How to answer Paper 3, Question 1 (a, b & c)

Travis DixonIB Psychology, Revision and Exam Preparation

Score perfect marks in Paper 3 with these simple tips.

The following has been adapted from our textbook “IB Psychology: A Revision Guide.” (Now available as an online textbook).

All HL students should score 100% (9/9) for the first questions in Paper 3 because it’s so easy. But most don’t because they make basic mistakes. Let’s look at the best and simplest way to answer these three questions.

IB Psychology Guide, pg 32.

We know exactly what the Paper 3 questions will be. What we don’t know is the study because in Paper 3 students read a study they’ve never seen before and answer questions (scroll down for examples).

The first three questions (Question 1a, 1b, and 1c) are as follows:

I) Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method. (3 marks)

II) Describe the sampling method used in the study. (3 marks)

III) Suggest an alternative or additional research method giving one reason for your choice. (3 marks)

Example from May, 2019. These first three questions are always the same.

Let’s look at how to answer these with example answers based on the practice Paper 3 (on power posing) included in the revision textbook.

1a. Identify the method

You need to be able to state the research method used in the stimulus (1 mark) and outline two characteristics of the method (2 marks). The methods you need to know about are in the guide.

Example: If a study used a true experiment, your answer might look like this:

This study was an experiment (true/laboratory). A true experiment tests causal relationships between and IV and a DV (the IV in this study was the type of posing and there were three DVs, including sense of power, hormone levels and confidence). They often take place in controlled environments and random allocation is possible (random allocation was used in this study).

1b Describe the sampling method

Answer this in the exact same way as 1b, but for the sampling method. The sampling method will be one of the following:

  • purposive
  • random
  • volunteer/self-selected
  • convenience/opportunity
  • snowball sampling

Example: If a study used a self-selected sample, your answer could look like this (bullet points are acceptable):

Sampling method = self-selected (volunteer) sampling. Two characteristics are:

  • Participants are the ones that approach the researchers to volunteer to participate in the study
  • There is typically some form of marketing that calls for volunteers. In this case, they were responding to an advertisement in a school magazine

1c Suggest another method

You need to state the alternative or additional research method (1 mark) and explain how and why the method could be used (2 marks). Include at least one characteristic of the method and apply details from the stimulus to support your answer.

Mr Dixon’s Top Tip: It will be easier to explain an additional method, rather than an alternative one. Explaining how an additional qualitative method (e.g. interview) is often much easier than explaining an alternative quantitative method.

Here’s an example answer:

A semi-structured interview could be used to follow-up the experimental results. A semi-structured interview has a list of open and closed questions with the researcher free to deviate as the interview unfolds. Researchers could ask questions about how powerful and confident the participants felt before and after doing the posing. This helps to triangulate findings and gathering qualitative data might help get a deeper understanding of the psychological effects of power posing, not just the behavioural and biological effects.

How to Prepare

Use flashcards to review two characteristics of each of the research methods and sampling methods. Use the past papers (find some linked above) to practice using this information in response to stimulus papers. Make sure you can answer all three questions in about 20 minutes or less.

Top Tips

  1. Be concise: State the method and get straight into the characteristics.
  2. Use one detail from the stimulus: This shows you’re doing more than just memorizing.
  3. Pre-plan for 1c: This is the toughest question to answer so have a generic response ready to go in case you get stuck on exam day.
  4. Triangulation: Is a good reason to use any additional research method. Hint hint!

Tricky Bits: Experiments

This is extremely frustrating but in Paper One and Paper Two the IB assessment team considers “experiments” as one method. However, this same team considers them unique in Paper 3. In the May 2019 Paper 3, the correct answer for 1a was a “lab/true experiment.” This was quite controversial as many, including myself, could see how it would be a field experiment. However, zero marks were awarded if a student wrote “…field experiment, natural experiment, quasi experiment, field study.” BUT…“Stating ‘experiment’ without specification (was) acceptable.

So, if you know it’s an experiment but you don’t know what type, just state experiment. The characteristics of any experiment is that (a) they have independent and dependent variables and (b) researchers try to control extraneous variables so they don’t confound the results, which allows them to draw conclusions about cause and effect.