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Internal Assessment Rubrics

Page history last edited by Brendt Bly 11 years, 6 months ago

There are five assessment criteria that are used to assess the work of both SL and HL students. This is 24% of the IB grade.


  1. Design—D
  2. Data collection and processing—DCP
  3. Conclusion and evaluation—CE
  4. Manipulative skills—MS
  5. Personal skills—PS


The first three criteria—design (D), data collection and processing (DCP) and conclusion and evaluation (CE)—are each assessed twice.


Manipulative skills (MS) are assessed summatively over the whole course and the assessment should be based on a wide range of manipulative skills.


Personal skills (PS) are assessed once only and this will be during the group 4 project.


Each of the assessment criteria can be separated into three aspects as shown in the following sections. Descriptions are provided to indicate what is expected in order to meet the requirements of a given aspect completely (c) and partially (p). A description is also given for circumstances in which the requirements are not satisfied, not at all (n).


A “complete” is awarded 2 marks, a “partial” 1 mark and a “not at all” 0 marks. The maximum mark for each criterion is 6 (representing three “completes”).

D × 2 = 12

DCP × 2 = 12

CE × 2 = 12

MS × 1 = 6

PS × 1 = 6

This makes a total mark out of 48. The marks for each of the criteria are added together to determine the final mark out of 48 for the IA component. This is then scaled at IBCA to give a total out of 24%.



Aspect 1: defining the problem and selecting variables

It is essential that teachers give an open-ended problem to investigate, where there are several independent variables from which a student could choose one that provides a suitable basis for the investigation. This should ensure that a range of plans will be formulated by students and that there is sufficient scope to identify both independent and controlled variables.

Although the general aim of the investigation may be given by the teacher, students must identify a focused problem or specific research question. Commonly, students will do this by modifying the general aim provided and indicating the variable(s) chosen for investigation.

The teacher may suggest the general research question only. Asking students to investigate some property of a reaction system such as esterification, where no variables are given, would be an acceptable teacher prompt. This could then be focused by the student as follows: “How does changing the carboxylic acid affect the equilibrium constant of the esterification reaction with ethanol?” or “How does changing the acid catalyst concentration affect the rate of the esterification reaction between ethanol and ethanoic acid?”.

Alternatively, the teacher may suggest the general research question and specify the dependent variable or a quantity derived from the dependent variable. An example of such a teacher prompt would be to ask the student to investigate factors influencing retention in thin-layer chromatography. This could then be focused by the student as follows: “How does the mole composition of a propanone/water binary solvent mixture affect the retention of methyl orange indicator in thin-layer chromatography?” or “How does changing the aqueous solvent pH affect the retention of acid–base indicators in thin-layer chromatography?”.

It is not sufficient for the student merely to restate the research question provided by the teacher.

Variables are factors that can be measured and/or controlled. Independent variables are those that are manipulated, and the result of this manipulation leads to the measurement of the dependent variable. A controlled variable is one that should be held constant so as not to obscure the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.

The variables need to be explicitly identified by the student as the dependent (measured), independent (manipulated) and controlled variables (constants). Relevant variables are those that can reasonably be expected to affect the outcome. For example, in the investigation “How does changing the acid catalyst concentration affect the rate of the esterification reaction between ethanol and ethanoic acid?”, the student must clearly state that the independent variable is the catalyst concentration and the dependent variable is the concentration of ethanoic acid after a fixed time interval. The relevant controlled variables are temperature and the initial concentrations in the reaction mixture of ethanol and ethanoic acid. The student should not be penalized for identifying further control variables that may not be so immediately relevant.

Students should not be:

  • given a focused research question

  • told the outcome of the investigation

  • told which independent variable to select

  • told which variables to hold constant.

Aspect 2: controlling variables

“Control of variables” refers to the manipulation of the independent variable and the attempt to maintain the controlled variables at a constant value. The method should include explicit reference to how the control of variables is achieved. If the control of variables is not practically possible, some effort should be made to monitor the variable(s).

A standard measurement technique may be used as part of a wider investigation but it should not be the focus of that investigation. Students should be assessed on their individual design of the wider investigation. If a standard measurement technique is used it should be referenced. For example, while planning an investigation to study the factors that influence the rate of oxidation of vitamin C in fruit juices, the student may have adapted a method for vitamin C determination from a literature source. A standard reference would then be expected as a footnote.

Students should not be told:

  • which apparatus to select

  • the experimental method.

Aspect 3: developing a method for collection of data

The definition of “sufficient relevant data” depends on the context. The planned investigation should anticipate the collection of sufficient data so that the aim or research question can be suitably addressed and an evaluation of the reliability of the data can be made.

Example considerations when assessing sufficiency of data could be the following: If a trend line is to be plotted though a scattergraph then at least five data points are needed, or the plan should allow for repeated measurements to calculate a mean (for example, repeat calorimetric determinations when investigating an enthalpy of reaction). The plan should show an appreciation of the need for a trial run and repeats until consistent results are obtained in titrimetric determinations.

