A2 exams
- Research methods questions
Detailed feedback from the Report
on the Examination
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
Topic: Media Psychology
Psychology in
action includes
research methods
4 (a) ‘Content analysis has shown that many video games have violent
themes. Many of these games are aimed at adolescents. There is a
growing concern that such games encourage violent behaviour in
(a) (i) marked with
young people who play them.’
AO2/AO3 criteria.
(i) Explain some of the difficulties of conducting research into the
effects of playing games. (5 marks)
(ii) Discuss what psychological research has told us about some of
the effects of video games on young people (5 marks + 5 marks)
(b) Describe how social psychology explains the attraction of
celebrity. (4 marks + 6 marks)
(a) (ii) and (b)
students omitted
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
Topic: The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour
Part (b) doesn’t
have to relate to
5 (a) A large survey on behalf of the Gambling Commission provided a
number of interesting findings about gambling behaviour in Great
Britain. For example, 57% of the population had gambled on the
National Lottery Draw in 2007, although the rate of problem gambling addiction in
in the adult population was only about 0.6%.
general rather
(i) Explain some of the difficulties of gathering data about problem
than gambling.
gambling. (5 marks)
(b) Many
(ii) Outline and evaluate one explanation of gambling addiction. (4
marks + 6 marks)
(b) 'The relapse rate for smokers in the first three months after trying rather than
to give up is estimated at 70%.’
relapse. Some
didn’t do any
Discuss reasons why relapse occurs in people with addictive
behaviour. (5 marks + 5 marks)
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
Topic: Anomalistic Psychology
6 (a) A researcher wanted to test the ability of a known ‘psychic healer’.
Ten volunteers suffering from chronic back pain were selected through
newspaper adverts. The volunteers were all given a questionnaire which
rated their belief in psychic healing and another questionnaire which
rated their levels of pain. They were then randomly assigned to either a
treatment or a control group.
Afterwards all the volunteers filled in the pain questionnaire again. The
researcher found that there was no significant effect on pain relief as a
result of psychic healing.
Answer the following questions, using your knowledge about research
into psychic healing.
(i) The researcher wanted to know whether there was a correlation
between belief in psychic healing and improvement in pain ratings. What
statistical test could the researcher use? Justify your answer. (2 marks)
(ii) Outline one ethical issue in this study and suggest how the
researcher could have dealt with it. (3 marks)
(iii) ‘It is interesting why, even today in the modern age of science and
technology, some people still believe in psychic healing’.
Discuss factors underlying belief in psychic healing. (5 marks + 5 marks)
(b) Outline and evaluate psychological research into belief in out-ofbody experiences and/or near-death experiences. (4 marks + 6 marks)
A number of
centres had
(a) (ii) Often
gave only brief
method of
dealing with
ethical issue.
(a) (iii)
often ignored
factors’ and just
research on
psychic healing.
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
Topic: Research methods
A psychologist was interested in testing a new treatment for people with
eating disorders. She put adverts in several London clinics to recruit
participants. Thirty people cam forward and they were all given a structured
interview by a trained therapist. The therapist then calculated a numerical
score for each participant as a measure of their current functioning, where
50 indicates excellent, healthy functioning and zero indicates failure to
function adequately. The psychologist then randomly allocated half the
participants to a treatment group and half to a no-treatment group. After
eight weeks, each participant was re-assessed using a structured interview
conducted by the same trained therapist, and given a new numerical score.
The therapist did not know which participants had been in either group.
For each participant, the psychologist calculated an improvement score by
subtracting the score at the start of the study from the score after eight
weeks. The greater the number, the better the improvement.
Table 1: Median and range of improvement scores for the treatment and notreatment group
Treatment group No-treatment group
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
(a) With reference to the data in Table 1, outline what the
findings of this investigation seem to show about the
effectiveness of the treatment. (2 marks)
Some confused by
median and range.
(b) The psychologist used a statistical test to find out whether
there was a significant difference in improvement between the
‘treatment’ and ‘no-treatment’ groups. She found a significant
difference at the 5% level for a one-tailed test (p ≤ 0.05)
Some just wrote
‘Spearman’s rho because
it is nominal data and
repeated measures’.
Identify an appropriate statistical test for analysing
participants’ scores. Explain why it would be a suitable test to
use in this study. (4 marks)
(c) What is the likelihood of the psychologist having made a
Type 1 error in this study? Explain your answer. (2 marks)
Some knew the definition
but couldn’t apply it.
