IB DP Psychology HL/SL

Nature of the course:

Psychology is the systematic study of behavior and mental processes. IB psychology examines the interaction of biological, cognitive and sociocultural influences on human behaviour, thereby adopting an integrative approach. Understanding how psychological knowledge is generated, developed and applied enables students to achieve a greater understanding of themselves and appreciate the diversity of human behaviour. The ethical concerns raised by the methodology and application of psychological research are key considerations in IB psychology. 

The aims of the psychology course at SL and HL are to develop an awareness of how psychological research can be applied for the benefit of human beings, ensure that ethical practices are upheld in psychological inquiry, develop an understanding of the biological, cognitive and socio-cultural influences on human behavior, develop an understanding of alternative explanations of behavior and understand and use diverse methods of psychological inquiry. The course includes extensive review and evaluation of research studies and theories / models.  Students learn to use critical thinking in evaluating the information that they encounter in published theories and research studies.  Methodological and ethical considerations are made and cultural diversity is considered.

Course Content:


Introduction to Research methodology


Core (common for HL and SL):

• The biological level of analysis

• The cognitive level of analysis

• The sociocultural level of analysis



• Abnormal psychology (SL and HL)

• Health psychology (HL only)


Qualitative research methodology (HL only)

• Qualitative research in psychology


Simple experimental study for Internal Assessment



Required Skills:


SL and HL Psychology students are expected to demonstrate the following:


1. Knowledge and comprehension of specified content

–– Demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of key terms and concepts in psychology

–– Demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of psychological research methods

–– Demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of a range of appropriately identified psychological theories and research studies

–– Demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of the biological, cognitive and sociocultural levels of analysis

–– Demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of one option at SL or two options at HL. 

2. Application and analysis

–– Demonstrate an ability to use examples of psychological research and psychological concepts to formulate an argument in response to a specific question

––Analyze qualitative psychological research in terms of methodological, reflexive and ethical issues involved in research (HL only)

3. Synthesis and evaluation

–– Evaluate psychological theories and empirical studies

–– Discuss how biological, cognitive and sociocultural levels of analysis can be used to explain behaviour

–– Evaluate research methods used to investigate behaviour

4. Selection and use of skills appropriate to psychology

–– Demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills required for experimental design, data collection and presentation, data analysis and interpretation

––Analyze data using an appropriate inferential statistical test (HL only)

–– Write an organized response


ATL skills are cultivated throughout the Psychology course. Communication skills are enhanced through classroom discussions on the relevant psychology topics, as well as through the development of writing skills necessary to respond effectively to the learning outcomes, and through employing critical reading and understanding of different types of studies. Social skills are employed in the teamwork which is required for the completion of an experiment, as well as in the identification and organization of research relevant to the learning outcomes.  Self-management skills are built in developing the time management required for constructing written responses within set time frames, as well as in sustaining a consistent effort throughout the course. Self-assessment is also promoted in order to identify and reflect upon strengths and weaknesses and to review teacher comments in areas that require improvement. Research skills are integral to the course, as they are used consistently for learning to understand research studies, to critically evaluate their methods and ethics, to make comparisons and contrasts and to design a study. Media literacy is promoted as a means of finding sources relevant to the study of psychology.  Critical thinking skills are fundamental to the efficient study of psychology, as it is a requirement to be able to appraise information and researchconsider argumentsanalyze theoriesapply acquired skills, and deeply examine concepts.



Assessment Outline

 Students will sit external exam papers in May of Year I :

Standard Level

External assessment - (3 hours) 75%
Paper 1 (2 hours): Core syllabus 50%
Paper 2 (1 hour) : Options 25%

Internal assessment : A report of a simple experimental study conducted by the student. 25%

Higher Level

External assessment - (4 hours) 80%
Paper 1 (2 hours): Core syllabus 35%
Paper 2 (2 hours): Options 25%
Paper 3 (1 hour) Three compulsory questions based on an unseen text, covering part 3 of the syllabus. 20%

Internal assessment: A report of a simple experimental study conducted by the student. 20%