Students should not be told:

  • how to collect the data

  • how much data to collect.

Data collection and processing

Ideally, students should work on their own when collecting data.

When data collection is carried out in groups, the actual recording and processing of data should be independently undertaken if this criterion is to be assessed. Recording class or group data is only appropriate if the data-sharing method does not suggest a presentation format for the students.

Aspect 1: recording raw data

Raw data is the actual data measured. This may include associated qualitative data. It is permissible to convert handwritten raw data into word-processed form. The term “quantitative data” refers to numerical measurements of the variables associated with the investigation. Associated qualitative data are considered to be those observations that would enhance the interpretation of results.

Uncertainties are associated with all raw data and an attempt should always be made to quantify uncertainties. For example, when students say there is an uncertainty in a stopwatch measurement because of reaction time, they must estimate the magnitude of the uncertainty. Within tables of quantitative data, columns should be clearly annotated with a heading, units and an indication of the uncertainty of measurement. The uncertainty need not be the same as the manufacturer’s stated precision of the measuring device used. Significant digits in the data and the uncertainty in the data must be consistent. This applies to all measuring devices, for example, digital meters, stopwatches, and so on. The number of significant digits should reflect the precision of the measurement.

There should be no variation in the precision of raw data. For example, the same number of decimal places should be used. For data derived from processing raw data (for example, means), the level of precision should be consistent with that of the raw data.

The recording of the level of precision would be expected from the point where the student takes over the manipulation. For example, students would not be expected to state the level of precision in the concentration of a solution prepared for them.

Students should not be told how to record the raw data. For example, they should not be given a pre-formatted table with any columns, headings, units or uncertainties.

Aspect 2: processing raw data

Data processing involves, for example, combining and manipulating raw data to determine the value of a physical quantity (such as adding, subtracting, squaring, dividing), and taking the average of several measurements and transforming data into a form suitable for graphical representation. It might be that the data is already in a form suitable for graphical presentation, for example, light absorbance readings plotted against time readings. If the raw data is represented in this way and a best-fit line graph is drawn and the gradient determined, then the raw data has been processed. Plotting raw data (without a graph line) does not constitute processing data.

The recording and processing of data may be shown in one table provided they are clearly distinguishable.

Students should not be told:

  • how to process the data

  • what quantities to graph/plot.

Aspect 3: presenting processed data

When data is processed, the uncertainties associated with the data must also be considered. If the data is combined and manipulated to determine the value of a physical quantity (for example, specific heat capacity), then the uncertainties in the data must be propagated (see topic 11). Calculating the percentage difference between the measured value and the literature value does not constitute error analysis.

Students are expected to decide upon a suitable presentation format themselves (for example, spreadsheet, table, graph, chart, flow diagram, and so on). There should be clear, unambiguous headings for calculations, tables or graphs. Graphs need to have appropriate scales, labelled axes with units, and accurately plotted data points with a suitable best-fit line or curve (not a scattergraph with data-point to data-point connecting lines). Students should present the data so that all the stages to the final result can be followed. Inclusion of metric/SI units is expected for final derived quantities, which should be expressed to the correct number of significant figures. The treatment of uncertainties in graphical analysis requires the construction of appropriate best-fit lines.

The complete fulfillment of aspect 3 does not require students to draw lines of minimum and maximum fit to the data points, to include error bars or to combine errors through root mean squared calculations. Although error bars on data points (for example, standard error) are not expected, they are a perfectly acceptable way of expressing the degree of uncertainty in the data.

In order to completely fulfill aspect 3, students should include a treatment of uncertainties and errors with their processed data.

The treatment of uncertainties should be in accordance with assessment statements 11.2.1 and 11.2.2 of this guide.

Conclusion and evaluation

Aspect 1: concluding

Conclusions that are supported by the data are acceptable even if they appear to contradict accepted theories. However, the conclusion must take into account any systematic or random errors and uncertainties. A percentage error should be compared with the total estimated random error as derived from the propagation of uncertainties.

In justifying their conclusion, students should discuss whether systematic error or further random errors were encountered. The direction of any systematic errors should be appreciated. Analysis may include comparisons of different graphs or descriptions of trends shown in graphs. The explanation should contain observations, trends or patterns revealed by the data.

When measuring an already known and accepted value of a physical quantity, students should draw a conclusion as to their confidence in their result by comparing the experimental value with the textbook or literature value. The literature consulted should be fully referenced.

Aspect 2: evaluating procedure(s)

The design and method of the investigation must be commented upon as well as the quality of the data. The student must not only list the weaknesses but must also appreciate how significant the weaknesses are. Comments about the precision and accuracy of the measurements are relevant here. When evaluating the procedure used, the student should specifically look at the processes, use of equipment and management of time.

