Editor’s Note: The mode of assessment for Biology IAs has been slightly altered from the year 2015 for the Year 5 batch. It now involves a single main exploration (similar to Math) instead of 4 separate reports. Nevertheless, much of the advice shared below remains relevant for any Biology (or indeed science) report. The article will be updated shortly to reflect the new curriculum.
What was your first reaction to your first Bio IA?
I think at first I was quite excited? I was able to talk to some seniors who took biology about how to tackle the IAs, so I guess I sort of knew what I was getting into. I was a little frightened because some IAs can be really, really long.
What are the specific skills that will help you in your IA? (excel skills, formatting, etc)
Excel skills! You’ll learn to pick up along the way, here’s a useful link to help you with formatting for standard deviations for graphs (it took me a while)
Other than that, lab skills (though very little is required). Learn to work efficiently in the lab, take advantage of your Bio EE friends if you don’t know how to work some equipment.
What are some common misconceptions of students who try to do bio IAs for the first time?
The biology behind any mechanism you investigate is important, but so is the formatting of your IA. You’ll just as likely lose points on that. So yes, read up on the mechanism, but also leave time to check your formatting (whether you have column headings, page numbers in the correct form, footnoting, etc.) refer to your checklist and get a friend (who is awake, don’t ask them at like 3 AM)
1) Have a “set format”. Every person has his/her own way of writing their IA, so after your first one, save a separate copy and as you check back on your mistakes, add on to this copy and just use it as a template. REMEMBER TO DELETE ALL PAST CONTENT. SUPER DUPER IMPORTANT. Maybe just do a word-search (Ctrl-F) to see if any vocab you used last round is still there.
2) Have a checklist. Use the checklist to make sure all your formatting is there.
3) Do IAs early, have a cut off. You need to give your friends sufficient time to help you proof read (and to proof read for your friends) and you don’t want them to be half-awake when they’re proof reading for you.
4) Even when you measure the diameter of the cork borer as more or less than 6 mm, it is (apparently) still 6 mm. Check up with your teacher about the accuracy of that.
5) Be (smart) lazy with your IA. Choose procedures that are easy to do and don’t require a whole ton of research. An idea would be to refer to O level/IP experiments if you’re really stumped.
6) Don’t “throw away” (put less effort than normal) an IA unless all your earlier ones gives you the marks you want. You can’t predict what you’ll get later on.
7) Do save the complicated procedures for later on (at least after your first IA), because in general there will be more to talk about for those IAs (more evaluations, more mechanisms, more instructions)
Louisa (6.04) is from the graduating batch of 2014. She studied Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics HL.