(d) The psychologist assumed that improvements in the
treatment group were a direct result of the new type of
treatment. Suggest two other reasons why people in the
treatment group might have improved. (4 marks)
Some answers lacked
detail, and some gave two
answers essentially the
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
(e) The psychologist could have used selfreport questionnaires to assess the
participants instead of using interviews
with the therapist. Explain one advantage
and one disadvantage of using self-report
questionnaires in this study rather than
interviews. (4 marks)
(f) The psychologist needed to obtain
informed consent from her participants.
Write a brief consent form which would
be suitable for this study. You should
include some details of what participants
could expect to happen in the study and
how they would be protected. (5 marks)
(g) What is meant by reliability? Explain
how the reliability of the scores in this
study could be checked. (4 marks)
Many missed the point that the comparison had
to be made with interviews, so e.g. social
desirability is not creditworthy.
Some candidates saw it as a legal disclaimer
(you can’t sue us).
Poor expression and clarity lost marks for some.
Muddled answers e.g. ‘if you do the study again
you will get similar results’.
Best to explain in terms of inter-rater reliability.
(Problem is that we use ‘reliable’ in common
language and not always appropriate to more
technical meaning.)
The A2 Examination: January 2010 exam
Unit 4
(h) The psychologist noticed that male and female
participants seemed to have responded rather
differently to treatment.
She decided to test the following hypothesis:
Female patients with an eating disorder will
show greater improvement in their symptoms
after treatment with the new therapy than male
She used a new set of participants and, this time,
used self-report questionnaires instead of
interviews with a therapist.
Imagine that you are the psychologist and are
writing up the report of the study. Write an
appropriate methods section which includes
reasonable detail of design, participants, materials
and procedure. Make sure that there is enough
detail to allow another researcher to carry out this
study in the future. (10 marks)
Limited awareness of conventional
reporting style.
Students lost sight of what they were
doing and e.g. randomly allocated
participants to gender groups.
No credit for aims or statistical
Again poor expression often
obscured meaning.
The A2 Examination: June 2010 exam
Unit 4
Topic: Research methods
1 8 Outline what is meant by the term peer review in
psychological research. (2 marks)
1 9 Explain why peer review is important in psychological
research. (5 marks)
Didn’t know what peer
review was.
Not enough elaboration.
Didn’t answer ‘why’.
Read the text below and answer questions 2 0 , 2 1 and 2 2 . A
psychologist was interested in looking at the effects of a restricted diet on
psychological functioning. A group of 20 healthy, young adult volunteers
agreed to spend four weeks in a research unit. They were kept warm and
comfortable but given only water and small amounts of plain food. They
were able to socialise with one another and watch television, but they
had to keep to strict, set mealtimes and were not allowed to eat anything
between meals. The psychologist carried out various tests of emotional
and cognitive functioning during this four-week period. One area of
interest for the psychologist was the effect of the dietary restriction on
the perception of food. He tested this by asking the volunteers to draw
pictures of food at the end of each week. When all the drawings had
been completed, the psychologist used content analysis to analyse them.
2 0 What is meant by the term content analysis? (1 mark)
Didn’t know content
The A2 Examination: June 2010 exam
Unit 4
2 1 Explain how the psychologist might have carried out content
analysis to analyse these drawings. (3 marks)
If 20 answered, then did
OK with this.
2 2 The psychologist needed to be sure that his participants
understood the nature of the study so that they were able to give
informed consent. Write a consent form which would be
suitable for this study. Make sure there is sufficient information
about the study for the participants to make an informed
decision. (5 marks)
2 3 The psychologist was also interested in the effects of a
restricted diet on memory functioning and he expected memory
to become impaired. The psychologist’s hypothesis was that
participants’ scores on a memory test are lower after a restricted
diet than before a restricted diet. He gave the volunteers a
memory test when they first arrived in the research unit and a
similar test at the end of the four-week period. He recorded the
memory scores on both tests and analysed them using the
Wilcoxon signed ranks test. He set his significance level at 5%.
His calculated value was T = 53.
State whether the hypothesis for this study is directional or nondirectional. (1 mark)
Many focused on
procedures rather than
ethical issues, or vice
Almost all answers
correct. Some said ‘yes’
The A2 Examination: June 2010 exam
Unit 4
Many gained full
Using Table 1, state whether or not the psychologist’s result was
significant. Explain your answer. (3 marks)
Read the text below and answer questions 2 5 to 2 8 . A psychologist is
using the observational method to look at verbal aggression in a group of
children with behavioural difficulties. Pairs of observers watch a single
child in the class for a period of one hour and note the number of verbally
aggressive acts within ten-minute time intervals. After seeing the first set
of ratings, the psychologist becomes concerned about the quality of interrater reliability. The tally chart for the two observers is shown in Table 2.
