Now that the new school year is well underway, you may have started some IA reports. I intend this blog post to give you some tips and ideas that will hopefully help you to improve your Design marks.


Firstly, how is your lab report laid out? Have you signposted the criteria that you are being assessed on so that your teacher can easily find it (and so can a moderator). If you are being assessed on DCP, make sure you a nice bold heading ‘DCP’ – !


Don’t just stop there though – show some more sign posting and use sub heading for each aspect. Believe me, it really does help things.


Now, onto the assessed criteria:


Design – aspect 1 – this really covers two things, the research question and the variables.


Is your research question sharp and focussed or is it generalised. The sharper the better. And make it a question!


‘How does the temperature (30oC, 40oC, 50oC, 60oC and 70oC) effect the rate of evaporation of propan-2-ol?’ is far more focussed than ‘Investigation into evaporation’.


Have you labelled the dependent, independent and controlled variables? Again, be specific and look for lots of controlled variables – a word of caution here though – please make them relevant and realistic. For example, using the above example, using the same beaker is not really relevant if you ensure that you use a clean beaker of the same size each time.


Design aspect 2 and 3 come into what we traditionally call the ‘method’.


Design – aspect 2 – have you controlled your variables? Aspect 2 is linked to aspect 1. Every variable you mention in aspect 1 must be mentioned here. If you leave something out you many get one of the dreaded ‘p’s for this aspect.


One idea to signpost this and make things easier for your teacher is to colour code things. For each variable you have listed in design aspect 1, use a different font colour. In your method, when you mention the variable, use the same font colour that you used in aspect 1.


Finally, design aspect 3. Does the method you have written work? Will it give you results? Is it safe? These are the questions your teacher will be constantly asking, so make sure your method is water tight! If you are going to use a Bunsen to evaporate the alcohols (and be the way, you shouldn’t do this!) you are using an unsafe method.



If you decide to use a hot plate to evaporate the alcohols, don’t forget to mention that it needs to be switch on and allowed to warm up (which then takes you back to controlling the variables, design aspect 1).


Essentially, your method should make no assumptions and you should, be able to send it to and IB student on the opposite side of the world who you have never met and they should be able to safely carry out your lab and get meaningful results.


Good luck with your future IA endeavours and if you do have any questions about this I will gladly answer them if you post them below.