FAQs for Internal Assessment
The following page provides answers to commonly asked questions about the internal assessment.
As more questions arise in the new curriculum, more questions and answers may be added to this page.
What is meant by a simple experiment?
The psychology course defines a simple experimental study as requiring the manipulation of one independent variable and measurement of one dependent variable, while other variables are kept constant. Consequently, correlational studies, quasi-experiments and natural experiments (that is, any research undertaken without control over the independent variable and without a controlled sampling procedure) are not acceptable for the simple experimental study.
May students do a comparison of gender differences?
Variables that are based upon pre-existing characteristics of the participants are not suitable for the IB Internal Assessment. Variables that are not acceptable independent variables include, but are not limited to:
- gender (e.g., comparing the results of female and male participants)
- age (e.g., the performance of 10 year old participants as compared to 18 year old participants)
- native language (e.g., native French speakers versus native Mandarin speakers)
- culture (e.g., Afro-Caribbean participant results as compared to Swedish participants)
- education level (e.g., students in grade 5 as compared to students in grade 11)
- socio-economic status (e.g., poor participants versus rich participants)
- handedness (e.g., left-handed and right-handed participants)
While these variables might be of interest to students, they cannot be manipulated within the framework of the IA. Studies submitted for internal assessment that does not meet the requirements for experimental work will be awarded zero marks.
What is the difference between the SL and HL IA?
There is no difference between HL and SL as of May 2019.
How large a sample must students have?
Students should strive for 20 participants in their study - that is, two groups of 10 or one group of 20. Fewer than 10 in a group makes it very difficult to have valid statistical analysis. Students may pool data with other students in order to get the minimum sample size.
Must students work in groups?
Yes. As of May 2019, all IAs must be the product of group work. If there are no other candidates in the school, the IB recommends remote sharing of data with students at another school. A group must have a minimum of two students and up to four students.
Each group must collect its own data. More than one group is allowed to research the same hypotheses (HL) or aims (SL), but each student must write up his or her own individual report. It is accepted that the procedures, data tables and materials of a group working together will be identical.
Are there any other limitations on what they may do?
Examples of experiments that are unacceptable for HL or SL internal assessment include:
- Conformity and obedience studies
- animal research
- placebo experiments
- experiments involving ingestion (e.g., food, drink, smoking, drugs)
- experiments involving deprivation (e.g. sleep, food)
In addition, students may not use small children in their sample. It is recommended that no one under the age of 16 would be used in the sample.
Do students need to cite the original study?
No. Students may find the study to be replicated in any text, as long as they cite the text in which they find it. Students are not awarded more credit for using the original study. Often, the original study is very difficult for young psychology students to understand, so a more learner-friendly version may be more appropriate.
May students use the original materials from the study or must they create their own?
More often than not, it is not possible to find the original materials or obtain the original list. The IB Psychology IA report requires that students justify their choice of materials. If students are able to obtain the original materials, they may use them - but they need to justify why this choice was made.
Must students include all calculations in the appendices?
Students are no longer required to include calculations of their descriptive statistics in the appendices. However, they should include a print-out of how they calculated the inferential statistics. This will assist the moderator.
May the classroom teachers give consent for their students?
No. Participants 16 and older must each fill in their own consent form. Experimental studies involving children under age 16 need the written consent of parent(s) or guardian(s). Candidates must ensure that parents are fully informed about the implications for children who take part in such research. Where an experimental study is conducted with children in a school, the written consent of the teachers concerned must also be obtained.
Is it allowed to use deception at all?
Any experimental study that involves unjustified deception must be avoided. Minor deception with regard to the goals of the experiment are allowed.
What is included in the word count? How strictly should the student follow the guidelines?
The word-count is to be strictly adhered to. Students should not assume that it is acceptable to go over the word count. Remember that the title page, appendices, graphs, tables, section headings and works cited page are not included in the final word count.
Do we need to send all materials used, including DVDs & powerpoint presentations?
Students should cite all DVD's in their works cited page; in addition, they should describe any materials used in the procedure section. They should keep all materials until grades are awarded in case there is some question about the nature of the material, but please do not send CD's or other physical (ie. non-paper) materials to your moderator.
What is meant by "operationalization of variables?"
In order for variables to be operationalized, it must be explained how the IV and DV will be measured. Simply writing that the IV was "stress" and the DV was "accuracy" is not an operationalization of the variables. There should be a clear explanation of how the variables will be defined and measured in the experiment.
What if my students' results are not signficant?
Hurrah! In some ways, this makes it even easier to write the discussion! When the experiment works perfectly, often it is difficult to write about the limitations of the study. Students are not penalized if they do not reach the same conclusions as the original study. The "replication" is solely of the procedure, not of the findings.