Some gained 1
mark because
they couldn’t
explain it.
The A2 Examination: June 2010 exam Unit 4
2 5 Use the data in Table 2 to sketch a scattergram. Label Large number didn’t know what
the axes and give the scattergram a title. (4 marks)
a scattergram was, and drew e.g.
frequency polygon.
2 6 Using the data in Table 2, explain why the
Some candidates wasted time
psychologist is concerned about inter-rater reliability. (4 explaining inter-rater reliability or
discussing reliability.
2 7 Identify an appropriate statistical test to check the
Relatively few candidates could
inter-rater reliability of these two observers. Explain why answer.
this is an appropriate test. (3 marks)
2 8 If the psychologist does find low reliability, what
Good discriminator because most
could she do to improve inter-rater reliability before
could offer one solution but
proceeding with the observational research? (4 marks)
often could not elaborate.
The A2 Examination: January 2011 xam
Unit 4
Topic: Media Psychology
0 9 In a study, researchers investigated celebrity worship
0 9 Could identify appropriate issues
in young people. They sent two questionnaires to
but failed to link them to the research.
several hundred university students. One questionnaire
measured attitudes to celebrity and the other
questionnaire measured self-esteem. The researchers
analysed the completed questionnaires and found a
significant correlation between low self-esteem and high
levels of celebrity worship.
Explain one methodological and one ethical issue that
might have arisen in this study. (2 marks + 2 marks)
The A2 Examination: January 2011 exam Unit 4
Topic: Anomalistic Psychology
1 6 To investigate this, a researcher asked participants to
Could explain reliability and
complete a reliable and well-validated scale measuring
validity but not why this is
belief in the paranormal. Each participant was then
scored on their attempt to solve a set of reasoning
problems. What is meant by a ‘reliable and well-validated’
scale? Explain why it is important to use such a scale
when measuring paranormal beliefs. (2 marks + 2 marks)
January 2011 exam
Unit 4
Topic: Psychological Research and Scientific Method
A teacher has worked in the same primary school for two
years. While chatting to the children, she is concerned to
find that the majority of them come to school without
having eaten a healthy breakfast. In her opinion,
children who eat ‘a decent breakfast’ learn to read
more quickly and are better behaved than children who
do not. She now wants to set up a pre-school breakfast
club for the children so that they can all have this
beneficial start to the day. The local authority is not
willing to spend money on this project purely on the
basis of the teacher’s opinion and insists on having
scientific evidence for the claimed benefits of eating a
healthy breakfast.
1 9 Explain why the teacher’s personal opinion cannot
be accepted as scientific evidence. Refer to some of the
major features of science in your answer. (6 marks)
1 9 Difficulty trying to apply
Lots of answers mentioned
paradigm shift, gained no marks.
January 2011 exam
Unit 4
A psychologist at the local university agrees to carry out a
study to investigate the claim that eating a healthy
breakfast improves reading skills. He has access to 400
five-year-old children from 10 local schools, and decides
to use 100 children (50 in the experimental group and 50
in the control group). Since the children are so young, he
needs to obtain parental consent for them to take part in
his study.
2 0 The psychologist used a random sampling method.
Didn’t give answers worth 3
Explain how he could have obtained his sample using this marks.
method. (3 marks)
2 1 Explain limitations of using random sampling in this
study. (3 marks)
Said it wouldn’t represent the
whole population whereas the
point is unrepresentativeness of
the target population.
Good answer – some parents
might not give consent and
therefore not a random sample.
January 2011 exam
Unit 4
2 2 Explain why it is important to operationalise the
independent variable and the dependent variable in this
study and suggest how the psychologist might do this. (5
2 3 The psychologist used a Mann-Whitney test to
analyse the data. Give two reasons why he chose this
test. (2 marks)
2 4 He could have used a matched pairs design. Explain
why this design would have been more difficult to use in
this study. (2 marks)
2 5 Other than parental consent, identify one ethical
issue raised in this study and explain how the
psychologist might address it. (2 marks)
Beyond many candidates.
How?e.g. fat, sugar
Mostly correct answers
Weak answers e.g. ‘difficult to
match variables’.
Identified appropriate issue but
overlooked second part.
January 2011 exam
Unit 4
2 6 The psychologist asks some of his students to conduct
a separate observational study at the same time on the
same group of children. The aim of this observational
study is to test the idea that eating a healthy breakfast
affects playground behaviour.
