PSYA3 Tips from Examiner Reports

A list of tips I compiled from looking at all the examiner reports found on the AQA website. I have split it into three sections: AO1/AO2, Methodology and IDA (Issues, Debates and Approaches). This is not specific for certain topics but instead is general exam advice as we all know this unit can get quite tricky and stressful under time!

Feel free to comment if you have any more suggestions or queries!

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  • Created by: Amina H
  • Created on: 17-12-13 17:19
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AO1 and AO2 are marked separately, so if you perform badly in AO1 criteria you can still
perform well in AO2 criteria.
The examiner doesn't want twice as much AO2 as AO1: they want effectively used and
developed points. So it is wise not to try and learn 8 short AO2 points that you think are
worth 2 marks each.
If the question involves discussing theories or explanations then description of studies is
AO1 and findings/criticisms are AO2.
If the question involves discussing research or studies then the description and findings
are AO1 and the implications of the findings on the theory or explanation is AO2. For
example, stating that a theory or explanations is gender biased would not give you AO2
marks alone but by showing the implications e.g. therefore the theory/explanation is hard to
apply females would give you some credit.
Link methodological criticisms to the reliability/validity of the findings e.g. the research in
aggression was done in a lab setting may not be reflective of a real life aggressive
behaviour, so there is a lack of ecological validity.
Link findings of the study to the theory/explanation e.g. Buss found that women of all
cultures preferred resources and men of all cultures preferred physical attractiveness. This
suggests men and women have adaptive response that has evolved to ensure success in
Consistency of research findings in some places may be better than methodological
Comment on how far the study supports or challenges the theory/explanation.
Do not say that animal studies absolutely cannot be generalised to humans. They can, but
with caution.
Do not write a list of methodological criticisms but instead use one or two developed
criticisms. (This is very common for social learning theory and aggression with Bandura's
study and should be avoided.)
IDA (issues, debates and approaches) and AO3
Try not to write all of the IDA points at the end of the essay. Instead, try to incorporate
throughout your essay, especially if you are evaluating more than one theory/explanation
of something.
Try not to apply lots of IDA points. Only two or three points that are well developed and
effective are needed to reach the top band.
Determinism should be used sparingly. All theories are essentially deterministic, but it
should mainly be used for biological/evolutionary theories or explanations, but it can also
be applied to certain cases like social psychological theories/explanations of aggression.
This should be used hand in hand with free will.

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Reductionism is misused a lot. It does not refer to a limited theory/ approach but that it
emphasises explanations at a fundamental level. This should also mainly be used for
biological/evolutionary theories or explanations.
Practical applications of theories, explanations or research are an underused source of
Be careful with confusing gender bias and gender differences. A study or theory that looks
at gender differences is not gender biased.…read more


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