The EXACT Structure And Subtitles You Should Use In Your IB Physics Internal Assessment [Updated for 2023]
Once you've collected your data for your IB Physics IA - you're going to have to complete your report and write it up.....
Before I start, it might be worth you downloading the free handout to supplement this post (it includes more detail on exactly what to write for each section)
How do you write IB Physics IA in 2023?
ANSWER: follow the EXACT structure of subheadings that I list below and you'll increase your chances of obtaining full marks in your internal assessment for IB Physics.
- Research Question
- Theory and Hypothesis
- Raw Data
- Processed Data
- Analysis and Conclusion
This can be a pretty daunting prospect, but have no fear, below I'll give you a brief explanation on how to tackle each sub-section. (Keep an eye on the MYTH BUSTERS as you progress through this blog post - it’s amazing what common misconceptions are believed about the IB Physics IA)
This free guide includes what EXACTLY you should write in each subheading (and much more!)
Your physics IA does not need a title page. Don't include one. All you need to do is include the title at the top of the page.
After your title, you should include your introduction. It should be brief and to the point. Many students believe that the introduction explaining your "passion" about your topic is where you will be awarded Personal Engagement marks (2/24). That's not true. Pleased don't write hundreds of words here. Just give a brief introduction into the thought process behind choosing this topic.
If you really don't know what to write, you can watch over my shoulder (almost literally!) as I write an introduction from scratch and give you the exact formula to follow when writing your introduction. Step-by-Step Guide to Writing You Physics IA - more information here (NOTE: this is a paid course)
2. RESEARCH QUESTION
The separate subtitle of "Research Question" will focus the examiner on what exactly your are going to investigate and will set the scene for the clarity of your investigation. It is important you spend some time ensuring your research questions is clear, focussed and actually will produce some useable results!
In most cases, the research question should follow this format:
How does Variable X affect Variable Y?
If you'd like a LOT more help on perfecting your research question - head to my tutorial on how to choose the PERFECT Physics IA topic in under 15 minutes.
This free guide includes 100+ IB Physics IA ideas (and much more!)
3. THEORY AND HYPOTHESIS
This section is where you discuss the physics theory behind your research question, which ultimately allows you to formulate an educated hypothesis on what is likely to happen with your results.
This section does not have to be huge. The biggest mistake most students make in this section is to give far too much background physics on material that is not directly related to the research question.
This part of your investigation can be really tricky. It's important that you get the correct physics background and theory, as your hypothesis (and ultimately your conclusion and evaluation) will be based upon it.
If you feel you need extra support in writing your theory and hypothesis, you can watch me write the perfect Physics IA from scratch AND you can copy my workflow on how to complete each section of your IA inside my crazy, special bonus course: The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the PERFECT Physics IA. It's free when you join Ace Your IB Physics Exams BUT I know that some people just need help with this part of IB Physics. That's why I offer students the opportunity to purchase this bonus course separately. For more information - read here.
You should include a hypothesis and should predict what will happen to your dependent variable (Variable Y) when you change your independent variable (Variable X). It should predict a mathematical relationship - if possible.
- The length of the lasso will be directly proportional to the square of the time period of the lasso
- The voltage across the capacitor will decay exponentially to the time of discharge of the capacitor
A sketch of an expected graph here will also be useful.
In this section, write down explicitly what your variables are:
Independent Variable: the variable you are changing, Variable X
Dependent Variable: the variable that changes as a result of the independent variable being changed, Variable Y
Control Variables: everything you need to keep constant to ensure a fair test.
You should include a labelled diagram of your apparatus. I recommend you use Google Drawings to create this diagram (just google "Google Drawings").
The diagram should be simple but clearly show how to set up the apparatus.
This should be a bullet point list of apparatus needed. Don't go into too much detail here. A simple and quick list is fine.
Again I recommend you have a simple list of numbered bullet points here - no more than ten bullet points!
You don't need to include things like, "Set up the apparatus" or "Collect the sellotape". Treat the reader like they are intelligent enough to look at the apparatus and the diagram to set it up themselves from that!
Add any points about safety in this section.
8. RAW DATA
You'll include a data table here.
- DO only include the data you collected during the experiment (or simulation).
- DON'T include processing of data (e.g. averaging, squaring, processed uncertainties, etc).
- DO include the reading error on the apparatus
If you need to justify the reading error on the apparatus, just write a short sentence underneath the raw data table.
Your IA should not include appendices. Don't include screeds of data in the appendix. You need to fins a way of representing your raw data clearly and concisely.
9. PROCESSED DATA
This section will include a separate data table. You'll show your processed data table here. You may need to calculate averages, combine uncertainties and further manipulate data.
Remember to include the correct labels and units in each column of the table.
Underneath the processed data table, you should give an example of any calculations you have made.
Your graph does not have to be processed on the computer. If you are struggling with using particular software, you can just draw the graph on graph paper. The examiner doesn't mind!
However, graphing software can be useful for finding:
- The best line of fit for the data points
- The mathematical relationship between your two variables
- The numerical value of gradient
- The numerical value of intercept
- The correlation coefficient
It's also easier to draw error bars and your max/min line using graphing software.
You should generally be looking to plot a straight line graph and you may need to manipulate your data to achieve that.
This graph shows all the features you should try to include:
11. ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSION
This is where you analyse the quality of your data and form a conclusion based on what your graph shows.
You should try to include the following:
- A brief recap of your hypothesis
- Describe the pattern or trend shown on the graph
- Comment if the line of best fit goes through the origin - did you expect it to?
- Relate the trend shown back to you hypothesis - does it match?
- The uncertainty in the gradient gives you an idea of reliability of your results and how precise they are?
- Comment on the spread of points around the line of best fit for an indication of reliability of results.
- Are there any anomalies? Circle them on the graph and comment.
- Can you calculate a quantity from the gradient? (e.g. gravitational field strength, mass, etc)
- Is there a consistent intercept on the y or x axis? If so, this could be an indication of a systematic error in the experiment.
This free guide includes a sample Physics IA (and much more!)
This is where most students lose steam.....
It's not enough to write "carry out more trials" or 'use a more accurate ruler". These weaknesses are not sophisticated enough!
Try to include the following:
- Comment upon the design and method of the investigation.
- List the weaknesses of the experiment and how significant each weakness is (aim for three weaknesses)
- Directly address each weakness with an improvement.
Include your list of references here. It is good practice to use the Harvard method for citing references. You can read about this method here.
I'll leave you with my final myth buster of this blog post!
How long should my Physics IA be?
ANSWER: It should be 12 word-processed pages or less. It should be roughly 1800-2000 words and no more.
Your complete IB Physics Internal Assessment should be 12 pages or less and contain around 1800-2000 words.
I hope this brief guide has been some help in structuring your IB Physics IA to help you include all the information you need to get full marks in your internal assessment.
If you feel you need more help, you can watch me write the perfect Physics IA from scratch AND you can copy my workflow on how to complete each section of your IA inside my crazy, special bonus course: The Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the PERFECT Physics IA. It's free when you join Ace Your IB Physics Exams BUT I know that some people just need help with this part of IB Physics. That's why I offer students the opportunity to purchase this bonus course separately. For more information - read here.
Hope this helps!
This free guide includes Examiner Do's and Dont's (and much more!)
FREE eBook: The ULTIMATE IB Physics Internal Assessment Guide
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