How to Improve Your SAQ Writing


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This is an overview about how to improve Short Answer Question (SAQ) exam responses in International Baccalaureate (IB) Psychology.

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  • The first thing to assist you in answering an SAQ is to understand where the questions come from. They come from the Psychology guide. This is the most important document that you need to be familiar with to answer and address the questions you will see in your examination.
  • The command term is the verb – it is the doing word of the question. You must know what the command term is asking you to do. For example if you are asked to ‘explain’ something and you simply ‘identify’ your will score poorly. Page 51 Introduce the level based system of the command terms – not all of the command terms are relevant. Specifically, you can only be asked a level 1 or 2 command band in an SAQ. Which means you will only see ‘define’ ‘describe’ ‘outline’ ‘state’ ‘analyse’ ‘apply’ ‘distinguish’ and ‘explain’.
  • p. 35The markbands correspond to these numbers Low = 1-3, Mid = 4-6, Top = 7-8
  • The feedback from the May 2013 exams is that students should NOT evaluate the studies in the SAQs
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  • How to Improve Your SAQ Writing

    1. 1. How to improve your SAQ writing Image by jjpacres on Flickr
    2. 2. Where do the questions come from?
    3. 3. Where do the questions come from?
    4. 4. What do you have to do?
    5. 5. How do I earn marks?
    6. 6. Focused & effective Do’s  The question is answered in a focused and effective manner and meets the demands of the command term. ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ Do plan your response Do provide a clear opening statement Do use clear topic sentences Do use clear paragraphs Do include the terms from the question in your response
    7. 7. Focused & Effective Don’ts ◦Don’t waste time telling stories!! ◦Don’t manipulate the question to fit your knowledge ◦Don’t waffle – try and get straight to the point
    8. 8. Knowledge of the Research You must refer to specific research.  You must specifically address SAMRC S = study (researcher) name A = Aim M = Method R = Results C = Conclusion  Finally, you must make the research relevant to the question 
    9. 9. An Organizational Technique PEE on your IB Exam!
    10. 10. An Organizational Technique PEE = Point Evidence Explanation
    11. 11. An Organizational Technique Point = Establishes the main idea you will explain in your paragraph- rephrase the question/prompt. Evidence = A detail or specific example to support your point- RESEARCH STUDY (SAMRC) Explanation = Connecting the relevance of the evidence to your point- so what? What does it tell us about behavior in context of the prompt?
    12. 12. Using one psychological study, explain how physiology and cognition interact. P = Physiology affects many cognitive processes. One example is how the hormone cortisol influences memory. E = In a laboratory experiment, a 1999 study by Newcomer et al. investigated how cortisol influences memory functioning. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it is believed that prolonged secretion of cortisol is the the cause of the memory impairment, which is one of the symptoms of chronic stress. The research used three experimental groups. Group one was given 40mg of cortisol in a tablet per day; group two was given 160mg of cortisol, and group three was given a placebo tablet. After four days, the participants were asked to listen to and recall a prose paragraph that tested their verbal declarative memory. The results indicated that the participants who were given the high level of cortisol showed a significant impairment of memory. E = This study supports the claim that there is a link between physiology and cognition. It is known from scanner studies that chronic stress can result in shrinking of the hippocampus, a brain structure associated with memory. Newcomer’s study showed that even short-term increases in cortisol can have a damaging effect on memory; thus, it is causing the shrinkage of the hippocampus. It can be concluded that there is a cause and effect relationship between levels of cortisol and memory processes.
    13. 13. An Organizational Technique • Be sure to PEE in a coherent, single paragraph. • If the prompt asks for TWO things, you should PEE twice. • When you do Essay Response Questions (ERQs) in the future, you will PEE in body paragraphs • Review pages 381-384 in the Course Companion for more about SAQs.