The IB Geography Internal Assessment (IA): Everything you need to know

Owl Tutors

A blog by Owl Tutors

September 15th, 2017

The IB Geography Internal Assessment (IA): Everything you need to know

The Internal Assessment has been a compulsory part of the IB Diploma Geography course for both Standard and Higher Level (SL and HL) for some time now, and the introduction of the new syllabus for exams in 2019 continues the IA as a key feature of IB Geography. In this blog, David demystifies the IA and gives you his top tips for success.

It’s likely that if you’re taking your IB exams for the outgoing syllabus in Summer 2018, you’ve already started working on your IA and have therefore given some thought to what you’re going to investigate. If you haven’t, I expect that you’ll be starting it very soon! However, for those of you starting the new IB syllabus (which will be first examined in summer 2019), you’re very unlikely to have started thinking about the IA and will be encountering it at some point in the not too distant future.  

What are the key features of the IA?

The new IA is largely the same as the outgoing one, although inevitably there are some differences due to syllabus content changes. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about these differences! Here is a breakdown of the key features for the new IA:

  • Compulsory for both SL and HL
  • 20% of overall HL Geography mark, 25% for SL
  • Total of 25 marks
  • 2,500 words in length
  • Focus is on a local study with primary data collected by the student


Seek help, but it’s ultimately your work

The IB syllabus emphasises that, although the IA report must be the student’s individual work, they may seek some guidance from teachers, both in the planning and writing stages of the project. The specific details are outlined via the IB website. However, there is an emphasis upon students having developed the initial proposal themselves, part of which will include the fieldwork question, supporting hypotheses and appropriate methods. To help you with your planning and and whilst you’re writing the IA, I would strongly suggest having a copy of the mark scheme to hand in order to ensure that you are fulfilling all the requirements so that you can maximise your mark. The mark scheme can be found here.  

So what can I investigate as part of my IA?

This blog post provides some suggestions of IA titles across a range of different topic areas from the new 2019+ syllabus to help you consider what sort of fieldwork question you can investigate. Remember that you need to be able to break down the question into several measurable hypotheses, which will provide the basis for your conclusions and answer to the fieldwork question. You also need to be able to collect some primary data to help answer your chosen question, so fieldwork methods need to be considered at an early stage in the planning process. It is also important to remember there are some parts of the IB syllabus that are not suitable for the IA. These are identified on the IB website, but by way of summary, it excludes all of the SL & HL Core (‘Global Change’) and most of the HL Core Extension (‘Global Interactions’). There are only a few sections of the options that make up the ‘Geographic Themes’ that are excluded, so it is therefore likely that you will draw your IA title from one of the Options you are studying in Part 1: Geographic Themes. The questions below could involve a combination of quantitative and qualitative fieldwork methods in either a physical and human setting as appropriate to the question. I would also hasten to add that this list is not exhaustive and is designed to be a starting point to get you thinking. Some topics are more accessible than others for fieldwork (hence the variation in numbers of suggestions per topic), but your choice of question will ultimately be influenced by which options you study in class and where you live and/or conduct your fieldwork. Rivers studies are popular in the UK, but may be more challenging if you are conducting fieldwork in the Middle East!  

Part 1: Geographic Themes (SL & HL) 

Option A: Freshwater: Drainage Basins

  • How do the characteristics of River X change with distance downstream?
  • How do river processes affect the formation of river landforms in the upper/middle course of River X? (I’ve avoided lower course due to the potential size of the river and the accompanying difficulties and risks involved in conducting fieldwork there)
  • How has flood management affected the characteristics of River X at Location Y?
  • To what extent has flood management been effective at Location Y?
  • How has agricultural activity at Location Y affected River X? 

Option B: Oceans & Coastal Margins

  • How have physical processes influenced coastal landforms at Location Y?
  • How does the different geology at Locations Y and Z affect coastal processes and landforms?
  • To what extent do local people at Location Y consider coastal management effective?
  • How are conflicts over land use at the coast at Location Y managed and resolved?
  • How do human activities at Location Y affect coastal processes?
  • How do human activities at Location Y affect environmental quality? 

Option C: Extreme Environments

  • How have/do (peri)glacial processes affect(ed) the landscape at Location Y?
  • How have physical processes affected the landforms found in Arid Location Y?
  • How does the geology at Arid Locations Y and Z affect physical processes and landforms?
  • How have humans adapted their activities in response to the glacial/arid environment found at Location Y?
  • To what extent does tourism create challenges and opportunities for stakeholders in Location Y?
  • To what extent do human activities cause environmental damage in Location Y?

Option D: Geophysical Hazards

  • How have people at Location Y adapted to local geophysical hazards?
  • What factors could cause Geophysical Hazard X’s effects to vary in Location Y?
  • To what extent do stakeholders in Location Y differ in their views of managing Geophysical Hazard X?
  • What factors affect people’s vulnerability to Geophysical Hazard X in Location Y?

Option E: Leisure, Tourism and Sport

  • What factors affect the participation of different socio-economic/demographic groups participating in sport in Location Y?
  • To what extent do socio-economic/demographic factors (or inequalities) in Location Y affect participation in sport?
  • How and why do stakeholder views of tourism vary in Location Y?
  • To what extent could tourism be considered sustainable in Location Y?
  • To what extent does Rural Festival X bring benefits to (the people of) Location Y?

Option F: Food and Health

  • How/to what extent does socio-economic deprivation affect personal health in Location Y?
  • Why does health vary between Locations Y and Z?
  • How do differences in access to food retailers affect food consumption patterns in Location Y?
  • What factors affect differences in opinion to controversial food production methods in Location Y?
  • How do farmers in Location Y manage unseasonal inclement weather?

Option G: Urban Environments

  • How does land use change with distance from the CBD in Location Y?
  • To what extent is gentrification changing the social and environmental landscape of Location Y?
  • To what extent is there conflict between stakeholders in response to the redevelopment of Location Y?
  • How successful has transport management been in Location Y?
  • To what extent has migration affected socio-economic/demographic patterns in Location Y?
  • To what extent does Urban Place X conform to urban land use models?
  • To what extent does Location Y experience socio-economic/ethnic segregation?
  • How effective are the strategies for environmental sustainability in Location Y?
  • To what extent do recorded and perceived patterns of crime in Location Y correspond?


Part 2: Global Interactions (HL Only)

Unit 5 (Human Development and Diversity), Section 3 (Local Responses of Global Interactions)

  • How has the local food economy in Location Y been challenged/changed by local and civil society?
  • How has civil society challenged the influence of globalisation in Location Y?
  • How successful has Transition Town X been in promoting the sale and consumption of local goods?

Unit 6 (Global Risks and Development), Section 3 (Local and Global Resilience)

  • To what extent has Civil Society Organisation X affected the impact of fracking in Location Y?
  • To what extent has Civil Society Organisation X influenced the outcome of the construction project proposal at Airport Y?

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the following:

15 responses to “The IB Geography Internal Assessment (IA): Everything you need to know”

  1. Avatar for sue gordon sue gordon says:

    thanks so much! this helped me more than anything my teacher provided.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *