The best topics for Paper 2

Travis Dixon Assessment (IB) Leave a Comment

Make a smart choice when deciding which exam topics to revise for Paper 2.
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The IB Psychology guide is a little, shall we say, clunky. One benefit of the clunkiness of the guide is that we can exploit some of the oversights to our advantage. For example, there’s guaranteed one exam question per topic in Paper 2. This means you only need to study one topic per option (SL write one essay on one option in 1hr; HL write two essays on two options 2hrs). 

What are my recommendations for the best topics to choose from? Well, my best advice is you should definitely choose the topic you feel most confident about and that you feel you understand the best. Also, choose one you find the most interesting. You’ll enjoy your revision a lot more and you’ll remember what you’ve studied if you actually enjoy what it is you’re learning about.

Read more:

But if you want to know my opinion, here are the topics I would recommend for each option:

  • Abnormal Psych – Etiologies of abnormal psychology (i.e. etiologies of one or more psychological disorders)
  • Human Relationships – Personal relationships
  • Developmental Psych – Developing as a learner
  • Health Psych – Health problems

Scroll to the bottom to see a complete list of exam topics for each of these topics.

Why do I recommend these topics?

#1: Less content

Three of these four topics have only two content points as sub-topics for the exam. The other topics in the same options have 3 or 4. For example, in the Abnormal Psych option, Etiologies only has two sub-topics: explanations and prevalence. The diagnosis and treatment topics have four. This means more possible exam questions and more content.

Notice how all the topics aren’t equal in terms of content? This is important for exams.

The only example above that doesn’t have only two content points is the human relationships – personal relationships topic. This has three content points. But so do the other two possible choices with this option.

#2: Clearer concepts and questions

As you can see in the above image taken straight from the IB Guide, we have unfortunately been given zero guidance or advice one what we need to know for each topic. The topics and content are just stated with no explanation, no learning outcomes or key questions. It’s up to us to figure it out.

Sometimes it’s obvious. For example, “Explanations for disorder(s).” It’s clear you have to be able to give a detailed explanation of the possible etiologies of one (or more) disorders. This is why it’s a good topic to choose. When you look at the diagnosis topic and “Classification systems,” it’s harder to figure out (but not impossible perhaps) what you should write about in the exam.

Similarly, take a look at the mess that is the developmental psych option below (I’ve written more about why this is a difficult option to study based on the new guide in this blog post – 5 reasons to be wary of choosing the development option):

The developmental option is filled with pitfalls if you’re not careful.

Have a look at the messy first topic. You have cognitive and social development and then you have topics like role of peers and play. So what would an exam question look like? “Discuss the role of peers and play on cognitive and social development.” That’s a lot to explain because you’ve got two factors explaining two outcomes. It’s very messy.

The developing as a learner option is more straightforward – you discuss factors that influence cognitive development and others that affect brain development.

Do be warned that they might ask for “theories of cognitive development.” This was asked in May 2019 even though there is absolutely no mention of this anywhere in the guide. But now we know.

#3 Linking the three approaches 

It’s important to remember that the three approaches (biological, cognitive and sociocultural) could be asked in relation to each of the topics. For the topics I have recommended it’s really easy to see how (a) the question could be asked and (b) how you would answer it. For example, for etiologies you revise one bio, one cog and one social or cultural etiology of the disorder. Boom. Done. For development, the two sub-topics are already covering two of the approaches, and then you simply add a third sociocultural factor that could affect either of these (e.g. links between socioeconomic status and brain development, Luby et al.)

For some of the other topics, it’s sometimes impossible to understand how the approaches could be linked to the topic. Sure, they’re probably not going to ask it as an exam question then but that’s a risk I’d rather not take. For example, how would biological factors influence diagnosis? According to the guide, this is a question you’d have to be prepared to answer if you chose this topic. This is why I’d rather stick with etiologies.

Paper 2 Exam Topics – One Example Per Option

Students need to be prepared to write about the topics/content, the three approaches, research methods and ethics.

You can download this table here.

Abnormal Psychology – Etiologies of Psychology Disorders

You can choose to study one or more disorders. I recommend studying one in depth.

General List of possible exam topics
Topic & Content ·       Etiologies of disorders
·       Explanations of  disorders
·       Prevalence of  disorders
Approaches ·       Biological approach to understanding etiologies of disorders
·       Cognitive approach to understanding etiologies of disorders
·       Sociocultural approach to understanding etiologies of disorders
Methods/Ethics ·       Research methods used to study etiologies of disorders
·       Ethical considerations relevant to studies on etiologies of disorders

Human Relationships – Personal Relationships

General List of possible exam topics
Topic & Content ·       Personal relationships
·       Formation of personal relationships
·       Role of communication
·       Explanations for why relationships change or end
Approaches ·       Biological approach to understanding personal relationships
·       Cognitive approach to understanding personal relationships
·       Sociocultural approach to understanding personal relationships
Methods/Ethics ·       Research methods used to study personal relationships
·       Ethical considerations relevant to studies on personal relationships

Health Psychology – Health Problems

You can choose to study one or more health problems. I recommend studying one in depth.

General List of possible exam topics
Topic & Content ·       Health problems
·       Explanations of health problems(s)
·       Prevalence rates of health problem(s)
Approaches ·       Biological approach to understanding health problems.
·       Cognitive approach to understanding health problems.
·       Sociocultural approach to understanding health problems.
Methods/Ethics ·       Research methods used to study health problems.
·       Ethical considerations relevant to studies on health problems.

Developmental Psychology – Developing as a Learner

General List of possible exam topics
Topic & Content ·       Developing as a learner
·       Cognitive development (and theories of cognitive development)
·       Brain development
Approaches ·       Biological approach to understanding developing as a learner
·       Cognitive approach to understanding developing as a learner
·       Sociocultural approach to understanding developing as a learner
Methods/Ethics ·       Research methods used to study developing as a learner
·       Ethical considerations relevant to studies on developing as a learner

 

 

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