The Internal Assessment

The Internal Assessment (IA) is usually referred to by students, as ‘coursework’. You should have finished this by now, at if not, be very close to the end. It is important to complete this work as well as you can for two big reasons:

  1. The work is worth 20% of the course – so it can lower the highest grade you can achieve by up to 2 grades if you are unlucky – this is a real penalty. The other way of saying this is that it is worth 20% and so, it makes it easier to get the higher grades. Whichever way you want to say it, it is worth a lot of marks before you go into the exams.
  2. You need to start revision soon and if this is still ongoing, the revision cannot really start properly. Get this out of the way because you will need all the revision time you can get.

There are various types of IA that can be done and whichever one you have done, you will need to write a report of no more than 12 pages (including anything and everything – no Appendix to make it bigger!). With this in mind, I would like to make the following comments about how the report should be written:

Before writing the report, it is worth spending the time writing out ALL of the work that has been done on a whiteboard or A3 piece of paper:

  • Write down every piece of work/experimentation that has been done and draw a ring round each one.
  • Look at the work and as you consider the different things you have done, identify the best ‘order’ for the work to have been carried out – so that it looks like you had a logic process. Draw an arrow between each ring, showing the ‘correct’ order of the work.
  • The arrows drawn between the rings, might have a comment explaining the reason for moving from the one piece of work/experiment to the next.

The above then will give a good order for the report.

Before getting into the form of the report, note the following format suggestions:

  • Arial font size 12.
  • 15 or 1.5 spacing – do not use double-spacing – it looks awful and will take up too much space.
  • Number the pages in a footer.
  • Portrait orientation (rather than landscape) – except for items such as a graph or illustration.
  • Do not make margins large.
  • Make sure that formulas look correct – unless you have a better method, use Equation Editor.
  • Do NOT use Insert-Symbol to put symbols into your work – use the symbol font where possible. Do not ignore this suggestion – it is really annoying for you, when the computer decides to replace all of your symbols with ‘squares’!
  • Use a Header e.g., student name / Physics IA / Title.
  • ALL Figure, Graphs and Tables should be numbered and have a caption.
  • Tables: Centre the data and make sure the decimal places and Sig Figs are correct.
  • Graphs should have error bars and a correct line. If the graph is curved, do NOT include a formula from excel unless there is a good reason to – curve fitting is not a good reason. Gridlines are needed – using the Design menu, select Quick Layout number 10.


The Form of the Report should typically be:

  1. Title
  2. Contents
  3. Introduction
    Why is this an interesting piece of work to do?  If you have a personal interest because it links to something you are engaged with, then briefly discuss this.
  1. Background Physics.

Consider all the Physics you have used in the work and detail it in this section.

  1. Research Question. This may well be a repeat of the Title of the Report.
  2. Preliminary Experiments.

Each mini experiment or piece of work should be given its own space in the report and it should be fully analysed at the point in the report where it is described (more details below).

  1. Final Experiment/work.

This is the experiment or work that addresses your Research Question. Where possible and space allows, it should be clear in the method, where the preliminary experiments/work informed the design of this final piece of work.

  1. Conclusions & Evaluation.
  2. Extended Work.

This might discuss how the work could be extended, what problems are still to be overcome, where the work still has problems, etc.

Very often in practical work for physics, a bibliography is not needed. The Background Physics section however, will often have material which will be taken from a text book – all such material should be referenced here.

Preliminary Experiments

For each experiment/piece of work, you should start the discussion on its own page – you can worry about fitting the report into a maximum of 12 pages later. Keep it all neat and tidy in the first draft – you can always adjust the formatting o the pages later, as you try to get the report down to 12 pages.

Fully describe your experiment/work including why you are doing it. For experimentation, ensure that you include how you will …

  • … measure the input variable,
  • … measure the output variable,
  • … ensure a fair test,
  • … check reliability,
  • … think about safety.


Give a fully labelled diagram.

You should analyse this as fully as you can:

  • If there is a graph which is not a straight line, then how can you turn it into one?
  • Your conclusions should be stated, along with any problems which came up.
  • There should be some obvious reason why you are moving onto the next step of the investigation.
  • If you have data that produces a straight line, think about the significance (if there is one!) of:
    • The gradient.
    • The intercept.
    • The area under the graph.

Remember that if there should not be an intercept and there is, then speculate on why this may be so.

The above process is repeated for each and every experiment.  This may seem like a huge amount of work but usually, it is only a problem for the first few experiments.  After that, the experiments are very similar and you can refer to a previous set up rather than describe it again.


Finally, I think it is important that you know how the marking scheme will be applied to your work. It is based on 5 main areas and they are details below.

  1. Personal Engagement. This is Not for including any silly comments about why you found the work fascinating – we all know this is rubbish – only strangely geeky people would ever find a piece of physics truly fascinating! To show engagement, your report should detail the care and attention you have given to every part of the work – why did you choose to do it the way you did? Did you consider other possible methods and why were they discarded? The data collection and analysis should really be as good as it can be. Remember that being lazy with the work, will mean your marks are lower than you would like.

Preliminary experiments/work are a good way of showing this personal engagement – the fact that these were planned out by you, shows Initiative, having thought about the RQ in detail shows independence and carrying out any practical work with a good control of the possible variables or assess their influence, usually shows creativity.

The depth and clarity of the background info in the report, can also show that a student has put a lot of care and effort into the work.

  1. Exploration. The topic and RQ should be clear and focused. The background information should be well-laid out, and cover all the material needed to allow a reader to get a good level of understanding of the science behind the work carried out. The methods used to collect data, should be clear and able to produce good raw data, so a sensible and well-justified conclusions could be made.
  1. Analysis. The amount of raw data produced in the work should allow sensible and detailed conclusions to be made. The data processing should be appropriate and lead to valid conclusions with uncertainties correctly considered at all stages of the work. Finally, any conclusions should be sensible and based on a correct interpretation of the data.
  1. Evaluation. The conclusions should be well explained and supported by a correct interpretation or processing of the data. Limitations and possible weaknesses should be considered and shown to have been given due care and attention through the preliminary work that was carried out, with assumptions stated where appropriate. On reflection, extensions of the work should be sensible, realistic and add to the research and a positive way.
  1. Communication. The report should be very well presented. Descriptions should be clear with ALL Figures/Graphs/Tables numbered, with captions and appropriate referencing within the text. The structure of the report should be clear. The report should be easy to read and give a sense not only of the work carried out, but also the approach brought to this research. Scientific terms should be used correctly throughout the report.

The above should normally produce good marks if the work itself is reasonably good.

You can access more detailed pdf file written to provide guidance on writing the report and how it should be marked here.

Remember that homework needs to take second priority to getting this finished – and that goes for any coursework in any subject that has still not been finished.

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