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Preparing your students for the 2023 external

As the external is fast approaching we thought it would be good to explore the 2022 paper and share some pitfalls students may experience.

Question A: Give a brief description of the significant issue being addressed in your chosen resource.

This question required the learner to select one of the resources and explain what issue it demonstrated. This would be an opportunity for the student to explore the key terms within the issue such as explaining what gender bias is and relating to the resource. Then explaining the difference between alpha and beta bias and again relating it to the resource. If the learner does not relate their explanation to the resource they will not be able to achieve an Achieved grade.

Question B: Do you agree or disagree with the message conveyed in your chosen resource in relation to the significant issue?

Include and explain relevant psychological theories, concepts, and/or studies to support your answer

We are often asked, 'Should the resource be used throughout the external?' The answer is that the resources MUST be used in Question A and could be used in Question B, but it is not a requirement. What is required is a judgement call as to whether or not you agree with the issue you identified in Question A.

It is essential to make clear to learners that evidence for Question B should be specific to psychological practice, not a general soapbox rant about how we shouldn't use animals in research. Additionally, for the Merit criteria, there must be depth in the student's answer, demonstrating a depth of understanding. Answers for this external should be concise. Depth is not measured by quantity. When a learner includes research as evidence of bias, they should thoroughly critique the type of bias it demonstrates and how it was biased. To provide a deeper level of understanding, the learner could identify other psychologists who have replicated or questioned the validity of the original research. For example, explaining fully why Kohlberg's research was gender biased and then critiquing how Gilligan provides evidence that Kohlberg's research was gender biased. Learners should take care in their selection of evidence. For example, using only Zimbardo and Asch to explain gender bias would limit the learner's chance to critique in-depth, limiting the opportunity for a grade above Merit.

When learners explore the issue around using animals in psychological research, they go beyond listing the psychological research that has used animals and exploring the harm it caused if they want to achieve a Merit or above. They should find evidence from a paradigm/model/theory that can be used to support the claim it is unethical. An example of this would be The Bateson Decision-Making Cube.

Question C: Discuss a range of strategies that address the significant issue, as seen in psychological practice. Include and explain relevant psychological theories, concepts, and/or studies to support your answer.

This Question requires learners to discuss a range of strategies. Care must be taken when selecting strategies that learners do not choose too similar strategies, such as more female researchers and more female participants. Learners must fully discuss with evidence why the strategies would address the significant issue. To secure a High Excellence, the learner should explain the implications of the strategies.

Examples of Achieve, Merit and Excellence level scripts from the 2022 paper can be found here.

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