Everything you wanted to know about your PP and your VAJ (but were afraid to ask)

Henry Transcribed,,,

One issue seems to puzzle some students:

What is the relationship between the Process Portfolio and the Visual Arts Journal (henceforth referred to respectively as the PP and the VAJ)?

Some students feel the VAJ has little importance because they see that the PP gets 40% of the marks and the VAJ does not appear to be assessed at all (in the sense that there is no VAJ assessment component)

…Hence the feeling that the PP is essentially the same as the VAJ but even more important/valuable.

This is the wrong way of looking at these two elements.  Essentially, one informs the other: the VAJ informs the PP

So this post is about the VAJ and the PP.

First of all the VAJ:


  1. Your VAJ is the starting point. It’s very likely that a lot of media experimentation, trial and error, exploring techniques etc will occur in the journal: this would be the logical place for you – the student – to explore media and also explain his/her ideas about what they are doing.
  2. Gradually, therefore, over a period of weeks and months, the VAJ would build up into a record of the development of your ideas, aims and intentions, different processes, the acquisition of technical skills, including some successes and failures, etc.
  3. Your VAJ is your record of two years of study, and documents “the development of art-making skills and techniques, experiments with media and technologies, personal reflections, their responses to first-hand observations, creative ideas for exploration and development, their evaluations of art practices and art-making experiences, their responses to diverse stimuli and to artists and their works, detailed evaluations and critical analysis, records of valued feedback received and challenges they have faced and their achievements.” (from the visual arts guide)
  4. The VAJ and the Comparative Study: the VAJ is used for recording student experiences and learning, together with impressions, reflections and any relevant research: you should use your VAJ to record your investigation and responses to artworks etc. This includes interpretations, evaluations and comparisons. You will select, adapt and present what you have recorded in their VAJ as the basis for the comparative study task.
  5. The VAJ and the Exhibition: the VAJ can be used to record your intentions for your original artworks and to reflect on the process of resolving them: you will select, adapt and present what you have recorded in your VAJ as the basis for material submitted for the curatorial rationale. You could also use your VAJ to plan your exhibitions, using floor plans of available spaces to decide which artworks they will display where. You may wish to consider what relationships need to be established between works and their placement within the exhibition, along with consideration of the exhibition environment and factors which may affect the way in which your work is experienced.
  6. The VAJ should contain personal responses experiences such as visits to museums, galleries, exhibitions etc.: these provide valuable first-hand opportunities for investigation and should be used to inform you work wherever possible. Your Interaction and engagement with local artists or collections should also be recorded in the VAJ.
  7. The VAJ underpins every aspect of the course. It can take many forms but whatever format it will document all aspects of your art-making journey, including experiments with media, research, reflections, observations and personal responses.
  8. The VAJ is not directly assessed, but elements will contribute directly to the work submitted for assessment

an examiner speaksThe PP

  1. Your PP is a digital collection of evidence: work which may be extracted from the VAJ and other sketch books, notebooks, etc, and will show process (leading to the creation of both resolved and unresolved works): VAJ pages are selected to match the requirements of the PP assessment criteria at the highest possible level.
  2. The PP overall shows evidence of technical accomplishment during the visual arts course and an understanding of the use of materials, ideas and practices appropriate to visual communication.
  3. The PP might include slides containing extracts from several pages of VAJs that have been annotated to make connections between some works done weeks ago, to work done days ago.
  4. But some processes may occur outside the VAJ (ceramics, video, installation, large scale 3D work etc), so files that show/explain these processes could be uploaded as part of the PP and not be from the (Not ALL processes will or need to happen in the VAJ although if photos of some of these were stuck onto VAJ pages, it would allow for accompanying written explanations).
  5. In many cases your PP will not really exist as a component until towards the end of the course, when all the records of process would be gathered, reviewed and assembled. Certainly at the start of the course it’s a somewhat metaphysical entity and may be rather empty until some point in the second year.
  6. Your PP is created for assessment, with its content drawn from process mostly in your VAJ and resolved and/or unresolved artworks created during the course.

I hope this helps to clarify the whole VAJ-PP conundrum

*** Check out “Forget the Process Portfolio! The Process Portfolio does not exist!


  • Vanessa
    January 23, 2018

    Thank you Andrew–I love these posts–plus they are helping me further understand what is expected as a newbie IB Art DP teacher

    • Andrew Vaughan
      January 23, 2018

      Hi Vanessa,
      I’m pleased to hear that these posts are helpful to your understanding of our (sometimes quite complicated!) course!
      Positive feedback appreciated!

  • April Leach
    January 23, 2018

    Hi Andrew,
    I have a student who is looking to compare two artists who worked roughly in the same time period but from different European countries. Is this acceptable or shall I counsel him to find an artist from a significantly different time and place?
    Thank you,
    April Leach

    • Andrew Vaughan
      January 25, 2018

      Hi April,
      Remember the comparison is between artworks, artefacts etc rather than artists.

      It may a bit risky to choose artworks from the same time period from two European countries, so if he were my student I would suggest a little more research to find artworks from wider cultural contexts, with a greater difference – to ensure that this is not an issue.

      Alternatively, I think it’s down to the student to explain to the examiner exactly why the cultural contexts are different, showing that he is able to identify ways in which they are different.

      But I still tend to think it’s better to be safe – by comparing artworks from clearly different contexts.


  • Chris
    March 9, 2018

    Hi Mr. Vaughan,

    I am an HL 2 student working on my comparative study, and was hoping animated films could count as one of the compared works. I want to use screencaps from the films of Hayao Miyazaki. Do you know if this is allowed, or if anyone has successfully used animated films? If so, do you have any tips?

    Thank you!

    • Andrew Vaughan
      March 10, 2018

      Hi Chris,
      I think animated films/Hayao Miyazaki sounds like a great idea and – providing everything is correctly sourced/cited and referenced – screenshots should be fine.
      So yes, I’m fairly sure that its allowed, but I’m afraid that I don’t know of any examples of Comparative Studies that contain animated films as one of the selected artworks.

      However, your teacher could post this question on the visual arts teacher discussion forum on ‘My IB’ and may well get useful feedback from other art teachers who have had experience of Comparative Studies submitted by their own students that reference film/animated films.

      Good luck!

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