What Exactly Is an Internal Assessment in the IB Curriculum?

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If you’re grappling with the concept of an Internal Assessment (IA), you’re not alone. As an experienced IB writer, I’ve watched countless students struggle with this crucial component of the IB DP program. More than just an academic requirement, the IA is a unique opportunity for students to dig deep into their subjects and apply theoretical knowledge practically. In my experience, understanding the role of the Internal Assessment is the first step in using it to your academic advantage.

The Role of Internal Assessments in the IB Curriculum

The IB Internal Assessment is a component of several IB courses, including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, Economics, and more. It’s essentially a coursework that students undertake during their studies, contributing to their overall assessment in the respective subject. Depending on the subject, the IA may take various forms, such as laboratory experiments, research papers, essays, oral presentations, artistic performances, or portfolios.

In my opinion, the essence of the Internal Assessment lies in its ability to encourage independent research and critical thinking. Each IB subject requires an IA, and the nature of these assessments can vary greatly, from scientific experiments in Biology and Chemistry to oral presentations in Languages and detailed project work in subjects like History and Business Management. According to general IB criteria, these assessments account for a significant portion of the final grade — often around 20% to 25%.

As far as I know, the IA’s internal marking scheme sets it apart. Teachers within your school initially assess your work, which is then subject to external moderation by the IB to ensure consistent standards globally. This dual-layer evaluation process ensures rigor and fairness in judging student efforts.

From my experience, the best way to approach an Internal Assessment is with thorough preparation and a clear understanding of the assessment criteria. Each subject’s IA has specific criteria detailed in the subject guide. Students must familiarize themselves with these requirements early on. For instance, in a Science IA, the emphasis might be on the design and methodology of an experiment, whereas in English, the focus could be on analytical and interpretative skills.

Moreover, the IA process allows students to engage deeply with a topic of their choice within the subject area. This personal engagement is highly valued in the IB philosophy as it stimulates a deeper connection to learning and a genuine expression of the student’s interests.

Key Components of IB Internal Assessment

I’ve found that successful Internal Assessments have several core components. Understanding these elements is essential for students who want to excel in their IA projects. Based on my experience and general IB criteria, let me walk you through what I consider to be the fundamental aspects of an Internal Assessment.

Introduction and Research Question

First and foremost, a perfect Internal Assessment begins with a clear and concise introduction that sets the stage for the investigation. This section should include a well-defined research question or hypothesis. The research question is your guiding star throughout the IA process; it should be specific, focused, and aligned with the IB’s academic standards.

Research and Data Collection

Once your question is set, the next crucial phase is research and data collection. Your ability to gather reliable and relevant information — or data, depending on the subject — will underpin the validity of your entire project. Here’s a list of methodologies you might consider:

  • Experimental, involving controlled tests to observe specific outcomes.
  • Analytical, using existing information to uncover patterns or insights.
  • Comparative, contrasting different cases or examples to form conclusions.
  • Descriptive, detailing phenomena or situations without manipulating variables.

Effective research methodologies vary across disciplines but generally involve primary data, which is collected through experiments, surveys, or observations. Secondary data involves gathering information from scholarly articles, books, and reputable online resources.

Analysis and Interpretation

After collecting your data, the next step is analysis and interpretation. This stage is about making sense of your data with your research question. Here, critical thinking and analytical skills come into play as you attempt to draw meaningful insights from the information.

Conclusion and Evaluation

Finally, a strong Internal Assessment will conclude with a robust conclusion and evaluation. This section should summarize the findings concerning the research question and critically evaluate the study itself. Consider discussing the limitations of your methodology, potential biases in your data, and suggestions for future research.


A distinctive feature of the IB IA is the reflection component. Reflecting on your learning process, the challenges encountered, and how you overcame them adds a personal and introspective dimension to your work. This reflection is not only about what you learned academically but also about your growth as a learner.

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Types of Internal Assessments Across Subjects

In my years of experience with the IB curriculum, I’ve seen various Internal Assessments that show students’ diverse interests and strengths. Each subject area offers its unique approach to IAs, reflecting the specific objectives and skills central to the discipline. From my perspective, understanding the distinct types of IAs available across subjects is crucial for tailoring your approach to maximize both your learning and your grades.

