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Before Uploading the Science IA - Last Minute Checks & Editing Tips

So your students have finished with the Science IA, after hours of work in the lab and writing a long and comprehensive lab report it's finally time to submit to the IBO! There are a few things to check before you submit, things for both students and teachers. Since the requirements and assessment are the same for the Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Sports, Exercise & Health Science IA this post applies for all of those courses. Last year I was an IB examiner for Biology IAs, assessing over 100 IAs in English & French, so I thought I would use my knowledge as well as the information published by IBO to answer some common formatting questions. It is my hope that this blog post clears up any confusion about the submission process and helps you get all those IAs uploaded well ahead of the deadline!

For students:

Step 1: Anonymization

It is important to the IBO that all student work is anonymized, that means there are no names (of students, teachers or participants), the session number (ex. May 2023) is not included anywhere in the IA and the name or IB number of your school are not included anywhere in the IA. Students should write their IB Candidate code at the top of the paper (your IB Coordinator should have these after students register in the Fall of Year 2). Other than the candidate code no other identifying information should be included. This ensures impartial assessment by IB examiners.

Step 2: Formatting & Page Count

In the past students may have been told that while the body of their IA needed to be within 12 pages, they could include things like the Works Cited & Appendices afterwards. That is not true this year (May 2023 exam dates), the IBO is enforcing a hard limit of 12 pages! That means nothing should be included after page 12, including any appendices or your Works Cited. Moderators will stop reading after 12 pages and you will lose communication points for being too long-winded if you go over 12 pages. So keep it concise!

Here are some tips to help you keep your IA within the 12 page limit.

  • Do not waste a page with a title page

  • You can make your font size 11 instead of 12, but no smaller

  • Make sure all the pages are numbered

  • You do not need to include a copy of every consent form, reference to a consent form in the ethical concerns &/or procedure will work

  • If you have a large amount of raw data in your IA just include a representative sample & state that the rest is not included due to the page limit, as long as your teacher has seen the raw data you are ok

  • You need to fit your Works Cited in the 12 pages limit, so be deliberate about your choices of sources

Step 3: Last minute edits

Once your IA is completed and you are ready to submit take a little break and read over your IA one more time to check for typos, readability and spelling errors. If your IA is randomly chosen for moderation you don't want to have typos cause an issue with the examiners ability to understand what you did. You can use the following checklist (download link below) to help you ensure that you are using the right type of file name and that when you convert your IA into a PDF (this is particularly important for IAs which include equations) none of the graphs or tables move out of place.

IBDP Sciences IA Pre-Upload Checklist
Download PDF • 1.67MB

Step 4: Final Reflections

The Science IA is a huge undertaking and after it is all done it is well worth it to reflect on your IA experience, answer the following questions for yourself, write them down somewhere and share with your teacher. I know I love to hear specific feedback from my students about what their successes and struggles were so that I can improve my own teaching in preparation for the IA.

  • Take some time to think about what you did well and what your struggles were, write them down.

  • Which tips would you suggest to the next group of IB Bio students?

  • Do you have any feedback for your teacher?

  • Which skills did you learn during the IA process that will help you in the future?

For teachers:

Step 1: File format conversion

You will need to ensure that each students IA is saved in a format which is accepted by the IBO, you are permitted to upload Science IAs as a doc, docx or PDF file, although PDF is required if your IA includes equations and is recommended as a way to make sure that the images and other components remain in place. I recommend having your students do the conversion to a PDF so that they can check that all of the images, tables and equations have remained in the right place. Once they submit it to you take a minute to double check the formatting for tables and images in the converted the file type.

Your IB Coordinator will most likely have you change the name of each IA file to an anonymous but clear version, my school uses: LastName_CandidateCode_SubjectHL/SL to help keep things organized; names are allowed in the file name, although not anywhere else. I keep a printed list of my students' candidate codes in my teacher planning book for quick reference. The Science IAs are due to the IBO by April 20th, 2023 but my school made them due on April 5th to allow for time for upload of all the documents from all the courses. By April 5th we have the PDFs set and uploaded to a Google Drive folder and then upload our comments to another Google Sheet, similar to the one below (more to come about comments & scores).

Step 2: Internal Assessment Score & Comments

The Science IA is internally assessed and so your scores need to be clearly recorded along with comments explaining any choices you made. The IB examiner who randomly moderates some (or all) of your IAs will use your grades and comments to guide the moderation. They will only change your score if they are significantly higher or lower than the score given by the IB examiner who is moderating. This total score & break down, as well as your comments will be uploaded by the IB Coordinator in April.

Comments which explain which part of the rubric your student missed or did particularly well on are very helpful for examiners, for example you can state what is missing from your students research question if it is not fully focused or describe any issues with the ethics that you have noted during the IA process in your allotted class hours. As an IA examiner I find that IAs which are highly annotated tend to be hard for me to read and therefore grade, so while annotations are important it is best if they don't obscure the IA for the examiner. See the screenshot below taken from the IBO website to clarify the various types of annotations you can add in Word or PDF files. In the final uploaded version of my students' IAs, I write detailed comments on a separate rubric document rather than annotate the IA itself, only making note of key things in the IA and in text boxes rather than writing directly on the document itself.

In your uploaded comments be sure to include that you can verify the correct use of consent forms if they were required for a specific methodology with human participants. You should also include a verification of the existence of large amounts of raw data since students are only to include a representative sample of their raw data (this is particularly important if their IA is in danger of being over 12 pages long). Any other information you can provide about the students process that is relevant to the assessment will be greatly appreciated by the examiner reading the IA.

Step 3: Reflections for Next Year

I spend many months working through the IA process with my students and every year I modify my course to include more practice of IA skills in regular labs and lessons, such as the required practicals... so after I grade my IAs and have written comments I take some time to reflect. While each group of students is different, there are usually things I want to remind myself to do again and things I would like to modify for next year's group. For example my students have recently begun doing more field studies in their Biology IAs, so I made my quadrat sampling lab (Subtopic 4.1) into a field trip to the beach as a way to introduce field work to my students early in the course. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself as you reflect:

  • What worked particularly well this year?

  • What would you like to do differently next year?

  • Are there any common areas of weakness in your students' IAs? What about areas of strength?

  • How was the time management on your end & on the students end?

  • Do you need more or less time next year? Or to reorganize the time in a different manner?

  • Which skills for the IA can you incorporate into your course? Suggestions re. fully focused RQs, standard deviation, graphing practice, comparing with the scientific context, uncertainties, methodological error & graphing types

I hope that this post gives both students and teachers some clarity around the IA upload process and what to check for in those last edits. Remember the IA is worth 20% of your IBDP Science grade so it is very important that students earn a good score to help maximize their final course score.

Thanks for reading teachers, travelers & curious souls of all kinds.

The Roaming Scientist



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm the kind of teacher who is always trying something new, new labs, new Apps, new scaffolds and even new countries to live and teach in. I'm looking forward to share what I learn with you all through my weekly blog posts. 

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