IB History IA: The Complete Guide for Students (Updated)

June 6, 2024

ib history internal assessment guide

First examined in 2017, IB History IA is an integral part of the International Baccalaureate program and it’s a compulsory subject for Standard and Higher Level IB Students.

History IA deals with historical investigation and teaches you to apply the skills of professional historians. The assignment is 2,200 words long and it has three sections: the evaluation of sources, the investigation, and a reflection.

In this assessment, IB students have the freedom to follow their personal interests as long as they can demonstrate their skills and knowledge on the subject.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about this subject. By the end of this lesson, you should be able to write a comprehensive 2,200 words IB History IA that will earn you full marks.

Analyzing the Sections of IB Internal Assessment History

The following is a detailed explanation of the three sections of the International Baccalaureate History IA:

Section 1: Identification and Evaluation of Sources

In this section, you have to identify and analyze two primary or secondary sources to use in your historical investigation. Sate the question you would like to investigate, give a brief explanation of the nature of the sources you choose to analyze and show how relevant they are for the investigation.

Follow your brief with a detailed analyze of the sources. What’s the origin of the sources? What’s the purpose of the content in your investigation? Are there benefits and limitations to the two sources in relation to the investigation?

An important task to complete in this section is to choose an appropriate question to investigate. According to the IB History Guide, you can use any of the 6 key concepts to formulate the question.

Your question should be:

  • Specific and Focused: The question should not be too broad or too narrow. Make it specific instead so it’s easy to investigate. Also, make sure the question demonstrate a focus on date, an event, geography, or timeframe.
  • Debatable: Your question must not evoke a simple narrative. Rather, it should be debatable or allow for some arguable points to be made
  • Have a Scope: It should be a question that you can answer in 2,200 words

One common mistake that many IB students make when it comes to History Internal Assessment is to explore an issue that’s already obvious.

Here’s an example:

Was Julius Caesar an important figure in the Roman Empire?

That’s a good question, but it’s not suitable for your IB History IA investigation because it’s redundant. Why?

Julius Caesar is a well-known historical figure that everyone knows without investigating further into his history.

The key aspect in identifying and evaluating your sources is to understand that this is an investigative subject. In other words, the question should enable you to examine varying views of historical period you choose to investigate.

“To what extend was Julius Caesar significant in the Roman Empire and the rest of the world?” would be a more appropriate history research topic to explore.

Section 2: Investigation

The investigation of your IB History IA topic should have a clear organization. There’s no pre-defined format for structuring this section, but it has to demonstrate a critical analysis focused on the question under investigation. Also, your analysis must show the conclusion that you have drawn from your analysis.

Since you’re working on a debatable historical question, your teacher expects you to use sufficient evidence to support your claim. Feel free to use primary source, secondary sources, or a combination of the two to work on your investigation.

Section 3: Reflection

Since History Internal Assessment requires students to think and work as historians, it’s ideal to reflect on the methods used as well as the challenges faced.  Your reflection should not be more than 400 words, and it should relate to your investigation and personal experience as a historian.

The Key Concepts in IB History Internal Assessment

There are six key concepts in the IB History Internal Assessment. These are perspective, consequence, causation, change, continuity, and significance.


In IB History Internal Assessment, the perspective concept states that every historical event may have multiple differing or contrasting perspectives.

Therefore, your goal as History IA student is to challenge the critique these perspectives by contrasting and corroborating them with objective and concrete evidence.

Use primary source accounts, people’s experiences, and interpretation from historian to explore the links between perspectives and then make relevant conclusions.


This IB History IA concept looks into how historical events or persons have affected the future of people and societies.

These effects can be short or long-term.

To bring out a clear picture of the consequences and ascertain their impact, you should draw your evidence and interpretations from the right sources.

Examining the right sources allows you to make reasonable comparisons between points and make the right judgments.


Students have to explain how certain circumstances occurred.

This key concept recognizes that there are diverse causes of historical events and all demand that you make evidence-based conclusion about which cause was more appropriate and therefore significant.


There’s always an aspect of change in history. So you should look for these aspects even if some people believe that none such changes exist.

If you can, look into evidence that challenge theories and assumption on the change. Don’t forget that you should base your judgment on a deeper and a clearer understanding of the content and on the comparison on the situation before and after the historical event.


History has elements of change, some slower than others. That’s why there’s a concept of continuity in IB History IA.

When you show that there’s a continuity in a historical event under investigation, what you’re doing is to demonstrate a deeper understanding of historical knowledge.


For many of us, history is all about events that have taken place in the past. But when you look into the records that have been in preservation for years, records that have evidence that traces back in time, you get a deeper definition of what history actually is.

Ask yourself:

  • Why would historians record or include something in a historical narrative?
  • Have they excluded something from the narrative?

About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

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