IB Physics IA Example: How to Write Your Physics IA (SL and HL)

If you are thinking, "How should I write my IB Physics IA?" then this blog post will talk you through an example write-up and give you a checklist of points that you should include.

It's often easier to look at an example write-up to give you a good idea of the length, tone, detail required for you to obtain top marks in this crucial 20% of your final IB Physics grade. You should be careful to choose an example that is well-written and you must promise not to copy it!


MYTH BUSTER: Lots of teachers and students believe that a Higher Level students should produce an internal assessment that is more complicated or difficult. That's not true! Physics IAs are assessed without consideration of the level you are studying. They have the same assessment criteria the moderators don't know which level you are studying. Please don't agonise over producing a "Higher Level" worthy internal assessment - it's a waste of your time.


Before we dive into the example Physics IA, it's important to note that it meets the following criteria:

  • It's 12 pages or less
  • It doesn't have a title page (not needed!)
  • It has 13 clear and correct subtitles (find out more about exactly which subheadings you should use in your Physics IA here)
  • The introduction doesn't include the phrase "I was fascinated to learn...". Don't fake your personal engagement!
  • The research question is clearly stated near the top of the IA, in the format, How does... (variable X)… affect… (variable Y)? (more about how to choose your physics IA topic here)
  • The theory explains ONLY the theory behind the research question - not the whole general area of physics
  • The diagram is clear and labelled
  • The method is in bullet points (with less than 10 steps)
  • The raw data table only includes raw data, with reading uncertainties given to 1 significant figure
  • RANDOM FACT: You should not have your unit notation in italics...!
  • The processed data table has example calculations underneath
  • The graph is a simple scatter plot with max and min gradient lines
  • The conclusion matches what is exactly shown by the data
  • The evaluation contains three limitations and direct improvements for each
  • There are no appendices (not recommended!) and all references are cited.

This blog post contains an IB Physics IA example, which would score highly if submitted to an IB examiner. It's not perfect - but nothing ever is!

IMPORTANT NOTE: After you've looked at the sample Physics IA, keep scrolling to the bottom - I'll address each assessment criteria and explain what this sample IA would achieve in the assessment rubric.

That's it! It's simple, to the point and very good. Again... I'll stress it's not perfect, but striving for perfection is a wasted game.

Let's look through some of the assessment criteria for this investigation and attempt to give it a score out of 24:

PERSONAL ENGAGEMENT

MARK: 2/2

  • The evidence of personal engagement with the exploration is clear with significant independent thinking, initiative or creativity.
  • The justification given for choosing the research question and/or the topic under investigation demonstrates personal significance, interest or curiosity.
  • There is evidence of personal input and initiative in the designing, implementation or presentation of the investigation.

EXAMINER COMMENT: Attention to detail and precision, and the overall competence in this otherwise straightforward investigation, earns full marks for personal engagement. The student clearly shows initiative and interest, and to confirm a known equation for a subject of interest one might say that the student also shows curiosity.

EXPLORATION 

MARK: 6/6

  • The topic of the investigation is identified and a relevant and fully focused research question is clearly described.
  • The background information provided for the investigation is entirely appropriate and relevant and enhances the understanding of the context of the investigation.
  • The methodology of the investigation is highly appropriate to address the research question because it takes into consideration all, or nearly all, of the significant factors that may influence the relevance, reliability and sufficiency of the collected data.
  • The report shows evidence of full awareness of the significant safety, ethical or environmental issues that are relevant to the methodology of the investigation.*

EXAMINER COMMENT: The topic is nicely identified, and the text is relevant and focused. Because the theory is well known, the research question could have been rephrased as an investigation to confirm the limits of the theory (e.g. extreme lengths). The background is entirely appropriate. The methodology could not be improved. The range of data is acceptable given the detail to each set of measurements. It would be interesting to test extreme lengths. All the other factors are clearly identified.

ANALYSIS

MARK: 6/6

  • The report includes sufficient relevant quantitative and qualitative raw data that could support a detailed and valid conclusion to the research question.
  • Appropriate and sufficient data processing is carried out with the accuracy required to enable a conclusion to the research question to be drawn that is fully consistent with the experimental data.
  • The report shows evidence of full and appropriate consideration of the impact of measurement uncertainty on the analysis.
  • The processed data is correctly interpreted so that a completely valid and detailed conclusion to the research question can be deduced.

EXAMINER COMMENT: There is sufficient data, but the range could have been larger. The processing and accuracy are most appropriate. The impact of uncertainties is appreciated and the analysis allows for a consistent conclusion based on the data. 

EVALUATION

MARK 5/6

  • A detailed conclusion is described and justified which is entirely relevant to the research question and fully supported by the data presented.
  • A conclusion is correctly described and justified through relevant comparison to the accepted scientific context.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the investigation, such as limitations of the data and sources of error, are discussed and provide evidence of a clear understanding of the methodological issues involved in establishing the conclusion.
  • The student has discussed realistic and relevant suggestions for the improvement and extension of the investigation.

EXAMINER COMMENT: There are more than enough sufficient details in the quantitative analysis evaluation to earn a good mark. However, the methodology is not seriously approached. An extended range could count as an extension of the investigation. Evaluation is someplace on the 4-5 borderlines, but given the overall competence (a best-fit assessment) a 5 is awarded.

COMMUNICATION

MARK 4/4

  • The presentation of the investigation is clear. Any errors do not hamper understanding of the focus, process and outcomes.
  • The report is well structured and clear: the necessary information on focus, process and outcomes is present and presented in a coherent way.
  • The report is relevant and concise thereby facilitating a ready understanding of the focus, process and outcomes of the investigation.
  • The use of subject-specific terminology and conventions is appropriate and correct. Any errors do not hamper understanding.

EXAMINER COMMENT: The student has produced an interesting report. The presentation is clear, the text is nicely structured, and the focus is always on the experiment. The text remains focused and relevant. Terminology and conventions are appropriate. Only the evaluation could be more sophisticated.

OVERALL SCORE: 23/24

Hope this helps

 

P.S. if you'd like help with your IB Physics IA, check out my Step-by-Step Guide to the PERFECT Physics IA.

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