Sciences and Mathematics

In my opinion, the Sciences and Mathematics subjects offer some of the most hands-on opportunities within the IB curriculum. According to general IB criteria, these Internal Assessments often require students to conduct experiments or extended problem-solving exercises.

For instance, in Chemistry and Biology, you might find yourself designing and executing laboratory experiments to research scientific theories in a practical context. In mathematics, the Internal Assessment could involve an in-depth investigation of the real-life application of mathematical principles. These tasks challenge you to apply your knowledge practically and engage with scientific methods and mathematical reasoning at a deeper level.

Humanities and Arts

From my experience, Humanities and Arts  Internal Assessments emphasize analytical and expressive skills. In subjects like History and Visual Arts, Internal Assessments provide a platform to dig into historical analysis or artistic creation.

For History, you might be tasked with analyzing primary sources to construct a coherent argument about a past event. In Visual Arts, the IA could involve creating a piece of art with a reflective statement that investigates your creative process and conceptual intentions. These assessments foster a deep engagement with content and encourage a personal connection to the material.

Language and Literature

As far as I know, these IAs focus heavily on communication and analytical skills. These might include oral presentations, written assignments, or interactive projects that require you to analyze literary texts or research linguistic studies.

For example, an English Literature  Internal Assessment could involve a critical essay on a piece of literature, examining themes, character development, and authorial intent. Alternatively, a Language Acquisition IA might include an oral presentation in a foreign language, assessing your ability to communicate and articulate thoughts clearly. These  Internal Assessments evaluate your understanding of the language or literature and ability to express insights cogently and creatively.

Common Challenges in Writing Internal Assessments

Choosing the right topic is often the first hurdle. It’s crucial to select a topic that not only interests you but also meets the IB’s stringent criteria. A poorly chosen topic can lead to a lack of motivation and difficulty finding sufficient resources. According to general IB criteria, the topic should allow in-depth analysis and demonstrate learning objectives.

Gathering data is another significant challenge. Many students struggle to find reliable sources or encounter difficulties conducting experiments due to limited resources or logistical constraints. From my experience, planning your data collection meticulously and allowing for contingencies is critical to overcoming these hurdles.

Next, perhaps one of the most common challenges is managing time effectively. The IA requires considerable work, and balancing this with other academic commitments can be stressful. Here’s a list of strategies that might help:


  • Set a Timeline. Break down the IA process into manageable stages and set deadlines for each.
  • Regular Check-ins. Schedule regular sessions to review your progress and adjust your plan as necessary.
  • Prioritize Tasks. Identify the most time-consuming tasks and tackle them early in the process.

Moreover, many students find it challenging to write and structure their Internal Assessments effectively. An IA should not only be informative but also organized and well-presented. In my opinion, developing a detailed outline before you start writing can significantly ease this process.

Also, remember that receiving and including feedback is critical to the  Internal Assessment writing process. Sometimes, the feedback can be challenging to accept, especially if it requires significant changes to your work. From my experience, viewing feedback as a constructive tool to refine your assessment rather than as criticism is essential.


Your Internal Assessment is an essential part of your IB experience. It challenges you to apply your knowledge, think critically, and express your ideas with clarity and creativity. Take advantage of this opportunity, which may be one of the most rewarding aspects of your IB path. Ready to start your Internal Assessment? Approach it with curiosity and determination, or contact our IB writers if you need help with your IA.

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky

Nick Radlinsky is a passionate educator, marketer, and management expert with over 15 years of experience in the education sector. After graduating from business school in 2016, Nick embarked on a journey to earn his PhD, fueled by his dedication to making education better for students everywhere. His extensive experience, beginning in 2008, has made him a trusted authority in the field.

Nick's groundbreaking article, published in Routledge's "Entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe: Development through Internationalization," showcases his keen insights and commitment to improving the educational landscape. Guided by his motto, "Make education better," Nick's mission is to simplify students' lives and promote efficiency in learning. His innovative ideas and leadership have helped transform countless educational experiences, setting him apart as a true pioneer in his field.

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