What none of us realized about the new IAs

Travis Dixon Internal Assessment (IB) 5 Comments

The subtle changes to the new Psych IA rubric caught many of us off guard, but after reading this article you should be better prepared for next year.

There is one massive change to the new IB Psychology IA rubric that I overlooked at first with my students. After moderating around 200 IAs it seems I wasn’t alone. 

In the old curriculum, IB Psych Internal Assessments were replications of an existing study. Surprisingly, in the new curriculum a student could technically score perfect marks without replicating an original study or even mentioning one. 

Now, I’ll hasten to add that I would definitely not encourage students try to do this and it’s always best that they base their investigation on an existing study, but it’s an important fact to note.

Why? Well, the rubric never actually mentions anything about the original study. However, the Introduction criterion and the Evaluation criterion require students discuss their investigation in relation to a background theory or model. This is the most overlooked part of the IA requirements and it’s what stopped so many students from getting top marks.

If your IAs were moderated down and you’d like some specific feedback as to why and how to do better next year, considering order our IA PEER REVIEW PACK. Available HERE.

The Introduction

Most students skim over the background theory and spend most of their time describing in full detail the original study. Actually, they would be far better off spending more time describing the original theory and less time and effort on the study.

Another common mistake is that students have too many theories in their introduction. I would recommend keeping it simple by identifying one. For example, if replicating Loftus and Palmer’s 1974 study, they could focus on schema theory or reconstructive memory or the misinformation effect as their focus. Including all three is unnecessary and does not score higher marks.


The rubric also clearly states that the students need to explain the link between their investigation and the theory. In other words, they need to explain how their study (the one they are conducting – not the original) is relevant to the background theory. Many students fail to do this.

You could even encourage students to use the language of the rubric by saying something like, “Our investigation is linked to (theory/model name) because …. ” This will help make sure that they are hitting all aspects of the rubric.

The Evaluation

The next major section where the background theory is far more important than the original study is in the evaluation section. Most students discuss their results in relation to the original study, which was a requirement in the old syllabus, but fail to even mention their background theory. The rubric clearly states that students must discuss their findings in relation to the theory. In other words, they should try to explain their results using the original theory, or alternatively they may give reasons why the theory cannot explain the results.

An example Internal Assessment can be found in our IA Teacher Support Pack (Link), along with checklists, guidelines, workbooks, recommendations for studies, etc.

Another common error in the evaluation was that students did not provide strengths and limitations for all three of the following: design, procedure and sample. In order to get top marks, all three must be evaluated.

In Summary…

This year when teaching my IAs I’m going to explain to students that first they should find a study they are interested in replicating. Then I am going to get them to identify the phenomenon the study is investigating and the best theory that explains that phenomenon. This will make sure they fully comprehend what they’re doing and more importantly why they’re doing it. It should also help make fulfilling the requirements of the IA rubric easier.

Got a question about the IA? Leave it in the comments.


Our teacher support pack has everything students and teachers need to get top marks in the IA. Download a Free preview from https://store.themantic-education.com/

Comments 5

  1. Travis Dixon….Once again…you’re clearing this up beautifully! So grateful for all of your hard work!!

  2. To add to the IA blog post:

    Some of my observations when marking IAs

    The theory at best is stated for the majority and poorly used to explain the findings of the student’s results. The Stroop effect is difficult to apply a theory to explain the effect (automaticity) and limits the score for:

    The aim of the investigation is stated and its relevance is explained.
    The theory or model upon which the student’s investigation is based is described and the link to the student’s investigation is explained.

    I will be asking my students to serve Stroop unless they can convince me of being able to satisfy the above.

    Regarding the exploration I found the biggest reasons for students not to achieve the high band in the marking criteria was because of the subtle difference between describe and explain e.g.

    A control variable was that the same word lists were used for both groups (described), which means that there will be no difference in the difficulty of reading the words or the familiarity of them, since these two extraneous variables could influence the number of words correctly recalled (explained).

    Is “double dipping” allowed?

    The choice of participants is explained:

    … participants all had proficient level of English because they achieved a certificate/qualification in English language that allowed them to enrol on the IB program and would be able to understand the standardised instructions and the words in the stimulus material (word list).

    … Limitations of the … sample … stated and explained and relevant to the investigation.

    … the weakness of the sample was that there were differing levels of English proficiency, meaning that the results could be due to the level of English and not being able to recognise the words rather than the memorisation technique used.

    Would it be possible to use a table for some of the evaluation section, very similar to page 11 in the IA work book?

    I have previously taught Sport Exercise and Health Science and a table was acceptable in the evaluation section of the IA. This would help students ensure they have attended to the elements in the criteria as well as making marking of this section lot easier.

    Hope there is some use to my observations and questions.

    1. Post

      Thanks for the comments, Paul.

      * I think technically an evaluative table would be fine and moderator’s would have to accept it, but personally I wouldn’t encourage it for a final draft. Could be a great thing for a first draft to make sure they’re hitting all the right points.
      * Double dipping is fine and in fact in many places unavoidable.
      * I agree about Stroop – I’ll be taking it off any future lists of recommended studies.

  3. I have students doing stroop as their study. Is there certain theory I should direct them to or way to conduct the study? Should I have them change their study altogether?

    1. Post

      Hi Kristi,
      If they’ve already conducted their study or are quite a way deep into the IA process, I would allow them to continue. If you’re only one or two lessons into it, perhaps changing is a good idea.

      If they continue, the Wikipedia page on Stroop has four possible theories they might explore.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.