Environmental Systems and Societies

Mr. Machin’s Guide to an IA in ESS

This page is information that I have collected from IB training and from background reading. I am new to IB ESS so please remember this is not perfect. It is not complete. I will update it so come back to it later for more information as I add it. I hope it is useful.

What we need to know about the Internal Assessment

  • It is an individual investigation of a student-designed research question, related to ESS.
  • The IA should take 10 hours at a minimum to do the experiment (not including class discussion, but including teacher consultation, method writing, data collection) but writing it up is additional.
  • You are open to do any topic that you have an interest in.
  • It must be designed and implemented by you, with only guided by me.
  • It must be properly referenced and cited.
  • It is 25% of your grade.
  • It must be between 1,500 and 2,250 words (and if you are outside this, you will lose points*).
  • It must not have an appendix.
  • It is graded out of 30, by me, following set mark-band level descriptors.
  • Some of your IAs are then sent to the IB for moderation. If they agree with me, everybody’s grades will stay the same. If they disagree, all IAs may change.
  • Data collection can be;
  • - lab work
  • - field work
  • - primary or secondary data
  • - quantitative data or quantitative data
  • - interviews
  • - ecosystem or sustainability modelling
  • It can NOT be a literature review or some vague opinions
  • There should be a wide range of data collected, should be many repeats
  • There should be statistical analysis.

You will be assessed on;

1) Identifying the Context (6 pts) – be focussed, relevant to ESS, and with a connected research question

2) Planning (6 pts) – make a repeatable method, with adequate sampling, considering the risks

3) Results, Analysis & Conclusion (6pts) – analyse data, draw graphs, and identify trends

4) Discussion & Evaluation (6 pts) – make a conclusion related to ESS, describe strengths, weaknesses & limitations of method, suggest modifications and areas of further research

5) Applications (3 pts) – justify an application to an ESS issue, evaluate to strengths, weaknesses & limitations of this application

6) Communication (3 pts) – be structured, organised, concise, logical and coherent

* = one tip to help with your word count; If you want to include big tables, or a questionnaire, perhaps complete as an example, with a key, this can really take away from your word count – BUT it can be typed up, scanned, and added as a photo file so does not count in your total!


  • It MUST have a strong foundation in the environment AND society, and you will be knocked down if you do not – so be careful not to choose a BIOLOGY topic.
  • It MUST be focussed, not too broad.
  • It MUST be local AND global.
  • If you are studying people, you must always connect to the environment
  • What part of ESS is it linked to? – topic?
  • Include a named example, give local cases, try to be local and global (or at least be able to expand to global in your discussion)
  • You must fully explain your project, not just describe
  • Give species names
  • Must be connected to METHOD
  • Keep refering to the criteria & context in all following sections
  • Refer to page 404 in our textbook (Oxford IB ESS) – look at what I am grading you on – look at the difference between LIST and DESCRIBE and EXPLAIN
  • Do a search for IA ideas in ESS on Google - but beware of bad advice!
  • For example Mr. G Science gives some ESS IA ideas → http://www.mrgscience.com/ess-ia-suggestions.html ← but this is a dodgy site – many of these suggestions do not consider both biology AND societies so beware! – I think Mr. Green knows his biology but maybe not his ESS!
  • This is a useful site from the OCC (IB website) → https://ibpublishing.ibo.org/ess/apps/dpapp/assessment.html?doc=d_4_ecoso_gui_1505_1_e ← it has student examples, AND more usefully their assessments – just because a topic is on this site does not mean it is a good idea – look at the assessment and see what the examiners gave it – perhaps it is a terrible idea and does not follow the guidelines I gave so don’t do it – but they may have given it a low grade because the report was written badly and perhaps the topic idea was good – these are suggestions to consider.