International School History - International Baccalaureate - Internal Assessment - Examples

Official Advice

Purpose of internal assessment

Internal assessment is an integral part of the course and is compulsory for both SL and HL students. It enables students to demonstrate the application of skills and knowledge, and to pursue their personal interests, without the time limitations and other constraints that are associated with written examinations. The internal assessment should, as far as possible, be woven into normal classroom teaching and not be a separate activity conducted after a course has been taught.

The internal assessment requirements at SL and at HL for history are the same. All students complete a historical investigation into a historical topic of their choice. The internal assessment allows flexibility for students to select a topic of personal interest. The topic need not be related to the syllabus and students should be encouraged to use their own initiative when deciding on a topic. The free choice of topic means that the historical investigation provides a particularly good opportunity for students to engage with topics that are of personal interest, or topics related to their own local or national history.

Please note: Each individual student must complete an individual historical investigation—group work may not be undertaken.

Time allocation

Internal assessment contributes 25% to the final assessment in the SL course and 20% in the HL course. This weighting should be reflected in the time that is allocated to teaching the skills and understanding required to undertake the work, as well as the total time allocated to carry out the work.

It is recommended that a total of approximately 20 hours (SL and HL) of teaching time should be allocated to the work. This should include:

·         time for the teacher to explain to students the requirements of the internal assessment

·         class time for students to work on the internal assessment component and ask questions

·         time for consultation between the teacher and each student individually

·         time to review and monitor progress, and to check authenticity.

Guidance and authenticity

The historical investigation submitted for internal assessment must be the student’s own work. However, it is not the intention that students should decide upon a title or topic and be left to work on the internal assessment component without any further support from the teacher. The teacher should play an important role during both the planning stage and the period when the student is working on the internally assessed work. It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that students are familiar with

·         the requirements of the type of work to be internally assessed

·         the assessment criteria; students must understand that the work submitted for assessment must address these criteria effectively.

Teachers and students must discuss the internally assessed work. Students should be encouraged to initiate discussions with the teacher to obtain advice and information, and students must not be penalized for seeking guidance. As part of the learning process, teachers should read and give advice to students on one draft of the work. The teacher should provide oral or written advice on how the work could be improved, but should not edit the draft. The next version handed to the teacher must be the final version for submission.

It is the responsibility of teachers to ensure that all students understand the basic meaning and significance of concepts that relate to academic honesty, especially authenticity and intellectual property. Teachers must ensure that all student work for assessment is prepared according to the requirements and must explain clearly to students that the internally assessed work must be entirely their own. All work submitted to the IB for moderation or assessment must be authenticated by a teacher, and must not include any known instances of suspected or confirmed academic misconduct. Each student must confirm that the work is his or her authentic work and constitutes the final version of that work. Once a student has officially submitted the final version of the work it cannot be retracted. The requirement to confirm the authenticity of work applies to the work of all students, not just the sample work that will be submitted to the IB for the purpose of moderation. For further details, refer to the IB publication Academic honesty in the IB educational context, The Diploma Programme: From principles into practice and the relevant articles in General regulations: Diploma Programme.

Authenticity may be checked by discussion with the student on the content of the work, and scrutiny of one or more of the following.

·         The student’s initial proposal

·         The first draft of the written work

·         The references cited

·         The style of writing compared with work known to be that of the student

·         The analysis of the work by a web-based plagiarism-detection service

·         Please note: The same piece of work cannot be submitted to meet the requirements of both the internal assessment and the extended essay.


Internal assessment details—SL and HL

Historical investigation

Duration: 20 hours

Weighting: 25% SL, 20% HL

Students at both SL and HL are required to complete a historical investigation into a topic of their choice. The historical investigation is made of up three sections.

Historical investigation

Students have a free choice of topic for their historical investigation—the topic need not be related to the syllabus, and students should be encouraged to use their own initiative when deciding on a topic. However, the topic must be historical, and therefore cannot be on an event that has happened in the last 10 years.

