily spend 10 hours writing a "design lab" so this time frame is not something we are unfamiliar with.

6-12 pages

This is a wide range and I'm going to advise my students to keep it short, in the 6 - 8 region. When first confronted with the idea of 10 hour investigations in physics a lot of teachers thought - mini extended essay. 12 pages with 10 hours of labwork isn't a mini EE it's a full blown one. The investigation is supposed to be focused and its easier to keep focus for 6 pages than 12 so in this case more is in fact less. There is no penalty for writing under 6 pages but it might be diffciult to get full marks in all categories if the report is too short. A good "design lab" with a full conclusion can easily run to 6 or 8 pages so we are not talking about anything so very different to the sort of thing we have been doing for years, the difference is mainly in the assessment criteria.

Selected Pages


Analysis of marks 18 January 2016

After a couple of months there have been 18 responses but 3 of these were blank so only 15 sets of marks. This is not enough...


Ideas for investigations 29 May 2014

These are all starting points for investigations, the idea being that a student would focus on a piece of apparatus, find...


ICT 12 May 2010

Three years ago I was asked by the subject area manager for physics to make a website specifically to help IB physics teachers...

Moderation 8 March 2019

The purpose of moderation is to ensure that there is some consistency between teachers in different schools. Moderators...

Beginners guide 4 March 2019

Practical skills are assessed in two different ways, the internally assessed (and externally moderated) investigation and...

Preparation tasks: Design Labs 28 November 2018

One way of starting the investigation process as followsThe starting point is the same as used in the "design labs" of the...

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