IA changes

As the new curriculum is rolled out, there are many things to get our heads around.  There are several changes to the internal assessment.

First, there are changes in the nature of the report.

Secondly, there are changes in the way that the internal assessment will be assessed.

Below you will see the changes to expect in the new curriculum.  Remember, this will be for the students that will submit IAs for the May 2019 session.  For your current students, it is business as usual.

Changes in the writing of the report


  1. SL and HL write the same report and are assessed the same way.  All reports have a maximum of 2200 words.
  2. The required report headings have been changed to: Introduction, Exploration, Analysis, Evaluation, References
  3. Students must work in a group.  The must be a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 group members.  Students may also choose to collaborate virtually with another student or students in other IB World Schools.
  4. Children under 12 may not be used as participants.


  1. There will no longer be a review of literature.  The study to be replicated and the theory upon which that study is based must be explained. 
  2. The importance of the study must be explained.


  1. The choice of participants must be described and explained.
  2. Students must explain how materials were developed and why those choices were made.
  3. Controls must be explained.
  4. All students must have a null & research hypothesis.


  1. All students must apply both descriptive and inferential statistics.
  2. Students no longer have to justify their choice of statistics.  It is also recognized that the t-test is a robust test and may be used to determine the significance of the data.
  3. Calculations of descriptive statistics are no longer required in the appendices. Students are still required to have the calculations of their inferential stats in the appendices of the report.
  4. A discussion of the data should appear in the analysis section.


  1. The findings must be linked to the theory in the introduction.
  2. Strengths of the student's study must be discussed.
  3. There is more clarity in the teacher support materials regarding limitations.  If a student makes a mistake, it is not a limitation - and the study should be rerun.  It is not acceptable for students to include limitations such as: we forgot to read the standardized directions in one of the groups; we did not accurately measure the time it took because of poor equipment; there was a lot of distraction because we did the study in a hallway.  These will earn no credit.

Changes in the assessment of the IA

  1. Ethics are no longer assessed.  They only need to be met. The ethical considerations must be in the exploration section and there must be evidence of meeting those requirements in the appendices.  If these are lacking, the report may earn zero marks.
  2. Since all team members must use a standardized procedure which should be approved by the teacher, it is no longer assessed.  It must be included to inform the reader of how the research was carried out.  It may be in bullet form or written as a paragraph.
  3. There are no presentation marks. Students are expected to follow formatting standards, but they are not assessed on this.
  4. Citation is not assessed. However, not attributing ideas of others included in the report is academic misconduct. If there are not citations or it is clear that citation is lacking, the student may not be awarded a grade for the report.
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Comments 22

Mary MacPherson 15 November 2017 - 16:10

Hi John,
A quick question. In the past, I have had students who get data supporting the inverse of their one-tailed hypothesis. In this case they have accepted the null (because it is one-tailed) and acknowledged that the inferential analysis shows the inverse. Should they be rejecting both hypotheses in this case? So far, it has been ok to accept the null but this may change with the new curriculum. Have you had this happen?

John Crane 15 November 2017 - 16:49

Dear Mary, yes. They should reject the null hypothesis because the difference is significant. However, they cannot support their hypothesis because the difference is in the opposite direction of their one tailed hypothesis. They simply need to explain this in their results. It is not a problem.

Gregory Shaw 11 January 2018 - 18:39

John, Should we still have students include an Abstract of their IA report?

John Crane 13 January 2018 - 14:12

No. The abstract is no longer part of the report. Including one will only increase the student's word count.

Mary MacPherson 6 February 2018 - 17:48

Hi John,
I have a question regarding replication again. I work at a Chinese Immersion School in the US and many of my students started in grade 1 and learned math in Chinese. Some of them are fascinated by Baddely's work with Chinese vs. English and digit span. The issue is that most of these studies are quasi (comparing Chinese and English speakers). Is it possible to replicate something like this and turn it into a true experiment by testing Chinese Immersion students for digit span in Chinese and English? It seems like a great IA but I don't want to get in trouble for changing the design from quasi to true.

John Crane 7 February 2018 - 13:41

I think that they can do this. They have to base their research on a study, but they do not need to replicate it if they are HL. SL students must replicate. In the new program, neither level must replicate.

Mary MacPherson 9 February 2018 - 14:42

Hi John,
Thanks for the response. I am a bit confused, however, because when I went to the SSS for the new curriculum I was told SL and HL must replicate.