Candidates failed to read the
whole question.
Design an observational study to investigate the effects of
a healthy breakfast on playground behaviour. Include in
your answer sufficient detail to allow for reasonable
replication of the study. You should state the hypothesis
you are setting out to test.
Failed to write a suitable
In your answer, refer to:
•an appropriate method of investigation
•materials/apparatus and procedure.
Lacked sufficient detail for
Justify your design decisions. (12 marks)
Many wrote about sampling
and ethics which were already
dealt with.
Couldn’t identify the IV.
Used totally impractical ideas.
Could include training of
observers as part of method.
The A2 Examination: June 2011 exam
Unit 4
Topic: The Psychology of Addictive Behaviour
A study into the effects of warnings on cigarette packets has found that these
vary depending on the reason why people smoke in the first place. College
students were given questionnaires to assess whether self-esteem self-esteem
not in spec played a role in their motivation to smoke. They were then shown
cigarette packets with either death-related warnings (eg ‘smokers die young’) or
death-neutral warnings (eg ‘smoking makes you unattractive’). Students, to
whom smoking was important to their self-esteem, were not put off by warnings
of death on cigarette packets. Surprisingly, their attitude to smoking became
more positive after being shown such messages. However, warnings related to
the source of their self-esteem, (eg ‘smoking makes you unattractive’),
significantly reduced positive attitudes to smoking in this group.
The questionnaires consisted of statements such as ‘Smoking makes me feel
valued’ and students had to indicate in a tick box the extent to which they
agreed/disagreed with each statement.
Provided a
instead of a
thought if
words were
involved it
must be
NB self10 Suggest one other possible statement that could have been used to assess the esteem not
role of self-esteem. State whether this kind of data is qualitative or quantitative. on spec now
(2 marks)
1 1 Explain one strength and one limitation of using a questionnaire in this study. Good
(2 marks + 2 marks)
The A2 Examination: June 2011 exam
Unit 4
Psychological Research and Scientific Method
It is thought that colours might affect our performance when carrying out certain tasks.
Research in this area has been inconclusive. Some studies have shown that red improves
performance but others have found the opposite. It could be that these contradictory results
have arisen because red is only beneficial for certain kinds of mental processing. Some
psychologists tested this hypothesis in a series of independent-groups design experiments
using students at a Canadian University.
The experiments involved computer tasks, with either a red, blue or neutral back ground
appearing on the monitor. The researchers found that participants were better at a wordrecall task and a spell-checking task when the screen background was red rather than blue
or neutral. However, participants thought of more creative ideas when the screen was blue
rather than red or neutral
The researchers concluded that red is beneficial for tasks that require attention to detail
whereas blue aids creativity.
1 7 What were the researchers’ aims in this study? (2 marks)
Imagine that you are writing up the report for this series of experiments.
1 8 What is the purpose of the introduction section of a report? (2 marks)
Don’t know it,
writing abstracts
The A2 Examination: June 2011 exam
Unit 4
A psychological report also contains a discussion section. Researchers are
expected to consider their findings critically and discuss issues such as validity.
true = 0
1 9 What is meant by validity? (1 mark)
2 0 Explain how one factor in this study might affect its internal validity and how Muddled
one factor in this study might affect its external validity. (2 marks + 2 marks)
2 1 In the discussion section, researchers are also expected to consider any
Good e.g.
possible applications of their research. Suggest one practical application that
use of
might arise from these findings. (2 marks)
colour on
walls or in
In a further experiment, participants were given 20 blue shapes and 20 red
shapes. They were then asked to pick 5 shapes and use them to make a toy
suitable for a child aged between five and eleven years. They were given a
limited time to carry out this task. Participants given red shapes made toys that
independent judges rated to be more practical but less original, whereas
participants given blue shapes made more creative toys.
2 2 Explain why the researchers asked independent judges to rate the toys. (2
The A2 Examination: June 2011 exam
Unit 4
2 3 Write a set of standardised instructions that would be
suitable to read out to participants in this experiment. (5 marks)
Poor, gave consent forms
and focused on ethics.
Answers too brief.
Psychological research suggests an association between birth
order and certain abilities. For example, first-born children are
often logical in their thinking whereas later-born children tend
to be more creative. A psychologist wonders whether this might
mean that birth order is associated with different career choices.
Surprisingly poor, some
She decides to investigate and asks 50 artists and 65 lawyers
giving a correlation or null
whether they were the first-born child in the family or not.
