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5 Lies That You Have Probably Been Told About Your IB Physics IA

ib physics ia ib physics syllabus 2024

Here are the biggest lies told about the IB Physics Internal Assessment. Have you been fed one of these?

These lies are for the 2024 Exam Sittings. The lies will change with the new syllabus in 2025 😂

If you are sitting exams in 2025+, you'll need my ULTIMATE Guide To A Grade 7 IB Physics Scientific


Lie #1: Your Physics IA research question has to be unique to get a 7

No! The way in which you conduct, analyse, and evaluate your experiment is far more important than originality. Plus, it’s a high school programme, not a phD dissertation, they don’t expect you to make any discoveries.

You are not expected to discover unknown physics!

If you don’t believe me - will you believe the examiners?

Let’s analyse this further…

Every year there are around 25,000 IB Physics students and every student will submit an IA. Everybody’s IA has to be within the scope of the IB Physics syllabus. Soooooo, it is pretty much impossible to get a project that is completely original.

You will not lose IA marks if you choose a research question that is not completely original to you.

Please don’t overcomplicate your IA, you can do great by having a very simple experiment.

You can get a really high 7 by simply choosing a topic from a list given to you by your teacher. If you haven’t got a list - I’ve got one.You can download them from my free eBook The Ultimate Guide to the PERFECT Physics IA:

If anyone has told you that you need a unique topic - they are basically lying. It helps to have an interesting topic, but that’s to ensure you get your personal engagement marks

Next lie…

Lie #2: You need to show real life application relating to your topic to get full personal engagement marks


There’s literally nothing worse than reading

“I’m passionate about bungee jumping and the last time I stood on top of a bridge, about to leap, I suddenly thought that I could combine my fascination for SHM with bungee jumping. So I decided to investigate….”

Please trust me.

This approach to trying to obtain Personal Engagement marks is not going to work.

Personal Engagement is worth 2 marks out of 24. You definitely want to grab those marks.

However, as soon as the examiners see the words; passionate, fascinated, etc - they switch off and the likelihood of you obtaining full marks in personal engagement is lessened.

Please believe me.

YOU do not need to relate your IA research topic back to a real life situation or a personal link. AND you don't have to write about it.

If you don’t believe me - believe the examiners:


So my advice to you is NOT to over-emphasise your ‘personal significance’ to the research question and to focus on showing independent thinking, interest and curiosity into the write-up of the report. By doing this you might want to modify a traditional experiment OR conduct a ‘preliminary experiment’ to find out the range of independent variable - something that sets your IA to be different from the rest.


I’ll end this lie with one final thought:

Performing an investigation with a standard method and standard analysis but in a thoughtful, detailed and competent way can earn full PE marks.

Next lie...

Lie #3: You’re studying Higher Level IB Physics so you need an HL idea that’s more complicated than an SL idea.

First of all - there is no difference between an SL and HL IA topic. the examiner's don't know what level you are studying AND the marking citeria is the same. So don't try to come up with an HL idea.

The only ideas you really want to avoid are standard experiments that you'd find in the syllabus (e.g. How does the length of a pendulum affect the time period?)

A seemingly simple idea will still get you full marks. It's all about how you approach the experiment and write it up.

So you might think if you’re an HL student, you should widen the investigation and study two independent variables instead of one.

For example:

An investigation into how the tension, length, diameter, and mass all affected the frequency of a musical string

There are four independent variables here (tension, length, diameter, and mass) and one dependent variable (frequency).

This is a bad idea.

Stick to one independent variable and one dependent variable.

Here's some examiner feedback:

Weaker investigations often had two or more independent variables. For example, dropping balls of different mass and measuring the resulting crater size usually involved larger sized balls for greater mass, and this made two independent variables. Weaker investigations often attempted too much; in fact, they were multiple investigations rolled into one: for example, an investigation into how the tension, length, diameter, and mass all affected the frequency of a musical string. Such an experiment could not provide the depth and quality needed for a well-focused IA.

Stay away from IB Physics IA topics like:

Simulating the double pendulum: requires numerically integrating the appropriate differential equations without using the linear approximation. A tough ask for most high school students.

How does the length of a wire affect the wire’s resistance? Too simple.

Lie #4: Your Internal Assessment needs to be 12 pages or less and needs a title page.

This is a really simple lie that I can blow apart right now.

A. You do not need a title page, please don't put a title page down.

The title of your internal assessment should simply be the research question at the top of the front page, easy.

B. It's always said it needs to be below 12 pages. That's not strictly true.

The IB have issued guidance, saying to produce an internal investigation of the quality we're looking for that can be done within 12 pages. But if it's 13 pages or 14 pages, that's okay. As long as you're not repeating things, as long as you're not blabbering on or being vague.

If you're being very precise, if you're being straight to the point, and you've got a lot to discuss, then the examiner won't mind, 13 or 14 pages. Make sure that everything you've written in those 12 to 13 pages is valid and precise.

Lie #5: You can't do the same investigation as somebody in your class.

Now, this is a difficult one.

As a teacher, I would probably say the same.

So if I have a class of 10 students and two people want to investigate the same research question, then I would have to think twice about allowing that simply because of academic honesty. Not that I'm seeing that you would copy from each other. I don't think that would be the case. What I'm trying to see is that the internal investigation relies on you being independent and thinking of your own methodology. And it would be difficult for you to be standing on one side of the class, investigating something and the other student be standing on the other side of the class, investigating the same thing. And for you not to discuss the methodology and the pitfalls and all sorts of things like that.

So this lie, it is a lie because the IB offer no guidance on this. They don't say, you can't do the same investigation as somebody in your class. All they say is, that there should be no copying, but that's obvious, right? They do say that actually two people could work together on the same data, so the same experiment, but I think that's kind of, not frowned upon, but I don't think it's the done thing.

So it is a lie, according to the IB.

All the documentation I've read that, you can't do the same investigation as somebody else in your class, but from a teacher's point of view, I would like to encourage students to do different things. Just so I know, as a teacher, that you really have gone into that investigation in an independent manner.

So I end on a slight white lie, not a real lie.


This concludes the lies that you may have been told about your IB Physics IA! Are there any other lies you know of? Let's debunk these myths TOGETHER!

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