Students should choose their own topic, with their teacher’s guidance and approval. Teachers must approve the topic and question for investigation before work is started. It is crucial that there are sufficient sources to support the investigation, and that the investigation can be assessed by the criteria for internal assessment. Teachers must also make students aware of any relevant ethical considerations when undertaking their investigation, for example, the need to show sensitivity or to respect confidentiality.

The investigation is an opportunity for students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge to a historical topic of their choice. The emphasis must be on a specific historical inquiry that enables the student to develop and apply the skills of a historian by selecting and analysing a range of source material and considering diverse perspectives. The activity demands that students search for, select, evaluate and use evidence to reach a relevant conclusion consistent with the evidence and arguments that have been put forward.


Section 1: Identification and evaluation of sources

This section requires students to analyse in detail two of the sources that they will use in their investigation. The sources can be either primary or secondary sources. In this section students must:

·         clearly state the question they have chosen to investigate (this must be stated as a question)

·         include a brief explanation of the nature of the two sources they have selected for detailed analysis, including an explanation of their relevance to the investigation

·         analyse two sources in detail. With reference to the origins, purpose and content, the student should analyse the value and limitations of the two sources in relation to the investigation.

A crucial element of this section of the internal assessment task is formulating an appropriate question to investigate. The six key concepts for the history course (causation, consequence, continuity, change, significance and perspectives) can be a very useful starting point in helping students to formulate a question.

The following are examples of historical investigations recently submitted by students.

·         How systematic were the deportations of the Jewish population of Dusseldorf to Minsk between 1941 and 1942?

·         How significant were economic problems as a cause of the Bamberg Witch Trials (1623–1633)?

·         What were the most important reasons for the failure of Operation Market Garden?

·         To what extent was weak leadership responsible for the collapse of the Egyptian Old Kingdom in 2125 BC?


Section 2: Investigation

This section of the internal assessment task consists of the actual investigation. The internal assessment task provides scope for a wide variety of different types of historical investigation, for example:

·         a historical topic or theme using a variety of written sources or a variety of written and non-written sources

·         a historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historic buildings

·         a local history study.

The investigation must be clearly and effectively organized. While there is no prescribed format for how this section must be structured, it must contain critical analysis that is focused clearly on the question being investigated, and must also include the conclusion that the student draws from their analysis.

In this section, students must use a range of evidence to support their argument. Please note that students can use primary sources, secondary sources, or a mixture of the two.


Section 3: Reflection

This section of the internal assessment task requires students to reflect on what undertaking their investigation highlighted to them about the methods used by, and the challenges facing, the historian.

Examples of discussion questions that may help to encourage reflection include the following.

·         What methods used by historians did you use in your investigation?

·         What did your investigation highlight to you about the limitations of those methods?

·         What are the challenges facing the historian? How do they differ from the challenges facing a scientist or a mathematician?

·         What challenges in particular does archive-based history present?

·         How can the reliability of sources be evaluated?

·         What is the difference between bias and selection?

·         What constitutes a historical event?

·         Who decides which events are historically significant?

·         Is it possible to describe historical events in an unbiased way?

·         What is the role of the historian?

·         Should terms such as “atrocity” be used when writing about history, or should value judgments be avoided?

·         If it is difficult to establish proof in history, does that mean that all versions are equally acceptable?



A bibliography and clear referencing of all sources must be included with every investigation, but these are not included in the overall word count.


Word limit

The word limit for the historical investigation is 2,200 words. A bibliography and clear referencing of all sources must be included in the investigation, but are not included in the overall word count.

Below are suggested word allocations for each section of the historical investigation. Please note that these word allocations are suggestions only.



Suggested word allocation

Associated assessment criteria


1. Identification and evaluation of sources


A. Identification and evaluation of sources

6 marks

2. Investigation


B. Investigation

15 marks

3. Reflection


C. Reflection

4 marks


Not applicable

Not applicable

Not applicable

Total (maximum word limit)

2,200 words


Total:25 marks


Non-official advice

Use chapter 4 of your History text book IB skills and practice. Although the criteria for the internal assessment have changed (Reflection is a new requirement) the basic skills and requirements are the same.

Have a look at some successful examples of IAs from my former students.


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