2 4 Write a non-directional hypothesis for this study. (2 marks)
2 5 Identify an appropriate sampling method for this study and
Some said notice in shop
explain how the psychologist might have obtained such a
window which wouldn’t
sample. (3 marks)
work for artists and
Any sampling method got
1 mark.
The A2 Examination: June 2011 exam
Unit 4
The psychologist found the following results:
• 20 out of the 50 artists were first-born children
• 35 out of 65 lawyers were first-born children
She analysed her data using a statistical text and calculated a value of χ2 = 2.27. She
then looked at the relevant table to see whether this value was statistically significant.
An extract from the table is provided below.
2 6 Imagine that you are writing the results section of the report on the investigation.
Using information from the description of the study above and the relevant information
from the statistical table, provide contents suitable for the results section.
You must provide all of the following:
• An appropriately labelled 2 x 2 contingency table (2) [OK]
• A sketch of an appropriately labelled bar chart (3) [miss labels]
• Identification of the appropriate statistical test with justification for its use (1 + 2)
[some say Spearman’s]
• Identification of the appropriate significance level (1) [OK]
• A statement of the results of the statistical test in relation to the hypothesis. (3
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
Topic: Media Psychology
Used e.g. social desirability or
0 7 Researchers conducted a study of media influences on
demand characteristics.
anti-social behaviour. The researchers asked child
participants to name their favourite TV programmes. Fifteen
years later, the researchers assessed the same participants
for levels of anti-social behaviour. Two measures of adult
anti-social behaviour were obtained for each participant.
Measure A: The researchers interviewed a person who knew
the participant well and asked them about the participant’s
Measure B: The researchers studied official records of the
participant’s criminal convictions.
The researchers concluded that there was a link between
watching violent TV programmes as a child and levels of
adult aggression.
Other than ethical issues, explain two methodological
problems involved in the study described above. (4 marks)
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
Psychological Research and Scientific Method
Two psychologists investigated the relationship between age and recall of medical advice.
Previous research had shown that recall of medical advice tended to be poorer in older
patients. The study was conducted at a doctor’s surgery and involved a sample of 30
patients aged between 18 and 78 years. They all saw the same doctor, who made notes of
the advice that she gave during the consultation.
One of the psychologists interviewed each of the patients individually, immediately after
they had seen the doctor. The psychologist asked each patient a set of questions about what
the doctor had said about their diagnosis and treatment. The patients’ responses were
recorded and then typed out. Working independently the psychologists compared each
typed account with the doctor’s written notes in order to rate the accuracy of the accounts
on a scale of 1–10. A high rating indicated that the patient’s recall was very accurate and a
low rating indicated that the patient’s recall was very inaccurate.
1 6 The psychologists decided to propose a directional hypothesis. Why was Some wrote
a directional hypothesis appropriate in this case? (1 mark)
too much.
1 7 Write a suitable directional hypothesis for this investigation. (3 marks)
They can’t do
1 8 The psychologists were careful to consider the issue of reliability during Again wrote
the study. What is meant by reliability? (1 mark)
too much.
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
1 9 Explain how the psychologists might have assessed the
reliability of their ratings. (3 marks)
Good discriminator.
Some considered reliability
of the study, which
produced weak answers.
Said ‘test-retest’ but then
could explain how.
2 0 This study collected both qualitative and quantitative data. Well answered, using
From the description of the study above, identify the
qualitative data and the quantitative data. (2 marks)
Most achieve full marks.
The psychologists used Spearman’s rho to analyse the data
from their investigation. They chose to use the 0.05 level of
significance. The result gave a correlation coefficient of −0.52.
2 1 Give two reasons why the psychologists used Spearman’s
rho to analyse the data. (2 marks)
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
2 2 Using Table 1 below, state whether the result is significant or not
significant and explain why. (2 marks)
Students confused
by negative sign.
2 3 Explain what is meant by a Type 1 error. (2 marks)
1/3 confused Type 1
and 2
Many avoided the
question! Many
relied on a rote
learned response
that the 5%
significance level
avoids Type 1 errors.
2 4 Use the information in Table 1 above to explain why the
psychologists did not think that they had made a Type 1 error in this
case. (3 marks)
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
The psychologists then wanted to see whether the use of diagrams in
medical consultations would affect recall of medical information.
In a laboratory experiment involving a medical consultation role-play,
participants were randomly allocated to one of two conditions. In
Condition A, a doctor used diagrams to present to each participant a
series of facts about high blood pressure. In Condition B, the same
doctor presented the same series of facts about high blood pressure to
each participant but without the use of diagrams.