John Crane 10 February 2018 - 09:03

The HL in the "current program" is allowed to modify the IA. They are not required to replicate. Only SL. In the new guide, it says: "The study on which the experiment is based may have several conditions for the Independent Variable. Students may choose to replicate all the conditions or choose to simplify the experiment and choose two conditions for their own experiment." In the new curriculum, there is also teacher support material. It does not say that students must replicate a study. I fear that what you heard at your SSS was incorrect.

Nav Kar 23 March 2018 - 01:36

Hi John! I am in the process of planning the IA for the new curriculum. I need a clarification on 'There must be a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 4 group members.' Does this mean there cannot be a bigger group conducting the same experiment but doing their individual analysis and documentation? Please let me know.

John Crane 24 March 2018 - 12:55

Dear Nav

No. 4 is the maximum. Two different groups could do the same study, but they would have to have their own sample and different data.

Kenneth Tuttle 26 March 2018 - 02:44

Hello John,

This is my first year teaching Psychology in the IB. And my workshop predated the change in curriculum/assessment.

Morning from Malaysia, to clarify some of what I'm reading in the Updates section, and this Q&A area:

1. Is there a range 1800-2200 that is expected, or simply a maximum 2200?

2. Are the students replicating or not?

the following from above:
General -
#3 All students must replicate a study. They are not allowed to make significant changes to a study or create their own research study.
Further in the Introduction -
#1 There will no longer be a review of literature. The study to be replicated and the theory upon which that study is based must be explained.

3. If the students are replicating a study, and it's already relatively simple, looking at conformity (but the original study was done with essentially one population with an age range across the college years). My students have the opportunity to collect data across a secondary, and besides looking at conformity across the total of the school's four years, they wish to look at comparing the youngest year level, to the oldest year level. (Hypothesis being that the younger students would be more conforming than the older students.) This is not something in the original study. Would this be disallowed by the IB? Most if not all of my students will be doing HL (November 2019 Exam session)

So looking at the original Research Question, but adding a second one.

Kenneth Tuttle 26 March 2018 - 03:13

Hmm just getting into this website for Psyc....

my students are looking at simply observing conformity, as per Asch 1955 ....

Kenneth Tuttle 26 March 2018 - 03:14

so that's not an acceptable replication ...

John Crane 26 March 2018 - 06:28

Dear Kenneth

A few things. Yes, conformity is not allowed. Students are not penalized for being below 1800 words, but they are not marked beyond 2200 words. The IB has been rather wishy washy on the replication. I have heard now that students may do their own study "based on a published study." So, they could do a more major variation, but they would have to justify their changes. I would stick to the replication to keep life simple. And yes - there is no longer a review of literature. Hope that helps.

Katrine Mortensen 13 April 2018 - 10:35

Dear John. My colleague and I seem to remember that we have seen somewhere that it would actually be okay for a whole class to e.g. replicate Stroop and then pool their data (the whole class) and hereby get more reliable results. Is this something that we have misunderstood or is there something to it?
Sincerely, Katrine

Katrine Mortensen 13 April 2018 - 10:40

Just saw this specification under your IA section: How large a sample must students have?

Students should strive for 20 participants in their study - that is, two groups of 10 or one group of 20. Fewer than 10 in a group makes it very difficult to have valid statistical analysis. Students may pool data with other students in order to get the minimum sample size.
So still - the whole class cannot pool their data or what?

John Crane 14 April 2018 - 02:56

Dear Katrine

I checked this out just recently for Laura Swash. Students may pool data in order to get enough participants. So, two students from your school could pool data with students from another school in order to get the minimum number. But no, entire classes should not pool their data. Four students should be able to find 20 participants in order to run their studies. If there are too many students in psychology and not enough participants for all groups to get data, then more than one experiment should be done.

Katrine Mortensen 15 April 2018 - 14:58

Thanks so much for clarifying this.

Nav Kar 20 April 2018 - 01:37

Dear John,
Thanks for clarifying my doubt. What do you think about online surveys as a data collection method for the IA experiments? One can get larger number of participants. Variable control will be a concern but that's something students can discuss in their IA.

John Crane 21 April 2018 - 08:00

Dear Nav

The IA must be experimental. Simply carrying out a survey will not meet the requirements for the IA.

Athena Yannoulis 10 May 2018 - 11:43

Dear John,
I have a very small group of 5 students total. I'm confused about students working in groups. Does this mean students cannot work individually and do their own experiment? This is regarding the Class of 2019.

John Crane 11 May 2018 - 06:22

Athena - yes, they are now required to work in groups. No exceptions.

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