IB ESS Internal Assessment: How to Write an IB Environment System and Societies IA

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The International Baccalaureate Environment System and Societies (ESS) course is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between environmental, social, and economic systems. As part of the course, students are required to complete an Internal Assessment  component, which contributes 20% to the final grade. The IA is a critical aspect of the ESS course, and it provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the course material and to apply their knowledge to real-world issues.

In this article, we will provide a detailed guide on how to write an IB ESS IA. We will cover everything from choosing a topic and conducting research to writing the IA, referencing, and bibliography, and finally, evaluation and assessment. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to write an excellent IA that meets all of the IB criteria.

This article is a part of The Ultimate Guide to IB Internal Assessment: Tips, Strategies, and Best Practices

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Understanding the IA Task

Before you begin writing your IA, it is essential to understand the task that you have been given. The IA task requires you to demonstrate your understanding of the ESS course by applying your knowledge to a specific issue or problem. The IA should be a well-structured and well-written report that shows your ability to conduct independent research and to analyze information from various sources.

The IA is assessed based on four criteria:

  1. Research question and introduction (6 marks)
  2. Data collection and analysis (15 marks)
  3. Conclusions and evaluations (18 marks)
  4. Presentation and referencing (6 marks)

It is crucial to understand these criteria and to ensure that your IA meets all of the requirements. A well-structured IA should have an introduction that clearly states the research question and provides an overview of the report. The body of the report should present the data that you have collected, analyze the data, and provide a discussion of your findings. The conclusion should summarize your findings, provide evaluations of the data, and make recommendations based on your findings. The presentation of the report should be clear and easy to follow, and all sources used should be properly referenced and included in the bibliography.

Choosing a Topic

Finding the right topic can be the most exciting part of writing an IB ESS IA. You get to dive into the world of Environment and Societies, explore new and fascinating topics, and put your knowledge and skills to the test. The opportunities are endless, so take some time to brainstorm and find a topic that truly speaks to you.

When it comes to choosing a topic, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. While climate change and sustainability are certainly important topics, there are many other areas within the ESS course that you could explore. For example, you could investigate the impact of plastic pollution on marine life, the role of social and economic factors in environmental management, or the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Whatever topic you choose, make sure it is guided by a clear and concise research question. This will help you stay focused and on track throughout the writing process. Your research question should define the problem that you are investigating and provide the focus of your IA. For example, instead of simply writing about the impact of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef, you might ask “What is the impact of climate change on the coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef?”

By having a well-defined research question, you will be able to structure your IA around your findings and make sure that each part of your report is contributing to the overall objective. You’ll also be able to use your research question as a way to guide your data collection and analysis, so that your IA is well-rounded and comprehensive.

Conducting Research

Now that you have a clear research question and topic, it’s time to dive into the fun part – conducting research! This is where you get to explore the world of Environment and Societies and gather all the information you need to write a top-notch IA.

When it comes to conducting research, remember that quality is key. You want to make sure that the information you gather is accurate, relevant, and trustworthy. This not only helps to ensure that your IA is well-informed, but it also demonstrates your ability to conduct independent research and evaluate information from a variety of sources.

There are many different ways to gather information for your IA. Start by using library databases and online sources to find articles, reports, and other relevant materials. You can also gather information from textbooks and websites, but be sure to critically evaluate the information you find. Make sure the source is reputable, the information is current, and the information is relevant to your topic.

In addition to gathering information from secondary sources, don’t forget to collect primary sources as well. Primary sources are original research articles, reports, and data that were produced by experts in the field. These sources can provide valuable insights and information that can help you support your findings.

Another great way to gather information is through fieldwork. This could involve visiting a local park or nature reserve, conducting surveys or interviews, or observing the impact of human activities on the environment. Fieldwork can be a fun and engaging way to gather information, and it can also help to provide real-world examples to support your findings.

Writing the ESS IA

The next step in writing an IB ESS IA is to write the report. A well-structured IA should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should state the research question, provide an overview of the report, and provide context for the topic. The body of the report should present the data that you have collected, analyze the data, and provide a discussion of your findings. The conclusion should summarize your findings, provide evaluations of the data, and make recommendations based on your findings.



The introduction should start with a brief overview of the topic and the research question. The research question should be clearly stated and provide the focus of the report. The introduction should also provide context for the topic and explain why it is important.



The body of the report should present the data that you have collected and analyzed. This should include a discussion of the methods used to collect the data, such as fieldwork, surveys, or experiments. The data should be presented in a clear and organized manner, and any relevant diagrams or graphs should be included.

