IA Official Guidelines

Stages in the process

Five stages are suggested here as essential

Stage 1: Planning and preparation

There are a number of steps in stage 1.

Background reading

Before starting the solution, teachers must read the Computer science
, referring specifically to the “Internal assessment” section. These
pages give essential information on the nature of the solution.

In addition, the following documents provide detailed information that teachers
are strongly advised to read.

  • Form 4/IAF
    : Following each examination session,
    schools receive subject-specific feedback on their internal assessment from the
    moderator. For group 4 subjects including computer science, these feedback
    forms are called Form 4/IAF.
  • Subject report: At the end of each examination session
    schools receive a subject report. The internal assessment section of this
    report provides teachers with an overall review of internal assessments
    undertaken in all schools entered for the examination session and
    recommendations are made for improvement.
  • The online curriculum centre: The OCC (http://occ.ibo.org) is a website that provides
    a computer science discussion forum where computer science teachers can
    exchange ideas on developing the internal assessment.

Other demands of the Diploma Programme

Teachers should consider all the demands of the Diploma Programme. These become
particularly acute during year 2 when the majority of students complete coursework
in other subjects and the extended essay.

It is recommended that students submit the first draft of the solution (criteria A
and B) to teachers by the end of year 1. Alternatively, teachers could liaise with
their IB coordinator and design a workable time frame that would ensure that their
students have staggered deadlines for all internal assessment submissions.

Integrating the internal assessment into the course for SL and HL students

The internal assessment is common to both SL and HL students.

It is recommended that 30 hours of teaching time is devoted to the solution for
both SL and HL students.

Internal assessment work should be incorporated into normal classroom activities
and be clearly related to the study of one of the parts of the course. It is
recommended that up to 5 of the 30 hours allocated to the solution are spent on
the relevance of the design life cycle in the development of the product.

This will enable adequate supervision and reduce the pressure on students in
out-of-school hours.

However, it is appreciated that some solutions may involve material from more than
one option, such as a website that is based on the “Web science” option but also
includes a database and programming that are not part of the option. In these
cases teachers may need to allocate some of the 30 hours for covering topics not
taught in the SL/HL core, HL extension or chosen option.

The development of practical skills should be regarded as an integral part of the
teaching programme. In fact, practical skills provide a good reinforcement of
theoretical work in class.

The selection of the option from the computer science syllabus provides students
with an opportunity to develop their practical skills before embarking upon the
internal assessment. It is likely that students will focus their internal
assessment on the software skills addressed in the option chosen.

Suggested classroom activities

Some suggested activities that could be done during this time include:

  • identifying possible scenarios where a solution may be required and providing
    opportunities for the class to discuss them
  • exposing students to exemplar material (see assessed student work within this
  • exposing students to various tools and software
  • presenting and discussing the nature of the internal assessment and the
    assessment criteria
  • discussing the different types of software available and their relative
    strengths and weaknesses
  • discussing the way the initial research into an issue related to computer
    science can be carried out
  • providing opportunities for students to expand their ideas and to develop the
    scope of their work
  • providing opportunities for students to develop one draft of
    their work through regular consultation with the teacher.

Choice of client and/or adviser

The choice of a suitable client and/or
adviser is a major contributing factor to the final success of the solution. It is
recommended that the client is either a teacher within the school, a friend or
member of the family. If the student is the client, similar considerations should
be undertaken in choosing the adviser. Further information is available in the
“Choice of topic” section of the Computer science guide.

Role of the adviser

The adviser should provide guidance to the student as suggested below.

  • Advise on the scope and feasibility of the solution to ensure that a
    non-trivial solution is developed.
  • Discuss possible success criteria with the student.
  • Advise during the development of the product.
  • Confirm whether the success criteria have been met.

Selecting a topic for the solution

It is important that students, with the teacher’s guidance, choose an issue

  • engages their interest
  • meets the criteria for assessment
  • involves a client and/or adviser who is accessible and can provide feedback
    within the required time frame
  • is realistic in terms of resources, their technical ability and the time frame
    for completion.

