Navigating the IB Chemistry IA: From Planning to Execution

Navam Thind
8 min read


The Internal Assessment in IB chemistry is an opportunity for students to conduct research thoroughly into a topic of their choice and conduct a hands-on experiment. However, it’s a long process, and planning, executing and writing a successful IA can be extremely stressful. This article aims to clearly explain the different steps involved in the process, and each section includes some insights to help you submit your best work!


One of the most important steps when starting a Chemistry IA is to look over the criteria and take note of any key elements in order to successfully understand what is required. The 5 assessment criteria are as follows:

  1. Personal engagement looks at the students' initiative and creativity in exploring their topic.
  2. Exploration evaluates how well the student was able to plan and conduct their investigation.
  3. Analysis focuses on the student’s ability to analyze data, identify trends and come to logical conclusions.
  4. Evaluation looks at how well the student was able to evaluate the strengths and limitations of their investigation.
  5. Communication assesses the clarity and organization of the report.

Another extremely important step is to review example IAs completed by past students in order to understand the quality and the level of detail expected, provide examples on the structure and format and how to present and analyze data.

Choosing a Topic

Choose a topic that you are genuinely interested in, and not just something that you think will get a good mark. You will have to carry out the experiment, and if there is no personal engagement or interest, it will be difficult to write about. Something else to consider is the feasibility of the experiment, such as the available resources, time, and safety. Try not to choose a broad topic, it’s alright to start big, but your aim should be to narrow it down into a reasonable research question.

Conducting Preliminary Research

The next step is to conduct preliminary research, which could include a literature value and choosing your variables. A literature review is useful to gain a solid foundation of the topic by reading over existing studies and data, and can be conducted by searching and evaluating sources and identifying any patterns. Choose your variables according to their relevance to the research question, and their measurability, as selecting the right variables is extremely important for designing an experiment.

Creating a Research Question

When formulating a research question, make sure that it is focused towards a specific topic that is researchable. As well, ensure that it can be investigated scientifically with evidence to back up your theories. A good research question should be precisely worded, be testable and have a significant connection to the curriculum. An example of a well written research question is “How does the presence of a copper catalyst affect the rate of the reaction between zinc and hydrochloric acid?”, which stems from the more general theme of the role of catalysts in chemical reactions.

Formulating a Hypothesis

The three major components to keep in mind when formulating a research question are: testability, specificity, and relevance. The hypothesis should be testable and the results should be visible through observations and experiments. It should be clear and specific, and outline the relationship between the variables. The hypothesis should be directly related to the research question and the variables that are being investigated. Using the example above, an example of a well developed hypothesis is “The presence of a copper catalyst will increase the rate of reaction between zinc and hydrochloric acid by lowering the activation energy required for the reaction.” Finally, include a null hypothesis, that proposes that no statistical significance exists in the results obtained in the observations and experiments. An example of a null hypothesis is “There will be no change in the rate of reaction between zinc and hydrochloric acid with the presence of a copper catalyst.”

Planning the Experiment

Make a list of the materials and chemicals you will need and create a method that you will use to carry out the experiment. Identify any potential hazards associated with the experiment and how you would plan to reduce them, such as using a fume hood to contain harmful gasses and vapors. Now use your method outline to create a detailed procedure that includes the number of trials and amount of the materials needed, ensuring that the procedure can be replicated. Next, plan out how you will collect data during your experiment, with tables, charts, etc. Determine which methods you will use to analyze the data, such as the analysis of graphs, or statistical tests.

Writing the IA Report

The format of an IA would be as follows:

  1. An introduction to provide background information on the chemistry topic, starting broad and narrowing down your scope to your research question, as well as explaining the significance of your investigation.
  2. Describe the materials, methods and procedure including any controls or safety precautions used.
  3. Present your data and results in an organized manner using tables, graphs, or another method that fits your investigation, while highlighting any trends or patterns observed.
  4. In the discussion section, analyze your results, talk about their significance and compare them to the literature from your preliminary research. If there are any limitations or outliers in your experiment, they would be mentioned and discussed here.
  5. In the conclusion, summarize your findings and their implications, while suggesting improvements and further research that you would be interested in conducting.
  6. In the works cited section, you must include any references to any websites, literature or other information used in the research.

Use your research in the previous steps to help you complete this part. This way, you will not be writing it from scratch all at once, but adding on to your preliminary research, research question and


After finishing your report, there are still other things you are able to do to ensure that you submit your best work. Ask your classmate or teacher to review your IA and provide feedback for your improvement. It is always better to start early to manage your time effectively! Use this guide to break the task into smaller steps and try to set deadlines for each step. Another piece of advice is to keep a detailed account of your process, such as research or data analysis so you have something to refer to if there are any mistakes.

Writing an IB chemistry IA can seem intimidating, but it is a challenge that will produce great results if you plan carefully, conduct thorough research and provide details! By properly understanding the criteria and expectations, you can create an interesting and strong investigation. Keep these tips in mind and hone in on your passion and commitment to your chosen topic in order to achieve success.