A2 Psychology AQA A – How To Answer 24 Mark Essay Questions For Psya3 & Psya4
The updated version of this post for the new specification is here:
This is a question that keeps popping up in one form or another and I wanted to make a video on this. You can view it below; it explains the exam technique and method I used to answer 24 mark essay questions for A2 Psychology and specifically the Psya3 and Psya4 essay questions.
Theory First, Followed By Evaluation
People have different ways of writing their essays. Some like to mix theory and evaluation together within paragraphs while others like to do one at a time (a paragraph of theory, a paragraph of evaluation, then back to theory, back to evaluation…rinse repeat).
What I personally recommend is you write all your theory first (all of it) and then you leave a line of space and then do all your evaluation. This is the technique I have used in both my Psya3 and Psya4 exams which helped me get 100% in both papers. Take a look below:The green element is the theory element while the blue element is the evaluation. Imagine you’re an examiner and you get an essay like this. You can clearly attribute all the marks for the theory section and you know everything after the first bit is pure evaluation. Theres no struggle to try and distinguish the two, your not spending ages having to mark it. Its simple.
Although you will hear you can write it how you wish its just simple perspective taking you need here; examiners are humans at the end of the day and they get frustrated sitting for ages writing countless essays. How much will they like you if you make it this easy?
How To Remember Your 24 Mark Psychology A Level Essays
My Acronym method is outlined in all my books but I thought I would write it here too.
Firstly you create your essays into your own words using my model essay answers. The theory you must ideally know from the top of your head as this is basically an explanation or concept. You can use the Acronym method to remember theory too if you wish – I did in some cases myself where I struggled but its easier using this with the evaluation points as researchers tend to be harder to remember – Its up to you, it will work for both.
Acronyms are “markers” that I used to trigger my memory to recall the rest of the essay. It is harder to remember a whole paragraph than it is a few letters which can then lead me to remember what those letters stand for and the actual studies themselves. This then triggers my memory to recall how each study is evaluated for strengths and weaknesses and so forth – a bit like a chain reaction.
Heres an example below from my Psya3 Aggression book below:
I have used the acronym MHBC which stands for the researchers McGuffin, Hutchings, Brunner and Caspi et al.
As soon as I see the question I remember my acronym and write this at the top: MHBC. The green element is the Theory while the blue is the evaluation. Notice where I have put the letters. As soon as I finish writing my theory (the green element) I look at my acronyms and recall M = McGuffin hence I recall his name and as I have practiced countless times writing this essay I recall his study too and the evaluation that goes with this. By the time I finish writing about him I look at the next letter which is H = Hutchings and this triggers my memory for his study and findings as well as the evaluation points.
This is how memorising the essays with chunking and acronyms works. It takes practice – Using this method WILL NOT WORK unless you have model essays created first and set up in a way that acronyms fit into them as I have done. Thats the bit that will require work on your half – structuring it in a way that suits you. Once done you employ this method to recall all your essays.
Also to note: When creating your acronyms try and create a combination of letters that spell something or are easier to recall than a random order. For example remembering the acronym SPUD is easier than remembering the acronym PSDU.
Take a stopwatch with you for the essay questions
One thing I did forget to emphasise in the video was the importance of taking a stopwatch with you so you can time yourself for the Psya3 and Psya4 exams. When writing 24 mark essay answers, especially in psya3 – you need to allocate your time accordingly and a stopwatch is incredibly important as it saves you precious time looking up at the clock and trying to figure out how much time you have left.
Psya3 And Psya4 Is All About Exam Technique
Literally. Exam technique probably counts for 25% of the mark you will get. The video above explains it but I’ll get the main points written down too. When answering 24 mark essay questions in Psya3 you have 1hr 30 minutes with 3 questions to answer. Therefore you need to split the time accordingly and spend 30 minutes on each question. Within this 30 minute window you need to again split this well between your theory and evaluation sections. If it is a full 24 mark essay question you will have it split with 8 marks for theory and 16 marks for evaluation.
Here I would recommend trying to maximise your marks for theory as much as possible as that is easier than the evaluation sections. Spend no more than 8-10 minutes on this and then move on to the evaluation section trying to write as much evaluation elements as you can remember. The only thing you must ensure is that you include at least two issues, debates and approaches in your evaluation section. As your stopwatch hits the 30 minute mark, wrap up what your writing and then move on to the next question and try do the same again.
You don’t need to write 24 mark essay answers.
To score an A* in Psya3 June 2013 – You only needed to score 16/24 marks in each essay. This year is likely to be close to that number as it only ever changes slightly so if you can score 8 marks in theory, you only need about 8-10 marks in the evaluation section to fall within the top bracket and score an A* yourself. So you literally focus your attention accordingly. I personally think scoring marks for theory is easier than evaluation. With the theory element you only have to remember an explanation of something while the evaluation section requires you to remember research studies, the evaluation for them and IDA’s.
Do what works for you.
Ultimately do what works for you – this is all simply guidance at the end of the day and me chronicling my journey and what worked for me. It is by no means the definitive guide and we all learn and work differently. If you have found a method that works for you; use that instead.
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