11. External assessment

This section of the text will look at how the three exam papers are assessed.  After outlining the requirements for each of the papers, the chapter goes on to explain the use of command terms on the exams and then the rubrics for the SAQs and the essays.

This section will also have a sample for each type of assessment - Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3 so that you can get a sense of the writing expectations for exam day. 

It is important to remember that although you are not assessed on language or writing skills, these actually do make a difference in your ability to communicate your ideas effectively on the exam.  Preparing for exams means working on writing skills as well as learning content.  It also means brushing up on your critical thinking toolbox (see chapter 2).

Paper 1: Core

Paper 1 assesses the core - that is, the biological, cognitive and sociocultural approaches to explaining behaviour.

Part a of Paper 1 has three SAQs.  You must answer all three questions - one from each of the different approaches. You should have one piece of research for each SAQ. The SAQs on both the HL and SL exam are identical.

Part b of Paper 1 is an essay.  You will be given three essays to choose from -  you write only one.  There will be one essay from each of the three approaches. 

HL candidates will see one or more of the essay questions taken from the HL extensions.

For all essays, you should have two or more pieces of research to answer your question.  Cramming your response with a lot of research does not make for a good essay.  Remember, there should be a balance in your essay between demonstrating knowledge and demonstrating critical thinking. 

You have two hours for this paper - one hour for the SAQs and one hour for the essay.

Paper 2: Options

Paper 2 assesses the options that you have studied.  For SL candidates, you will have to answer one essay out of a choice of three for the option that you have studied.  For HL candidates, you will have to answer two essays - one from each of the two options that you have prepared. 

The questions for SL and HL are the same.  There is one question asked from each component of the option. 

A typical paper 2 would like this:

Developmental psychology

4. Discuss the influence of poverty/socioeconomic status on cognitive development.
5. Discuss the role of attachment on development.
6. To what extent do biological factors influence cognitive development?

You would choose one of the questions to answer.  You have one hour for each essay.

Paper 3: Research methods

Paper 3 is only for HL students For this paper you will be given an "unseen research study."  You will have to read the study and then answer a set of three questions about the study.  Some of the questions are broken down into parts.  There is a list of questions that the IB can choose from when setting the exam.

More details about this paper will appear in the relevant section of this chapter.

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Comments 12

RWA Psychology1 27 February 2018 - 06:59

Dear John,
This question is in regards to extended response questions for the new curriculum. Is the IB going to follow the same procedure for using extended response questions to create short answer questions (can ERQs become SAQs?). Thank you, as always for your support!

John Crane 1 March 2018 - 14:03

Dear RWA - yes, all questions can now be either an SAQ or an ERQ. For SAQs, they would require only one piece of research and use the command term outline, describe or explain. In the ERQ, they will require two or more pieces of research and use the command terms contrast, discuss, evaluate or to what extent.

Donald Pippin 20 March 2018 - 12:37

John, just trying to verify something. I can teach one option component in detail, with assurance that they will get a question on that component? Say, in the developmental psychology example above, just the component "Developing an identity"? This would change the way I teach the options from the old curriculum, from breadth to depth. I am for such a change, but I don't want to do this and be mis-informed.

John Crane 21 March 2018 - 05:25

Dear Donald,

Yes, that is correct. I am going to teach three different components - origins of abnormal, origins of health and interpersonal relationships (origins of attraction) - with the goal of reinforcing the core. I will have SL choose two of the three options. I will then expose students to other aspects of the unit (e.g. diagnosis), but without all the research.

Donald Pippin 21 March 2018 - 12:02

Thank you!

Dabalina Chatterjee 23 March 2018 - 08:39

Dear John,
Please correct me if I am wrong. I have to teach 2 applied options (for example abnormal and developmental psych ) to HL. and I have to teach one option ( abnormal e.g.,) to SL.
But do we need to teach 3 options?

John Crane 24 March 2018 - 13:05

Dear Dabalina

You are correct. I think that you misread my post to Donald. I am not teaching three full options. The way that the curriculum is designed, students will be asked one question from each component of an option. Therefore, I am choosing three 'components", each from a different option, rather than teaching two whole options which I feel would be too big.

Dabalina Chatterjee 26 March 2018 - 05:40

oh.. Yes. Thank you

Janet O'Connell 1 May 2018 - 18:33

Dear John,
On Paper 3, one of the questions is 'Describe the sampling method used in the study'. Do we have a definitive list of which sampling methods students can be asked about please?' I am planning to include random, convenience, volunteer, purposive & snowball but should I be including others such as stratified or systematic? Many thanks for your advice.

John Crane 2 May 2018 - 06:29

Dear Janet

I am not sure that we have a definitive list. The list you have is pretty standard. The only other one that I might add is stratified sampling.

Sreekala Sureshkumar 15 May 2018 - 08:00

HI John,

Are there any more details to the paper pattern of paper 3?

John Crane 16 May 2018 - 04:53


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