Aspect 3: improving the investigation

Suggestions for improvement should be based on the weaknesses and limitations identified in aspect 2. Modifications to the experimental techniques and the data range can be addressed here. The modifications should address issues of precision, accuracy and reproducibility of the results. Students should suggest how to reduce random error, remove systematic error and/or obtain greater control of variables. The modifications proposed should be realistic and clearly specified. It is not sufficient to state generally that more precise equipment should be used.

Manipulative skills

(This criterion must be assessed summatively.)

Aspect 1: following instructions

Indications of manipulative ability are the amount of assistance required in assembling equipment, the orderliness of carrying out the procedure(s) and the ability to follow the instructions accurately. The adherence to safe working practices should be apparent in all aspects of practical activities.

A wide range of complex tasks should be included in the scheme of work.

Aspect 2: carrying out techniques

It is expected that students will be exposed to a variety of different investigations during the course that enables them to experience a variety of experimental situations.

Aspect 3: working safely

The student’s approach to safety during investigations in the laboratory or in the field must be assessed. Nevertheless, the teacher must not put students in situations of unacceptable risk.

The teacher should judge what is acceptable and legal under local regulations and with the facilities available. See the “Safety” section in this guide under "Guidance and authenticity".


Reference: IBO 2007


Design - D


Aspect 1

Defining the problem

and selecting


Aspect 2

Controlling variables

Aspect 3

Developing a method

for collection of data


Formulates a focused problem/ research question and identifies the relevant variables.

Designs a method for the effective control of the variables.

Develops a method that allows for the collection of sufficient relevant data.


Formulates a problem/research question that is

incomplete or identifies only some relevant variables.

Designs a method that makes some attempt to control the variables.


Develops a method that allows for the collection of insufficient relevant data.

Not at all/0

Does not identify a


question and does not identify any relevant variables.

Designs a method that does not control the variables.


Develops a method

that does not allow for any relevant data to be collected.


Data Collection and Processing - DCP


Aspect 1

Recording raw data

Aspect 2

Processing raw data

Aspect 3

Presenting processed



Records appropriate

quantitative and

associated qualitative raw data, including units and uncertainties where relevant.

Processes the

quantitative raw data correctly.


Presents processed

data appropriately and, where relevant, includes

errors and uncertainties.



Records appropriate

quantitative and

associated qualitative raw data, but with some mistakes or omissions.

Processes quantitative

raw data, but with

some mistakes and/or omissions.

Presents processed data appropriately, but with some mistakes and/or omissions.

Not at all/0

Does not record any appropriate quantitative raw data or raw data is


No processing of

quantitative raw data is carried out or major mistakes are made in processing.

Presents processed

data inappropriately or



Conclusion and Evaluation - CE


Aspect 1




Aspect 2

Evaluating procedure(s) 

Aspect 3

Improving the



States a conclusion,

with justification,

based on a reasonable

interpretation of the data.

Evaluates weaknesses and limitations.

Suggests realistic

improvements in

respect of identified

weaknesses and



States a conclusion

based on a reasonable

interpretation of the data.

Identifies some

weaknesses and

limitations, but the

evaluation is weak or missing.

Suggests only



Not at all/0

States no conclusion or

the conclusion is based on an unreasonable

interpretation of the


Identifies irrelevant

weaknesses and


Suggests unrealistic



Manipulative Skills – MS


Aspect 1



Aspect 2

Carrying out


Aspect 3

Working safely


Follows instructions

accurately, adapting to new circumstances

(seeking assistance when required).

Competent and

methodical in the use of a range of techniques and equipment.

Pays attention to safety issues.


Follows instructions but requires assistance.

Usually competent and methodical in the use of a range of techniques and equipment.

Usually pays attention to safety issues.

Not at all/0

Rarely follows

instructions or requires constant supervision.

Rarely competent and methodical in the use of a range of techniques

and equipment.

Rarely pays attention to safety issues.

*Instructions may be in a variety of forms: oral, written worksheets, diagrams, photographs, videos, flow charts, audio tapes, models, computer programs, and so on, and need not originate from the teacher.


Personal Skills- PS


Aspect 1

Self-motivation and


Aspect 2

Working within a


Aspect 3



Approaches the project with self-motivation and follows it through

to completion.

Collaborates and

communicates in a

group situation and integrates the views of others.

Shows a thorough

awareness of their

own strengths and

weaknesses and

gives thoughtful

consideration to their learning experience.


Completes the project but sometimes lacks


Exchanges some views but requires guidance to collaborate with others.

Shows limited

awareness of their

own strengths and

weaknesses and gives some consideration

to their learning


Not at all/0

Lacks perseverance and motivation.

Makes little or no

attempt to collaborate in a group situation.

Shows no awareness

of their own strengths and weaknesses and

gives no consideration to their learning



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