IB Physics IA Write-Up: Why you should NOT include a photograph of your experiment

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The most recent examiner’s report in IB Physics has made it clear that a photograph is NOT the preferred way to demonstrate your equipment setup in your IB Physics IA.

In recent years, many students have used a photograph to give a realistic idea of the set up of their equipment in the write-up. However, the examiners have said that they would prefer a clear, labelled diagram.

In particular, photographs of a metre stick, stopwatch and other basic equipment are meaningless.

How to Draw Your IB Physics IA Diagram

Your diagram could be hand drawn and scanned into your document OR you could use online drawing software. I always recommend that my students use “Google Drawings” (just type “google drawings’ into google…!). The software is free and can takes little skill to produce something useful.

Remember, the whole point of your diagram is to allow a competent physicist to recreate your experiment. It is not aimed at people who have never studied Physics before - so it doesn’t need to be uber detailed.


BAD EXAMPLE: IB Physics IA Diagram

A list of the apparatus is given and a photograph of the equipment is shown. However, there is no indication of what each piece of apparatus is AND how the experiment is set up to allow appropriate data collection. This is an example of why the examiners are discouraging students from including photographs of the equipment in their Physics IA.


FAIR EXAMPLE: IB Physics IA Diagram

It’s obvious what each piece of apparatus is because you get a visual representation AND the label. It’s also obvious how the apparatus should be set up. I don’t like the use of the curly font. I think this distracts and is unnecessary. It’s also not necessary that the diagram shows the DC power pack being plugged into the wall! Also, you don’t need to include the stopwatch. It’s likely that this student used a photo of the plug socket from the internet - they would need to reference this below the diagram.


GOOD EXAMPLE: IB Physics IA Diagram

This is such a simple example of a diagram in in IB Physics IA, but it’s absolutely perfect! The reader could recreate the experiment easily. Important points, such as the marker on the rolling object, have been included. The student has not included the stopwatch and that is absolutely fine! It will be listed int he apparatus list, it will be obvious from the written methodology how the stopwatch will be used - so it’s not important to include it in the diagram.


IB Physics IA Diagram: Top Tips

  • Use a free online drawing software like “Google Drawings”
  • Don’t include pieces of apparatus that are too obvious (e.g. sellotape, stopwatch, etc)
  • Make sure the apparatus is labelled clearly, with lines pointing to each piece of equipment 
  • Look at your diagram. Could a competent physicist recreate the experiment? Assume they know how to connect power supplies and meters into circuits, etc.
  • List the apparatus above or below the diagram. You don’t need to include every piece of apparatus in your diagram. Only include the apparatus that will help your reader set the experiment up for collecting data.
  • If you use an image from the internet in your diagram, make sure you reference it below.


The diagram will have an effect on how you communicate your internal assessment to the examiner and will affect marks awarded for methodology and research design. For maximum marks, draw a simple, clear and labelled diagram that will allow the examiner to recreate the set up of your apparatus. Don’t treat them like they don’t have a clue though!


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