Examples of scenarios from within the school could include the following.

  • The computer science student (client) wishes to develop further (improve an
    existing product) his website, which provides an online forum for the
    development of web pages using PHP. A possible solution is to develop
    additional web pages with the network manager acting as an adviser.
  • A computer science student has been asked by the economics teacher (client) to
    develop a spreadsheet (original product) that is able to process a set of
    examination results to see if the mistakes in the questions have had a
    significant effect on the students’ marks.
  • A computer science student has been asked by the geography teacher (client) to
    develop a modelling package (new product) to determine whether four colours are
    sufficient to colour the states in any given country.

Examples of scenarios from outside of the school could include:

  • A manager of a local football team (client) requires a method of keeping
    accurate records of players’ details, attendance at training sessions and
    performance throughout the season (problem). A possible solution is to develop
    a bespoke relational database.

Stage 2: Gathering information for the solution

Meeting with the client and/or adviser

The student should ensure that the first, and any subsequent, meetings with the
client and/or adviser are in an environment that is conducive to gathering the
relevant information. The meetings should be scheduled at mutually convenient

Method(s) of information collection

Students may use a range of methods to gather information from the client and/or
adviser. It must be remembered that evidence of the consultation must be included
in the final submission of the solution.

Additional information may need to be collected in the development of the
solution. For example, this may relate to hardware, software or techniques
required to develop the solution.

Stage 3: Preparing to develop the solution

Follow-up work in class should be used to ensure students have an opportunity to

  • they have the hardware, software and practical skills to develop the
  • they have sufficient feedback and/or data from their client/adviser to develop
    the product
  • the timeline proposed is realistic
  • the preliminary designs indicate the scope and nature of the product are

Stage 4: Creating the solution

There are a number of steps in stage 4.

The information within this section should be read in conjunction with the

  • “Guidance for the development of the internal assessment” in this
  • the section on “Development of the solution” in the guide.

Using the criteria

It is the teacher’s role to inform the student fully of the internal assessment
requirements and the assessment criteria, and it is the student’s responsibility
to fulfill these requirements. Teachers should give all students a copy of the
assessment criteria. This helps when students are developing the product and
associated documentation because the criteria are a guide to the way marks are

Teachers should advise students to follow closely all five assessment criteria

Individual work and authenticity

The completion of the solution must be entirely the work of the individual
student. Students should not be discouraged from showing individuality when
completing the solution.

Students should be given a strict timetable and internal deadline for the
submission of the rough draft of the solution; this should include access to the
product and associated documentation.

Supervision by the teacher should be on an individual basis and the rough draft
checked once only. Repeated submission, redrafting and
remarking of the solution is not permitted. Where there is evidence of
collaboration and where there are strong similarities in the appearance of the
different solutions, the work should not be accepted in rough draft. The final
draft should only be accepted if the teacher is convinced of its authenticity.

If teachers suspect that the student’s work is not individual or authentic and
they have reasonable evidence, they should make the student rewrite his or her
written report. If time does not permit this, teachers must not sign Form
(described in stage 5) and must submit the reasons for their
suspicion under the heading “Relevant information”.

Word limit

Students and teachers must ensure that the word limit is not exceeded. If a
student does exceed the word limit of 2,000 words, the moderators are instructed
not to read beyond this point. This means students could potentially lose marks
from the last sections of the solution, such as in criteria C and E (potentially
worth 18 marks). Regulations regarding the use of annotations and tables should be
closely followed.

During the writing of the documentation students should bear in mind the suggested
word length for each section provided in this publication. Students should include
the total number of words on the coversheet.

See the table in the section “Word count and format”.


Students must acknowledge all of the secondary sources they have used in the
solution in criterion C. These can include websites and any other published
material. Students who fail to cite any one of the sources they have used will
lose some of the marks available in criterion C.

If students do not reference their work, they could be accused of malpractice.

Sources should be referred to in the text and a standard referencing format
(title, author and date) should be used for bibliographies and footnotes. Students
should ensure that their method of referencing is consistent throughout, that all
relevant information is provided and that their system enables the reader to
locate their original sources.

