To ensure transparency in terms of how assessment questions are formulated, the IB has published a clarification guide.

The following are the key points relevant to exams held in May 2020 and onward:

Paper 1

1. The scope of assessment questions in Paper 1 Section A are confined to the words found in the topic and content columns of the IB Psychology Course Guide (with some additions outlines below), but students can demonstrate their understanding of psychology by referring to material in the guidance columns.

Approach to understanding behaviour Terms that may be used in assessment questions starting in May 2020


  • Neural networks
  • Neural pruning
  • Synapse (excitatory and inhibitory)
  • Agonists
  • Antagonists
  • Neurons
  • Twin and kinship studies


  • Multi-store
  • Working memory model
  • Cognitive schema
  • Rational (controlled)
  • Intuitive thinking (automatic)


  • Social groups
  • Cultural groups
  • Norms
  • Assimilation

Additional terms that may be used in the formulation of short-answer assessment questions from May 2020

Source: “Psychology external assessment clarification guide” IBO

2. The scope of questions in Paper 1 Section B are confined to material in the topic and content headings only (as opposed to the material under the content heading).

3. To reach the top markband, you need to include references to appropriate and relevant research. Research is relevant when it is directly linked to the question and used to support an argument. This research is appropriate when it is related to the discipline of psychology and not “popular (pop) psychology” or non-peer reviewed psychology.

4. Questions related to ethics and research can only refer to the topic column headings.

5. For HL students, the extension topic “Cognitive processing in the digital world” will now refer to “technologies” rather than “technology”. Using this term offers breadth when studying the influence and effects of varying technologies on cognitive processes.

Examples of Short Answer Questions (SAQs):
Outline how neural networks are formed with reference to one study. [9 marks]
Describe one research study related to intuitive thinking (automatic). [9 marks]
Explain assimilation with reference to one study. [9 marks]

Paper 2

The scope of questions in Paper 2 is confined to topic headings, content areas, terms, and concepts and phrases from the content column. In addition, questions may make reference to the three approaches to understanding behaviour, approaches to research and ethical considerations which are linked to the topic headings.

Paper 3

No additional information about this paper was provided.


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