Internal Assessment

This page links to resources related to the internal assessment (IA, or individual investigation) required by the IB ESS course. Approximately 10 teaching hours are dedicated to the individual investigation.

The individual investigation is the Internal Assessment (IA) component of the ESS course. It should be a topic of personal interest to the student. My role as teacher is not to tell a student what s/he should investigate, but rather to guide her or him through the investigative process. According to the IB ESS Guide (2017): The internal assessment investigation consists of:

identifying an ESS issue and focusing on one of its specific aspects;

developing methodologies to generate data that are analysed to produce knowledge and understanding of this focused aspect;

applying the outcomes of the focused investigation to provide understanding or solutions in the broader ESS context.

The Internal Assessment is scored against the following criteria:

  • Identifying the context (6 marks, 20%)
  • Planning (6 marks, 20%)
  • Results, analysis, and conclusion (6 marks, 20%)
  • Discussion and evaluation (6 marks, 20%)
  • Applications (3 marks, 10%)
  • Communication (3 marks, 10%)

With the exception of “communication”, I would recommend students use the criteria as broad organizational tools for their writing. The list below summarizes what the IB is looking for in the ESS IA, and it serves as a general outline for organizing the IA:

  • Identifying the context:
    • state a relevant, coherent and focused research question
    • discuss a relevant environmental issue (either local or global) that provides the context for the research question
    • explain the connections between the environmental issue (either local or global) and the research question.
  • Planning: 
    • design a repeatable* method appropriate to the research question that allows for the collection of sufficient relevant data
    • justify the choice of sampling strategy used
    • describe the risk assessment and ethical considerations where applicable.
  • Results, analysis, and conclusion:
    • construct diagrams, charts or graphs of all relevant quantitative and/or qualitative data appropriately
    • analyse the data correctly and completely so that all relevant patterns are displayed
    • interpret trends, patterns or relationships in the data, so that a valid conclusion to the research question is deduced.
  • Discussion and evaluation:
    • evaluate the conclusion in the context of the environmental issue
    • discuss strengths, weaknesses and limitations within the method used
    • suggest modifications addressing one or more significant weaknesses with large effect and further areas of research.
  • Applications:
    • justify one potential application and/or solution to the environmental issue that has been discussed in the context, based on the findings of the study
    • evaluate relevant strengths, weaknesses and limitations of this solution.

Here’s a great Internal Assessment resource from science teacher Chris Paine, of Bioknowledgy fame:

The document below is an exemplar I prepared for the old, pre-2015, ESS Internal Assessment. Much of the formatting and sequencing applies to the new syllabus as well, but students should be aware of the pitfalls of adopting it wholesale for the current course. I will update this page with a new exemplar shortly.