Paper 1 : The Approaches

This paper examines the three approaches to understanding, explaining, predicting and controlling behaviour, thoughts and feelings; biological, cognitive and socio-cultural.
These approaches are not in opposition with each other as such; psychologists in each approach just have different assumptions about the most important determinants of human behaviour. The approaches can almost be thought of as stacking cups or nesting Russian dolls, they fit into each other and compliment each other.
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Total: 49 marks
  • Worth: 50% SL and 40% HL
  • Note to HLs: Papers for HL and SL are same format except…one, two or all of the essay titles will reference the additional HL topics (the extensions).

Section A:

  • three compulsory short-answer questions (9 marks each)
  • one question on biological, one on cognitive and one on socio-cultural
  • can only use AO1/2 command terms describeoutline, or explain.
  • Advice:
    • Spend around one hour on this section;
    • you actually have 22 minutes per SAQ as the paper is out of 49 and you have 2 hours in total, so if you go a little over in section A, that’s fine!

Top tips for answering SAQs


The link below takes you to my tip tips for SAQs menu planning PowerPoint! Bon Appetit!

For a slightly more colourful version, here is the link to the original google slides presentation:

Section B:

  • one essay from a choice of three on the core approaches (22 marks).
  • choose an essay from a choice of one bio, one cog and one socio-cultural.
  • essay titles will use AO3 command terms evaluate, discuss, contrast and to what extent.
  • you should spend around one hour on your essay
  • essays are graded according to 5 marking criteria that you will need to get used to!


Top tips for answering ERQS

Paper 1 ERQ topsheet

How to write a decent introduction

Engaging with Command Terms

My ERQs google slideshow:

Portioning up your essays:

  • Criteria A (focus on question)
    • 2/22 therefore 9%
    • you should spend around 5 minutes on your introduction
    • This means you can write no more than 125 words for this section.
  • Criteria B (description)
    • 6/22 therefore 27%
    • you should spend around 15 minutes on your description (AO1)
    • This means you can write no more than 375 words for this section.
  • Criteria C (use of studies as evidence for and against)
    • 6/22 suggesting that 27% of your evaluation, e.g. chains of reasoning should be based on research studies
    • focus on the findings and explain how they support/refute the theoretical arguments in your essay
    • in reporting these findings you will also have to deliver procedural details too.
    • all points must follow the PEEL structure
    • present at least one strength and one weakness based on research studies
    • write no more than 375 words for this section.
  • Criteria D (critical thinking)
    • 6/22 suggesting that another 27% of your evaluation should come competing arguments (however, in contrast, this said wherever possible)
    • e.g. methodological evaluation of evidence (GRAVE), applications to real life and comparison with alternative theoretical positions (including other approaches in psychology; bio, cog and socio-cultural).
  • Criteria E (clarity and organisation)
    • 2/22 suggesting that 9% of your time should be spent making sure your essay makes sense; spend time proof-reading and ensuring your PEEL structure is in place, adding extra details for clarification and so on
    • this time should also be spent writing your conclusion, drawing the threads together to give a balanced and nuanced judgement that relates directly to the question but does not introduce any new material.
    • you can spend about 5 minutes on this so, a couple of mins to read through and a couple of minutes on the conclusion.
    • conclusions do not need to be long just a sentence or so but are important to this criteria as they will leave the examiner with a sense of clarity about your overall perspective. No need to write more than about 60 words for the conclusion.


Use this sheet to plan your essays; type into the boxes to make a plan or scribble down your ideas in pencil on a hard copy. You could even ‘save as’ and delete the boxes as you to create your final essay 🙂

Paper 1 Grade boundaries

From Barcelona training; there are no grade boundaries for the new exams, and given that Paper 1 is now out of 49 not 44 a few little calculations were necessary. These were created by John Crane and are based on the current programme.

  • Grade 7: >32 (>66%)
  • Grade 6: 26-31 (53%)
  • Grade 5: 20-25 (41%)
  • Grade 4: 15-19 (31%)
  • Grade 3: 11-14 (23%)
  • Grade 2: 6-10 (13%)
  • Grade 1: 0-5 (<12%)