Assessment: Paper 1

In order to help our students to prepare for the IB exams, it is important that we understand how questions are determined from the curriculum guide.  Below is a short explanation of how this is done and examples are given. 

In the online textbook there is also a section on SAQs, ERQs and Paper 3 for students to help them to better understand the assessment criteria. 

For illustration, I have chosen the biological approach.

SAQ rubric

ERQ rubric

Paper 1: Format

The focus of Paper 1 is "the core" - that is, the three approaches that are the foundation of the IB Psychology curriculum.

Paper 1 consists of three short answer questions [SAQs].  There is one question from each approach.  Students must answer all three of these questions.  The assessment focus is on knowledge and understanding.  The SAQs use the command terms outline, describe and explain. Each SAQ is worth 9 marks.

SAQs are not set from HL extensions.  The questions will be the same for HL and SL.

Part B of Paper 1 is an essay or extended response question [ERQ}.  Students are given three ERQs to choose from - one from each of the approaches.  For HL students, at least one of the ERQs will be from an HL extension of the core.  The assessment criteria are knowledge and understanding, critical thinking and organization. The ERQ is worth 22 marks.

Students have two hours to write the full exam. The total marks for Paper 1 is 49 marks.

The Biological approach

In order to discuss the way that questions are asked on the exam, we will use the biological approach as a model.

Before we look at the table below, remember that there are two general learning outcomes that may be assessed:

  • the contribution of research methods used in the biological approach to understanding human
    behaviour
  • ethical considerations in the investigation of the biological approach to understanding human behaviour

On Paper 1, the guidance column may not be assessed.  In essence, you could ignore that column while developing your course.  The first two columns are what is important for us.

TopicContent
Brain and behaviour

Techniques used to study the brain in relation to behaviour

Localization

Neuroplasticity

Neurotransmitters and their effect on behaviour

Hormones and behaviour

Hormones and behaviour

Pheromones and behaviour

Genetics and behaviour

Genes and behaviour

Genetic similarities

Evolutionary explanations of behaviour

HL Extension: Animal research

The value of animal models in psychology research.

Whether animal research can provide insight into human behaviour.

Ethical considerations in animal research

SAQs

In the SAQs, students must use one piece of research to answer the question. The questions come from the "content" column of the guide - with one exception.  If it is one of the general questions, then it comes from the topic column.

Valid SAQs

  1. Explain one technique used to study the brain in relationship to behaviour making use of one study.
  2. Describe one study of the effect of one hormone on behaviour.
  3. Explain one evolutionary explanation of one behaviour.
  4. Explain the contribution of one research method used in the biological approach to understanding genes and behaviour.
  5. Explain one ethical consideration in the study of the brain and behaviour.

The following types of questions may not be asked.

  1. Explain one ethical consideration in the study of neuroplasticty.
  2. Describe the contribution of one research method used in the biological approach to understand pheromones and behaviour.

ERQs

ERQs use the command terms contrast, discuss, evaluate and to what extent.

The questions will be asked in the same manner as the SAQs.

Valid ERQs

  1. Evaluate techniques used to study the brain in relationship to behaviour making use of one study.
  2. Discuss research on the effect of one hormone on behaviour.
  3. To what extent do genes affect behaviour? 
  4. Discuss the contribution of one research method used in the biological approach to understanding genes and behaviour.
  5. Discuss ethical considerations in the study of the brain and behaviour.

The following types of questions may not be asked.

  1. Discuss ethical considerations in the study of neuroplasticty.
  2. Evaluate the contribution of one research method used in the biological approach to understand pheromones and behaviour.

The HL Extension

One, two or all three of the questions on Paper 1b will be an extension question.

The questions that appear in the second column are linked to the topic in the first.  Therefore, the following types of questions may be asked:

  • Discuss the value of animal models in the study of the brain and behaviour.
  • Discuss whether animal research can provide insight into hormones and behaviour.
  • Discuss ethical considerations in animal research into genetics and behaviour.

Samples for the approaches

To see sample questions for each of the approaches, click on the following links:

Writing samples:Biological

Writing samples: Cognitive

Writing samples: Sociocultural

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Comments 15

Katt Borrowman 6 March 2018 - 09:40

Hi John,
Has errors in attribution been taken out of the course? My students are working through past papers and found an ERQ asking them to discuss two errors in attribution, but we can't find anything on it in your site.
Thanks!
Katt

John Crane 6 March 2018 - 21:45

Dear Kat,

Yes, they have been taken out of the course. If you go to the menu and choose "Old curriculum and then sociocultural level of analysis, you will find things on attribution errors under teaching notes and under activities.

Katt Borrowman 8 March 2018 - 07:38

That's a relief! Thanks, John.

RWA Psychology1 16 April 2018 - 09:04

Hi John,
In the new curriculum can an SAQ be asked as an ERQ?

Shelley Swift 15 May 2018 - 08:37

Hi John, do you have this for cognitive please? Thanks!

John Crane 16 May 2018 - 04:54

Dear Shelley

Click on "writing samples" in each relevant section of the curriculum.

John Crane 16 May 2018 - 04:54

Dear Raffles

There is no longer a distinction. All questions may be asked as both SAQs and ERQs.

Paul Sully 30 June 2018 - 11:39

Dear John,
For SAQ questions that require / allow the use of only one study, could the question be narrowed down to animal behaviour and/or human behaviour. I ask, in case I need to provide two in-depth studies for each syllabus area, one for human behaviour and one for animal behaviour. Thanks.

John Crane 30 June 2018 - 21:02

Dear Paul

My understanding is that the SAQs will only accept studies of human behaviour. And they will never ask for two studies - always just one.

Paul Sully 2 July 2018 - 09:35

Dear John,

So if an SAQ asks for the use of one study to explain behaviour, but does not specifically mention animal or human behaviour, my students could not use the Martinez & Kesner study because this is based on animals? Also, I notice that on the website coverage of the study, it writes about mice and then rats.
thinkib.net

Best wishes,
Paul

John Crane 3 July 2018 - 06:37

Dear Paul,

If you are writing about the new curriculum, please avoid the "old curriculum" pages. They are here only because there is one more session, the November session. Here is the updated version of that study: thinkib.net I left the old page so that I do not cause confusion for the November session teachers. I have fixed it to read "rats." For the SAQ, we have been told that it will always be about human behaviour. Students may use animal studies if they clearly link it them to human behaviour - which has to be more than just saying that "we can generalize from animals to humans." In an essay, combining animal and human research would be appropriate.

Paul Doran 13 September 2018 - 01:57

Hi John, do you know if this has been clarified by the IB?
"This is one of the problems with the current guide. It says that they can only ask questions mixing ethics and research methods with the topics - which means questions like "explain the use of one research method in the study of the individual and groups." This is an awkward question for students. They are not supposed to be able to link it to content, but that is what is in the specimen papers (see question 3). So, we are still waiting for clarification on this."

Thanks,
Paul

John Crane 14 September 2018 - 05:50

Dear Paul

Yes, they are going to combine with the topic, not with the content column. That was clarified in the most recent clarification document.

Lauren Gaskill 27 September 2018 - 19:30

Hi John,
For ERQ's - should students use between 3-5 studies, or should they just use the number of studies that the question specifies?

Thanks!
Lauren

John Crane 27 September 2018 - 20:16

Dear Lauren

Two studies are enough. Three would be absolute max.