What none of us realized about the new IAs

Travis DixonInternal Assessment (IB)

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.

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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/