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IB Chemistry Internal Assessment Solved: A Guide to Acing Your Chemistry IA

The IB Chemistry IA is often dreaded by students, as they frequently envision completing notoriously difficult experiments and spending hours at a desk trying to formulate topic ideas. Given the complexity of the Chemistry subject, with numerous topics and subtopics that demand intricate knowledge and application, securing a high grade on your Internal Assessment can be the make-or-break factor for achieving your desired score in final exams and finding solace as you enter the exam room. In this guide, I will not only break down how to secure a strong Grade 7 on your Chemistry IA, but I will also share how this can be achieved in both an experimental and data-based IA. The guiding principle: keep it simple, keep it clear.


1.0 Picking your research question:

1.1: Keeping it Simple

Selecting an appropriate research question is an important step in ensuring success in your IB Chemistry IA. I can assure you that there is no need to opt for an overly complicated research question – a principle I adhered to, resulting in a 22/24 on my Chemistry HL Internal Assessment (keep it simple, keep it clear!). The rationale behind this, is that your goal is to showcase a thorough understanding of your chosen topic throughout your IA, rather than inadvertently revealing gaps in your knowledge.


1.2: Check out the Academic Literature

Furthermore, I strongly advocate for choosing a topic with plenty of existing academic literature. This will provide you with several sources and reports you can draw upon in your conclusion and analysis within your Internal Assessment. This allows you to make effective comparisons between the outcomes of your experiment and established findings.


1.3: Don’t Neglect a Data-based IA

In addition, I want to emphasise the potential of doing a data-based IA. In a data-based IA, you may opt for running a virtual experiment, or analysing data on a topic to answer a selected research question. If you are doing the latter, note that there are various online sources for data for Chemistry Internal Assessments, such as ChemSpider, the CRC Handbook, and PubChem. These platforms offer a lot of varied information that can be harnessed for data-based investigations.


2.0 Personal Engagement:

In your introduction, ensure that you demonstrate your personal engagement with the topic you have selected. Your personal engagement is essentially what sparked your interest in the topic you explore in your Internal Assessment. Reveal what genuinely ignited your interest, avoiding elaborate stories. Whether it's a concept learned in class or a discovered exception (e.g., trends in melting points, electronegativity, boiling points or solubility properties of elements), keep it simple, keep it clear.


3.0 Risk Assessment and Variables:

For the risk assessment and variables section of your Internal Assessment, make sure you address safety, ethical AND environmental concerns if you are doing an experimental IA. However, if you are doing a data-based IA, you can say that these were not of concern in your investigation.


When discussing the different variables in your investigation, do not just state what they are. Discuss how these variables will be manipulated and provide clear and convincing justification for why you are manipulating the variable in this way. Ensure you state which unit you are using for your experiment, and if you are not using conventional SI units, justify why.


For instance, in a database IA, do your database sources mainly cite temperature values in degrees Celsius, and is that the reason for why you are using that unit?


4.0 Methodology:

4.1: Creating a Methodology for a Databased IA

When conducting a database-based Internal Assessment (IA), a common misconception is that this type of investigation does not require a detailed methodology section. However, this is arguably one of the most important parts of your IA. In your methodology for this type of IA, clearly outline the values you plan to extract from the databases that you find, and explain how you will ensure accuracy in your experiment while presenting your data. And of course, remember to keep it simple, keep it clear.


To further enhance your databased IA, create a section beneath your methodology that serves the purpose of justifying the selection of databases for your investigation. Here, delve into discussions about the reliability of authors of the databases, and try to ascertain whether the sourced data has been cross-checked.

 

4.2: An Extra Tip I have for Databased IAs

An additional recommendation I have for your database IA is to actively compare multiple sources for a specific data point value that you are researching. For instance, different sources may state different values for the melting point of an element. By doing so, you can identify discrepancies between source values. This comparative analysis will ultimately contribute significantly to the overall clarity of your IA (keep it simple, keep it clear!).


5.0 Data Collection:

5.1: Clarity

In your data collection, I highly recommend being wary of your unit representation and notation. Your units should be in your table headings, not inside the rest of the table as well. Small things like these can go a long way. Also, make it clear when you are referring to raw versus processed data, and include sample calculations in the processed data section of your IA.


5.2: Data Based IA

In some of the data you find for an IB Chemistry IA, you may be given a range of values in tabulated form, especially instances where you require a property of a chemical unit.


An image of ranged data values

In instances like these, you might make the decision to take the midpoint of your data point values. If you do this, again, be upfront, and explain why you made this decision. If something does not go your way, you can insert phrases such as “in view of this observation” or “due to this' and this helps your examiner follow your line of thinking.


6.0 Conclusion:

I recommend reminding the examiner of the purpose of your investigation at the start of your conclusion. Refer to your figures! What did Figure 1 tell you? Is this consistent with literature? Why or why not? Was there an exception in the results that you found? Use this information to discuss some of the weaknesses or limitations of your investigation. Additionally, in your figures within your IA, try and include error bars if relevant, as this allows you to discuss things like the lack or presence of error bar overlap, as well as the size of error bars and what this means in the context of the reliability of the trends that you observe in your investigation.

                       

7.0 Extensions:

Something that I have noticed a lot of students miss in their investigations or often do not go into adequate detail over, is the extensions in their investigation. I would not brush past this in a couple of sentences, but rather would recommend writing in extensions to your IA that can tie easily onto your research question. I would also recommend explaining why or how the extensions would develop your understanding of the investigation.

                       

In essence, “keep it simple, keep it clear”, is a mantra you should keep in mind throughout writing up your IB Chemistry Internal Assessment. This approach ensures not only a smoother IA writing process, but also a greater likelihood of achieving success in this assessment, whether it be experimental or databased!


And that's it! Best of luck for the Chemistry Internal Assessment. You’ve got this!!!

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