Engaging with the exams



It’s no use. You can’t ignore them, because they are happening next week!  It is time for last minute revision, and it is also time to plan your exam technique.  [This applies equally to you if you are sitting your end of year 1 exams, or mocks if you are on a November exam schedule. Treat them like the real thing. ]

First – know the dates: your IB Diploma Psychology exams are on Wednesday May 7th (pm) for Paper 1 (HL & SL), and Thursday May 8th (am) for Paper 2 (HL & SL) and Paper 3 (HL only).

Secondly, be prepared with several pens (black or blue ink only), a highlighter for the key words in the titles, and for the key phrases in the text for HL Paper 3, paper hankies, a bottle of water, and your “lucky” clothes, scarf, charm, whatever.

Be prepared…

Now, start planning your strategy. Here are some suggestions.

Paper 1 (2 hours)

[3 compulsory short answer questions, one from each level of analysis. Answers should be approximately 250 – 300 words.

1 essay question, chosen from one of the 3 levels of analysis. Answer should be approximately 800-1000 words. ]

  • Use the 5 mins reading time to choose your essay question, and to read the other questions.
  • Many students spend too long on the 3 SAQs and consequently do badly on the essay, which carries 22 marks. Each SAQ is worth only 8 marks. So…consider planning and writing the essay first: 10 mins planning and about 45 mins writing, with 5 mins to read it over. If 50+ minutes have passed and you are not yet writing your conclusion, cut your content short and write it. Your essay has to answer the question.
  • Another common error is to write too much for one SAQ and too little for the others. So…plan all three SAQs together. Take about 10 mins in total over this, and then 15 mins to write each one. That will leave you 5 mins at the end to read them all over.
  • Get your “best” SAQ written first, but do not go outside of your plan or exceed the time limit for this, as you can only get 8 marks, and you need to get marks on the other two as well. 

Paper 2 (2 hrs HL & 1 hr SL)

[ A choice of one out of 3 essay questions from the option(s) you have been studying. 22 marks each.  Answer(s) should be approximately 800-1000 words.]

  • Use the 5 mins reading time to choose and start thinking about your essay(s). If you are HL, choose both now. It saves time later. Never choose to answer an essay from an option that you haven’t studied.
  • Read the questions carefully. Plan both essays before writing the first one (HL). This will take about 20 mins, and then writing the first one will take 45 mins, and you still have 55 mins left to write the second one and re-read both.
  • If, while planning, you realise that you cannot answer this question well, look through the others, and try a quick plan for one of them. If you have worked, it is highly unlikely that you can’t answer one of the three choices well. This should all happen at the planning stage, before writing the essay.

Paper 3 (1 hr, HL only)

[An unseen text which describes a research study – either an observation, interview or case study. 3 questions to answer. 10 marks each. Answers should be approximately 250-300 words.]

  • Use the 5 mins reading time to read the questions first, and then the text.
  • As soon as you are allowed to start writing, highlight the relevant parts in the text, and the preamble to the text, that relate to the questions. (This should take no more than 5 mins).
  • Plan all three answers before you start writing each. This will make sure that you do not use too much of the material for one answer in another. Take 10- 15 mins total time for planning, and then write each answer for 10-12 mins. This ensures a few minutes at the end to read them over.

 General tips:

  • Number your answers carefully. Then it does not matter in which order you write them.
  • For papers 1 & 2, either write out the question, or have it in front of you and keep referring back to it.. It is too easy to go off track otherwise and write all you know about X, without answering the question.
  • Keep sipping water throughout. A dehydrated brain does not think well, and it is easy to get a headache from not drinking enough.
  • Once you have taken the exam – forget it!  Think about the next one, not the last one. That one is within your power to change, the other isn’t.

Final thought – don’t panic! And avoid panicky friends. It is catching and there is nothing you can do for them at this late stage. 🙄


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