The data should be analyzed using relevant theories and concepts from the ESS course. This will demonstrate your understanding of the course material and show how you have applied your knowledge to the topic. The analysis should be detailed and well-structured, and any limitations of the data should be discussed.



The conclusion should summarize your findings and provide evaluations of the data. This should include a discussion of the strengths and limitations of your data and any recommendations for future research. The conclusion should also discuss the implications of your findings and their relevance to the ESS course and to real-world issues.


Presentation and Referencing

The presentation of the report should be clear and easy to follow. This includes using headings and subheadings, bullet points, and clear and concise language. All sources used should be properly referenced and included in the bibliography. The IB requires the use of the Harvard referencing system, so it is important to ensure that you are familiar with this system and that you follow it consistently.

Evaluation and Assessment

The IA is evaluated based on four criteria: research question and introduction, data collection and analysis, conclusions and evaluations, and presentation and referencing. It is important to ensure that your IA meets all of the requirements for each of these criteria.


To ensure that your IA is of a high standard, it is recommended that you have it reviewed by your teacher or a peer. This will provide you with feedback on your report and allow you to make any necessary improvements before submitting it for assessment.

Tips for writing a successful ESS Internal Assessment

  1. Read the IA criteria thoroughly: Before starting your IA, make sure you have a clear understanding of the assessment criteria and expectations. Read through the guidelines and rubric provided by the IB, and familiarize yourself with the different components of the IA, such as the investigation question, methodology, data collection, analysis, evaluation, and conclusion.
  2. Choose a relevant and specific topic: Select a topic that is both of interest to you and relevant to the ESS course. Consider the scope of your investigation and choose a topic that is specific enough to allow you to collect and analyze data effectively. It’s important to choose a topic that you can effectively research and study within the given time frame.
  3. Plan your investigation: Careful planning is key to a successful IA. Develop a clear plan for your investigation, including the scope, methodology, timeline, and resources you will need. Make sure to allocate enough time for each stage of the investigation, from collecting data to writing the report.
  4. Consider ethical implications: When conducting an investigation in ESS, it is important to consider the ethical implications of your work. This could include issues related to data collection from living organisms or the collection of personal information. Make sure to follow ethical guidelines and obtain any necessary approvals before starting your investigation.
  5. Use a variety of data collection methods: In order to gather reliable and relevant data for your investigation, it’s important to use a variety of data collection methods. This could include surveys, experiments, fieldwork, or secondary sources. Choose methods that are appropriate for your investigation and ensure that you have the necessary resources and equipment to carry them out.
  6. Analyze your data: Once you have collected your data, it’s time to analyze it. Use appropriate statistical methods to analyze your data, and present your results in a clear and concise manner using tables, graphs, and charts. Make sure to explain your results and the methods you used to reach them.
  7. Interpret your results: Interpret your results in the context of the ESS course, making connections to key concepts and theories. Discuss the significance of your results and how they relate to the investigation question.
  8. Evaluate the validity and reliability of your results: It’s important to evaluate the validity and reliability of your results. Consider the limitations and sources of error in your investigation, and discuss how these may have affected your results. Be honest about the limitations of your investigation and the conclusions you can draw from your results.
  9. Draw valid conclusions: Based on your results, draw valid conclusions that answer the investigation question. Consider the implications of your findings for the environment and society, and discuss the significance of your results in a broader context.
  10. Write a clear and well-structured report: Write a clear and well-structured report that is easy to follow and meets the requirements of the IA criteria. Use headings and subheadings to help organize your report, and make sure to include all the necessary components, such as the introduction, methodology, results, evaluation, and conclusion. Proofread and edit your work carefully before submitting it.
  11. Reflect on your investigation: Reflection is an important part of the IA process. After completing your investigation, take the time to reflect on what you learned and the skills you developed during the process. Consider what worked well and what could have been done differently, and discuss your thoughts with your teacher or supervisor. This reflection will help you to improve your skills and better prepare for future assessments.


In conclusion, writing an IB ESS IA can be a challenging task, but with the right preparation and attention to detail, you can produce a report that meets all of the requirements and demonstrates your understanding of the ESS course. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to producing an excellent IA that will contribute to your overall grade for the ESS course.

Valerie Green

Valerie Green

Valerie Green is a dedicated educator who spends her time helping high school and college students succeed. She writes articles and guides for various online education projects, providing students with the tools they need to excel in their studies. Friendly and approachable, she is committed to making a difference in the lives of students.

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