Levels of analysis

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This section of the site is dedicated to support for Paper 1. For both SL and HL candidates, the demands and the assessment of this paper is the same. The paper assesses students on the three "levels of analysis" - that is, biological, cognitive and socio-cultural explanations of behaviour. The approach to this part of the course is integrative; students should not be trying to determine which of the three levels of analysis is "the best," but rather see that a holistic approach to understanding behaviour is better than a reductionist approach in most cases.

Paper 1 is a two hour exam. Part A of the paper is three Short Answer Questions [SAQs]. Students must answer all three of the questions. Each question is worth 8 marks. Part B of the paper is an essay. Students must choose one of the three essays. Each essay focuses on a single level of analysis, but students could be asked to compare the level of analysis to one other of their choice.

The IB rubric for SAQ responses

0: The answer does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

Low: There is an attempt to answer the question, but knowledge and understanding is limited, often inaccurate, or of marginal relevance to the question.

Mid: The question is partially answered. Knowledge and understanding is accurate but limited. Either the command term is not effectively addressed or the response is not sufficiently explicit in answering the question.

High: The question is answered in a focused and effective manner and meets the demands of the command term. The response is supported by appropriate and accurate knowledge and understanding of research.

TIPS: Writing an SAQ

  • The first sentence should always directly answer the question. This helps the student to focus on the question and not get off task with unnecessary introductory ideas which are not part of the demands of the SAQ.

  • Always use one clear example of research to support/illustrate the answer. Students should not try to fill their SAQs with several examples. This takes time away from the essay in which they are expected to show greater depth of knowledge.

  • Be sure to show how the piece of research that was chosen answers the question. There needs to be an explicit link back to the question being asked. Students who simply describe a study which is relevant, but not explicitly linked, usually score in the mid markband.

  • Students should use complex sentences to explain what they mean. They should not just "drop vocabulary" into the response. For example, students should not simply write: One limitation of this study is ecological validity. Instead, they should use words like “because” in order to show that they understand what the term means: One limitation of this study is ecological validity, because the results obtained under such an artificial lab setting may not predict what will happen in a naturalistic environment.

Selected Pages


ERQ: cultural dimensions Sunday 27 January 2013

The following is a collection of ERQ's written by a group of first year students. After each one is a brief comment...

Socio-Cultural Friday 3 July 2015

Outline principles that define the socio-cultural level of analysis - for example: As human beings we are constantly being...

Teaching notes for SCLOA Sunday 29 March 2015

This section of the site is devoted to "teachers' notes." These notes are lecture notes that may be used in class to help...

Evaluating writing Thursday 15 January 2015

The following document has sections written by a student during an in-class essay with the following prompt: Evaluate research...

Cognitive Saturday 10 January 2015

Outline principles that define the cognitive level of analysis - for example: Mental representations guide behaviour; Mental...

Activities & teaching ideas Tuesday 5 August 2014

This section of the site is dedicated to teaching ideas and studentsupport for the Sociocultural level of analysis. Attribution...

Levels of analysis

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