Breaking down the Biology IA3: What is the ISMG really asking for?

Below we have carved out the ISMG in a way that you can understand so that you can do the best you can, in a reasonable time frame.

a year ago   •   4 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Amongst remembering all of the content that year 12 biology throws at us, completing a well-thought-out research investigation is the last thing in year 12 that you want to do.

Below we have carved out the ISMG in a way that you can understand so that you can do the best you can, in a reasonable time frame.

Research and Planning – historically the most annoying part.

The research and planning into the biology IA3 is especially tedious and can be an easy roadblock.

So, how can we efficiently and effectively get this part over and done?

We want to avoid making a superficial analysis of concepts. The ISMG is looking to see that you have a deep and detailed understanding of biological concepts.

There is a fine line between insufficient information and wayyy too much information that will just chew at your word count.

So, how do we go about this?

1. Select which claim you are going to investigate.        

2. Pick a more specific aspect/topic of that claim that interests you

If you have even a slight interest in your topic, researching it won’t feel like such a chore.

3. Do a general Google search to gain a basic understanding of what you are talking about.

4. Find evidence

Use google scholar to find academic journals, read the abstract to see if it applies to you, and if it is, check out the data they use.

A good data set should have a clear and direct relation to your research question.

5. Once you have found nice data to use, copy them into your document and you can begin writing!!!


If you can’t understand the data or concepts then you are probably looking at the biology too complexly.

If you can’t see the direct connection between your research and concepts in the syllabus then,

You are probably on the wrong path.

Your teachers are really helpful in this section, keep checking in with them to make sure you are on the right track.

Now what?

Write a research question and rationale.

Your research question should be specific and could follow a structure like this:

How effective is X through Y in Z?

X is your dependent variable, Y is how it is measured/your independent variable, and Z is the context.

As for the rationale: Start broad and then be specific.

The sequence could go like this:

Claim -> related concepts from biology and their significance -> therefore focused on this research question.

Analysis and Interpretation

The marker now knows that you understand the topic and its relation to your research question, time to analyse!

The top dot point in this assessment criteria says a ‘systematic’ analysis, we achieve this by following some steps:

1. Have evidence.

Pick two/three good-quality data sets on which to base your analysis and conclusions.

If you followed the steps provided in the research and planning phase, chances are you have picked good evidence.

This one is pretty basic; you've been doing this for years in science classes.

3. Talk about the limitations of your evidence.

No data set is perfect, talk about what is ‘limiting’ it.

It could be that it doesn’t address an aspect of your research question, or that it is out of date, etc.

TIP: The discussion of the journal you sourced the data from should explain limitations. 4. Being 'insightful'.

To hit the ‘insightful’ criteria you need to include a sentence or two that explicitly connects your data set to biology concepts, research questions and claims.

This criterion is usually what separates a B from an A.

Something like:

“Aspect X and Y of the data set shows that the [biology concept] supports [research questions] in X ways. Further supporting/disproving claim Z.

Almost there! Conclusion and evaluation.

If you’ve made it this far, congrats!
The hard yards are over and now it is just about tying it all together.

In writing the conclusion you have to connect your findings from your analysis to your research question and biology concepts.

Yes, you just talked about the data for 800 words but so what? Why do we care?
What’s the relevance to chemistry?
Keep it short, sharp, and sweet.

Things to include:

· Quality of your evidence:
What were your data’s major strengths AND weaknesses? What makes these qualities strengths and weaknesses?

· Improvements:

How could your research investigation be improved to better explore and answer the claim? Was there an aspect of the claim that your research question didn’t cover?

· Extensions:

How could you extend your research question to continue your investigation? Work through your research question and ask yourself.
‘What if I changed X concepts to Y concepts?’
Change one thing at a time and talk about a few briefly in this section.

And finally, communication.

These are easy marks that should be a no-brainer. Use an academic tone with appropriate subject language, be concise and within the word limit, and have correct referencing.

That’s all there is to it! If you use the ISMG as a roadmap for your assignment you will do well!

Good luck!


What is the QCE IA3 Biology Assignment?

The IA3 biology assignment is a research investigation (a fancy way of saying a scientific essay).

You will be provided with some claims which you will then research and create a research question to analyse and evaluate.

What is a claim/how do I find my claim?

The claims are provided in the task sheet.
you can discuss it with your teacher if you have a different one in mind.

What percentage of my grade is this assignment?

The research investigation is 20% of your final grade.

Written by KIS Academics Tutor for QCE Chemistry, biology, and all levels of mathematics subjects, Sophie Anastassi-Georgiou. Sophie is pursuing a Bachelor of Health and Medical Science (Advanced) and has extensive experience with all subjects in the QCE curriculum. You can view Sophie’s profile here and request her as a tutor.

Spread the word

Keep reading