Guidance on how to reference is provided in the section “Information sources for
the internal assessment”.

Format of documentation

It is strongly recommended that:

  • the documentation is submitted in a commonly used format such as pdf or
  • the video is submitted in a commonly used format such as avi or mov.

Use of appendices

Appendices may be included and could provide the following information.

  • Evidence of interactions between the student and the client and/or adviser in
    criteria A and E.
  • Screenshots of class and folder structures if this cannot be determined from
    either the product or the documentation.
  • Additional evidence of the product functioning when this cannot be seen from
    the version sent for moderation, for example a short video of an interactive
    website or rendering of an image or object in software that is not available to
    the moderator.

It should be noted that any material in an appendix must be clearly referenced in
the main body of text. Moderators will not be expected to search the appendix to
locate material nor will marks be awarded for material there.

Stage 5: Completion and submission

There are a number of steps in stage 5.

Marking and comments

Teachers should mark the solution for each student using criteria A–E as specified
in the Computer science guide. The teacher-generated marks are then
externally moderated. This external moderation may change teacher-generated marks.

Teachers are advised to annotate the solution with brief comments showing where
the student’s work demonstrates a particular skill that is worthy of credit or has
a serious omission or error. These comments are also extremely helpful to the
moderator in understanding the rationale behind the teacher’s marking.

Annotations should be in a method that clearly indicates that they are by the
teacher, using methods such as comment boxes, highlighted text (with some
explanation of the exact method) or an additional linked document.

Teacher marking and moderation

The purpose of moderation is to confirm the marks awarded by the teacher with
respect to a sample of students’ work. However, in some cases the marks given by
the teacher are raised or reduced by the external moderator. The final mark given
by the moderator to each of the students represented in the sample will affect the
marks received by the rest of the class.

Atypical internal assessments may have been completed at a different time, may be
unfinished, may be highly unusual, may be different to that produced by the rest
of the class, may have had significant extra assistance given by the teacher, or
the teacher may have experienced particular difficulty in assessing the work. Full
details of atypical work are given in the Handbook of procedures for the
Diploma Programme
in the section on internal assessment, which is
available to the Diploma Programme coordinator in each school and on the OCC for
teachers. Teachers must assess atypical work using the computer science internal
assessment criteria and the same standards applied to the rest of the class.
Teachers should indicate that this work is atypical and state the nature of the

Correct submission procedures

The Diploma Programme coordinator in each school is responsible for following the
correct procedures in submitting the sample solution(s) to moderators and
predicted marks to the IB. Further information is found in the Handbook of
procedures for the Diploma Programme

Teachers should note that each solution must be accompanied by the following

  • Form 4/PSOWCS—a coversheet for the internal assessment for each

Each solution should include this coversheet with details of the student’s name
and candidiate number along with the marks awarded. The teacher and the student
must sign this form.

The sample of solutions selected to be sent for moderation must be accompanied by
this summary sheet. This provides the total marks for each solution in the sample
together with additional details about the work undertaken. The teacher must sign
this form.

The entry of marks on these forms must be in line with the procedures in the
Handbook of procedures for the Diploma Programme.

The number of internal assessments selected as a sample to be sent to the
moderator will depend on the size of the group. Samples are automatically selected
for each school. The samples should arrive with the moderators by 20 April for May
examinations and by 20 October for November examinations. Predicted marks should
be sent to the IB by 10 April for May examinations or 10 October for November
examinations. In schools where more than one teacher assesses the work, internal
moderation should take place before marks are submitted.

If the automatic selection of the student includes an atypical internal
assessment, supplement the moderation sample with another more typical internal
assessment, at or as close to the same mark as the atypical internal assessment.
The atypical work should still be included in the sample to the moderator with a
note of explanation on the form provided.

Teachers are advised that either they or the students should make a copy of the
internal assessment before it is sent for moderation as a contingency measure and
for future reference. After the process of moderation, the coursework is kept for
several months by the moderator and then disposed of or deleted.

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