At the end of the consultation, participants were tested on their recall
of facts about high blood pressure. Each participant was given a score
out of ten for the number of facts recalled.
2 5 In this case, the psychologists decided to use a laboratory
experiment rather than a field experiment. Discuss advantages of
carrying out this experiment in a laboratory. (4 marks)
2 6 Identify an appropriate statistical test that the psychologists could
use to analyse the data from the follow-up study. Give one reason why
this test is appropriate. (2 marks)
Very poor.
Failed to refer to
stem in their
Some wrote about
Most got full
The A2 Examination: Jan 2012 exam Unit 4
2 7 Research has shown that music can affect the ability
to concentrate. Design an experiment that could be
carried out in a classroom to test the effects of two
different kinds of music on a task requiring
concentration (eg word search).
You must use a repeated measures design.
In your answer you should:
•fully operationalise the independent and dependent
•provide details of how you would control extraneous
•describe the procedure that you would use. You should
provide sufficient detail for the study to be carried out.
(10 marks)
Some students not well prepared
and gained few marks. Common
•Ignoring the requirement to use
repeated measures and
converting the experiment to an
independent groups design
•Failing to counterbalance order
of presentation of the two types
of music
•Producing two concentration
tests which were not matched for
•Testing music v no music
•Focussing on trivial controls
(breakfast, temperature) and
ignoring important ones (volume
of music).
The A2 Examination: June 2012 exam
Unit 4
Section C Research methods and scientific method
1 6 Explain what is meant by replicability. Why is
replicability an important feature of science? (5
A maths teacher wondered whether there was a
relationship between mathematical ability and
musical ability. She decided to test this out on the
GCSE students in the school. From 210 students,
she randomly selected 10 and gave each of them
two tests. She used part of a GCSE exam paper to
test their mathematical ability. The higher the
mark, the better the mathematical ability. She
could not find a musical ability test so she devised
her own. She asked each student to sing a song of
their choice. She then rated their performance on a
scale of 1–10, where 1 is completely tuneless and
10 is in perfect tune.
1 7 Suggest a suitable non-directional hypothesis
for this study. (3 marks)
1 8 Why might the measure of musical ability used
by the teacher lack validity? (3 marks)
Could define but not explain, poor
answers. Best to use the scientific
process as basis.
Students continue to find it difficult
to write hypotheses. 40% got zero
marks because directional and/or
not a correlation.
Answered well.
The A2 Examination: June 2012 exam
Unit 4
1 9 Explain how the teacher could have checked
the reliability of the mathematical ability test.
(3 marks)
2 0 Explain why the teacher chose to use a
random sample in this study. (2 marks)
The results of the study are given in Table 1.
Table 1: Mathematical ability test scores and
musical ability ratings for 10 students
2 1 In your answer book, sketch a graph to show
the data in Table 1. Give the graph an appropriate
title and label the axes. (3 marks)
40% got no marks, reliability confused
with validity. Pilot study got no marks.
1 mark by referring to the method as
being likely to yield a more
representative sample. The weakest
students simply defined random
sample and went no further.
About 1/3 drew the wrong kind of
graph e.g. a bar chart.
Lost marks by omitting labels.
The A2 Examination: June 2012 exam
Unit 4
2 2 Discuss what the data in Table 1 and the graph
that you have sketched seem to show about the
relationship between mathematical ability and
musical ability. (3 marks)
Better students noted the presence
of two outliers which weakened
the overall strength of the
relationship and some commented
on the impact of outliers in a small
The A2 Examination: June 2012 exam
Unit 4
2 3 The teacher noticed that most of the students
who were rated highly on musical ability were lefthanded. The teacher is aware that her previous
definition of musical ability lacked validity.
Design a study to test whether there is a difference
in the musical ability of left-handed students and
right-handed students. You have access to a sixth
form of 200 students.
You should:
•identify the design that you would use
•explain an appropriate sampling method and justify
your choice
•describe the procedure that you would use,
including details of how you would
•assess musical ability
•write a suitable debrief for these participants.
(10 marks)
2 4 In your answer book, draw a table to show how
you would record your results. Identify an
appropriate statistical test to analyse the data that
you would collect. Justify your choice. (3 marks)
Some students had an impressive
understanding of experimental
design but often:
Suggested repeated measures
• suggesting a sampling method
but not explaining how
• assuming that a maths test
also needed to be completed (ie
incorrect IV)
• failing to provide any
procedural information
• producing an unsuitable
• providing standardised
instructions and claiming they
were a debrief.
