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: Ethics SCLOA Friday 29 January 2016

The following sample essay addresses the question: Discuss ethical considerations in the Sociocultural level of analysis....

ERQ: cultural dimensions Friday 29 January 2016

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

Teaching notes for SCLOA Sunday 13 December 2015

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

Key studies in the SCLOA Thursday 29 October 2015

Often in textbooks we find that there is less information about studies than we feel that students need in order to really...

Social Identity SAQ Wednesday 14 October 2015

The following sample is for the SAQ prompt: Describe Social Identity Theory, making reference to one relevant study. At...

SAQ: SCLOA research method Wednesday 14 October 2015

The following is a sample response for the following SAQ: Describe how one research method was used in one study at the...

Levels of analysis

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Comments 2

Sarah Healey 13 November 2016 - 04:45

Hi John,

Can you clarify whether students are expected to evaluate in an 8 mark SAQ?

Thank you

John Crane 13 November 2016 - 07:20

They explicitly should not evaluate in an SAQ. They may lose marks for not focusing on the command term.

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