Assessment changes

The new curriculum is available on the OCC as of February 8th.  You will see that there are some significant changes to the assessment of the course.

First, there are no longer learning outcomes that will be used to set questions.

Secondly, there are new rubrics.

Third, there are now "static questions" for paper 3.

Below you will see some of the changes to expect in the new curriculum.  Remember, this will be for the students that will sit exams in May 2019.  For your current students, it is business as usual.

Changes to Papers 1 & 2 exam questions

The greatest change is that there are no more learning outcomes that will serve as the basis for exam questions.  When you see the guide, you will see that there are three columns.   The questions can only be formulated from the first two columns.

In addition, there are two general questions that can applied to any section of the core: the role of research methods (methodology) and ethical considerations.

The only command terms that may be used for SAQ questions are: Outline, describe, and explain

The only command terms that may be used for essay questions are: Contrast, discuss, evaluate and to what extent.

The HL extension may only be assessed as an essay, not an SAQ.  There may be one, two or three HL extension questions for the essays.

For sample questions for the approaches, see the following links:

On Paper 2, one question must be asked from each of the three sections of the option.  The exam setters may not set two questions from the same section of the curriculum.

Changes to Papers 1 & 2 assessment rubrics

Paper 1, section a

This section remains the same. The assessment rubric is now out of 9 marks instead of 8 for each SAQ (short-answer question).  There is also more clarity in the rubric that research is required for all responses. No other significant changes.

Paper 1, section b and Paper 2

The essays now have more assessment criteria. 

Focus:  Students must explain the problem or issue raised in the question. 2 marks.

Knowledge and understanding: General understanding of psychological concepts; use of correct terminology. 6 marks

Use of research: Research must be relevant, fully explained and effectively used to develop an argument. 6 marks

Critical thinking: As currently in the curriculum. 6 marks.

Clarity and organization: Focus is on organization of the response and clarity of language use. 2 marks.

Total score for essays is 22 marks.

Total for paper 1 is now 49

Changes to Paper 3

Paper 3 will continue to be an "unseen research passage." However, the study may qualitative or quantitative. It may include any of the following methods:

  • Case study
  • Correlational research
  • Experiment: True, field, quasi-experiments or natural experiments.
  • Interview: unstructured, semi-structured or focus group
  • Naturalistic observation

Each of the stimulus pieces will have the following three questions. They will always be asked. Total of 9 marks.

  • Identify one method used and outline its characteristics.
  • Describe the sampling method used in the study
  • Suggest an alternative or additional method giving one reason for your choice.

Students will then be asked one of the following questions (6 marks):

  • Describe the ethical considerations that were applied in the study and explain if further ethical considerations should be taken.
  • Describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results and explain ethical considerations that could be taken into account when using the results of the study.

The final question asks students to go a bit deeper in their critical thinking.  They will be asked one of the following questions (9 marks):

  • Discuss the possibility of generalizing the findings of the study
  • Discuss how a researcher could ensure that the results of the study are credible
  • Discuss how the researcher in the study could avoid personal and/or methodological bias.

The final question is assessed on a standard rubric in the guide; the first four questions are assessed using a specific markscheme. 


Until the first set of exams is given, there are no markbands for the papers.  It is recommended that you use the current markbands to create a comparable scale for assessment to help students to prepare for May 2019.  After the first set of exams are given, IA markbands will then be standardized for the rest of the life of the curriculum and we will have a better sense of the exam assessment standards.

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Comments 8

Alanna Fields 1 March 2018 - 16:12

Dear John,
Can you help provide sample questions regarding the Paper 2 questions? I am concerned about the specific content that includes the word "and" in the content. For example, In Human Relationships - cooperation AND competition, prejudice AND discrimination, etc. Do I need to prepare my students to answer a question that solely focuses on cooperation? There is not much guidance for the paper 2 content. Do we have complete freedom to connect cooperation and competition to anything? Are we supposed to look at the effects of these or how to foster cooperation? I am definitely feeling lost for paper 2. Any guidance is very much appreciated.

John Crane 2 March 2018 - 05:24

Dear Alanna

I won't be putting up those samples until the core is done. With a new curriculum, there is just too much to get it all done at once and most people are teaching options in year 2. According to examination rules, yes, if there is an "and", then either component can be asked independently, unless there is a clarification otherwise. At this point, there is not much clarification on the options. The workshop leaders are really pressing to try to get these clarifications. As for your freedom to make connections, yes, that is correct.

Alanna Fields 2 March 2018 - 16:20

Ok, thank you John. This will help me get started. I can appreciate how challenging this is for all of us, let alone you putting this together for us on this site. You and your resources have truly been a saving grace for me this year. Thank you.

John Crane 3 March 2018 - 12:33

Thank you, Alanna. It is certainly keeping me busy! :)

Jan England 29 June 2018 - 21:21

Dear John,
I have just set my students an end of year exam on Paper 1 material. A couple of the students worked out that as I had said there would be at least ONE HL only essay question that they would ONLY revise the HL only material. You say in your text above "The HL extension may only be assessed as an essay, not an SAQ. There may be one, two or three HL extension questions for the essays." My question is: do you think it is possible that in the May 2019 there could be NO essays on the HL Paper 1 covering the HL only topics?

John Crane 30 June 2018 - 05:54

Dear Jan

No. They have said that there must be at least one each year. You should expect one.

Mary MacPherson 14 September 2018 - 15:32

Just to clarify, there will not be HL extension topics on the SAQ portion of the exam? I think I remember at the SSS a sample paper that had an SAQ on animal research but maybe they changed their minds?

John Crane 15 September 2018 - 06:17

Dear Mary

That is correct. No extensions in the SAQs.