Some produced a summary table.
The A2 Examination: Jan 2013 exam Unit 4
Psychological Research and Scientific Method
Some studies have suggested that there may be a
relationship between intelligence and happiness. To
investigate this claim, a psychologist used a
standardised test
to measure intelligence in a sample of 30 children
aged 11 years, who were chosen from a local
secondary school. He also asked the children to
complete a self-report questionnaire designed to
measure happiness. The score from the intelligence
test was correlated with the score from the happiness
questionnaire. The psychologist used a Spearman’s
rho test to analyse the data. He found that the
correlation between intelligence and happiness at age
11 was +0.42.
1 7 Write an operationalised non-directional
hypothesis for this study. (2 marks)
1 8 Identify an alternative method which could have
been used to collect data about happiness in this
study. Explain why this method might be better than
using a questionnaire. (4 marks)
Hypothesis writing is problematic
for many students. Less than a third
students achieved the full 2 marks
available and a further third scored
no marks at all, having mistakenly
written a directional hypothesis or
one which predicted a difference.
Many responses were lacking in
clarity or failed to operationalise
the variables. “There is a
correlation (relationship) between
pupils’ scores on a standardised
intelligence test and their scores on
a questionnaire measuring
Weaker students became sidetracked into describing the possible
method in detail (i.e. observational
categories) and lost focus on
The A2 Examination: Jan 2013 exam Unit 4
1 9 What is meant by internal validity?
(1 mark)
2 0 Describe how the internal validity
of the happiness questionnaire could
be assessed. (3 marks)
One mark was achieved by only about half of the
About 70% of students achieved no marks at all.
Many answers confused validity with reliability.
Most common methods were assessing concurrent
and face validity.
Good answers.
2 1 A Spearman’s rho test was used to analyse the data.
Give two reasons why this test was used. (2 marks)
About a third of students
managed to pick up the full 3
marks. Most of the remainder
were able to say the result was
significant, gaining one mark
but went on to select the
incorrect critical value from
the table.
2 2 The psychologist used a non-directional hypothesis.
Using Table 1, state whether or
not the correlation between intelligence and happiness at
age 11 (+0.42) was significant. Explain your answer. (3
The A2 Examination: Jan 2013 exam Unit 4
2 3 Five years later, the same young people
were asked to complete the intelligence test
and the happiness questionnaire for a second
time. This time the correlation was -0.29.
With reference to both correlation scores,
outline what these findings seem to show
about the link between intelligence and
happiness. (4 marks)
The report was subjected to peer review
before it was published in a journal.
2 4 What is meant by peer review? (2 marks)
2 5 Explain why peer review is an important
aspect of the scientific process. (4 marks)
Less than 5 % of answers achieved the
full 4 marks. Many students were able to
identify that the scores demonstrated
different kinds of relationships (positive
and negative) but were unable to take
this further and think about possible
explanations. Better answers focused on
the inability to establish cause and the
role played by other variables, in this
case age. Some made use of their
knowledge about reliability.
Just under half of students achieved the
full two marks. Many fail to understand
that peer review occurs prior to
Less than 5% of students achieving the
full 4 marks available. Most students had
a basic idea that peer review prevents
weak or fraudulent research getting into
the public domain but could say little
beyond this.
The A2 Examination: Jan 2013 exam Unit 4
2 6 A psychology student was asked to design an
investigation to see whether taking exercise could
increase feelings of happiness. She proposed to do
an experiment.
She decided to recruit a sample of volunteers who
had just joined a gym, by putting up a poster in the
gym. She planned to carry out a short interview with
each volunteer and to give each one a happiness
score. She intended to interview the volunteers again
after they had attended the gym for six weeks and to
reassess their happiness score to see if it had
The psychology student’s teacher identified a
number of limitations of the proposed experiment.
Explain one or more limitations of the student’s
proposal and suggest how the investigation could be
improved. (10 marks)
Stronger students identified the
lack of operationalisation and
control at the heart of the
proposed study.
Quite a lot of the modifications
suggested were weak (e.g. ‘do a
random sample’). Better answers
were structured around
identification and discussion of a
limitation (e.g. lack of control)
followed by a well-developed
argument about different ways to
improve this.
Teachers are encouraged to do
some practical work with students
and encourage them to plan
‘thought experiments’. It was
clear that some students were
very familiar with designing
experiments and they had a strong
advantage here.
The A2 Examination: June2013 exam Unit 4
Psychological Research and Scientific Method
In an observational study, 100 cars were fitted with video
Almost half of the answers
cameras to record the driver’s behaviour. Two psychologists
achieved no marks at all.
used content analysis to analyse the data from the films. They
found that 75% of accidents involved a lack of attention by the
driver. The most common distractions were using a hands-free
phone or talking to a passenger. Other distractions included
looking at the scenery, smoking, eating, personal grooming and
trying to reach something within the car.
1 8 What is content analysis? (2 marks)
1 9 Explain how the psychologists
Most students were able to gain some marks here
might have carried out content
despite poor performance on question 18.
analysis to analyse the film clips of Fw appreciated that behavioural categories need to
driver behaviour. (4 marks)
come from somewhere, whether that is from pilot
work or previous research.
2 0 Explain how the two
Many failed to gain the three marks.
psychologists might have assessed A few students became side-tracked into improving
the reliability of their content
reliability and a small number used split half which
analysis. (3 marks)
was inappropriate.
The A2 Examination: June2013 exam Unit 4
The psychologists then designed an experiment to test the
effects of using a hands-free phone on drivers’ attention. They
recruited a sample of 30 experienced police drivers and asked
them to take part in two computer-simulated driving tests. Both
tests involved watching a three-minute film of a road.
Participants were instructed to click the mouse as quickly as
possible, when a potential hazard (such as a car pulling out
ahead) was spotted.
Each participant completed two computer-simulated driving
Many students provided a
basic answer referring to
the need for less
● Test A, whilst chatting with one of the psychologists on a
hands-free phone
participants or the removal
of individual differences but
● Test B, in silence, with no distractions.
The order in which they completed the computer tests was
were unable to provide
further explanation of why
2 1 Explain why the psychologists chose to use a repeated
this would be important in
measures design in this experiment.
this experiment.
(3 marks)
2 2 Identify one possible extraneous variable About 75% of students achieved no marks at
in this experiment. Explain how this variable all. few students showed any awareness of the
may have influenced the results of this
need to match the two hazard perception
experiment. (3 marks)
The A2 Examination: June2013 exam Unit 4
2 3 Explain how one factor in this
experiment might affect its external
validity. (3 marks)
2 4 Explain one or more ethical issues
that the psychologists should have
considered in this experiment. (4 marks)
2 5 Write a set of standardised
instructions that would be suitable to
read out to participants, before they
carry out Test A, chatting on a handsfree phone. (5 marks)
This question was answered well, with most
students able to refer to population or
ecological validity.
Many answers to this question displayed a
marked lack of common sense.
many students claimed that watching a 3minute film of a road would be traumatic,
leading police drivers to suffer psychological
harm. Others referred to possible deception
and failed to appreciate that the purpose of
the experiment is rather obvious in a repeated
measures design.
Good answers.
Some failed to gain full credit as their
instructions referenced both conditions or
failed to include a check of understanding.
The A2 Examination: June2013 exam Unit 4
The computer simulator measured two aspects of driver
● the number of hazards detected by each driver
● the time taken to respond to each hazard, in seconds.
The mean scores for each of these measures is shown in
Table 1.
Table 1 Table to show the mean number of hazards detected
and mean reaction times in seconds for Test A and Test B
About one third of
students gained the full
marks or identifying the
Wilcoxon test with
appropriate justification
but just under half gained
one mark only for
The psychologists then used an inferential statistical test to
identification of the test.
assess whether there was a difference in the two conditions. Common problems
2 6 Identify an appropriate statistical test to analyse the
included justification as a
difference in the number of hazards detected in the two
test of difference which
conditions of this experiment. Explain why this test of
gained no credit as it was
difference would be appropriate. (3 marks)
included in the question.
The A2 Examination: June2013 exam Unit 4
They found no significant difference in the number
of hazards detected (p > 0.05), but there was a
significant difference in reaction times (p ≤ 0.01).
2 7 Explain why the psychologists did not think that
they had made a Type 1 error in relation to the
difference in reaction times. (2 marks)
2 8 Replication is one feature of the scientific
method. The psychologists decided to replicate this
experiment using a larger sample of 250
inexperienced drivers.
Explain why replication of this study would be useful.
(3 marks)
Some became confused between
type 1 and type 2 errors and
others referred to the number of
hazards detected rather than
reaction times.
This question was answered
reasonably well, with many
students referring to the greater
potential for generalisation in a
larger sample of inexperienced
drivers. Some also referred to the
general importance of replication
to check findings in the context of
the experiment, which was

A2 Research methods (2010-2013)