AQA questions and answers

I recently received a list of questions from a  lovely young man, George Bannister, about to start his first year teaching. I thought some of the answers might be of interest to other teachers. Do send your own questions in – and post them on the new blog.

Q: If a question is split into an 8 mark ao1 part a and a 16 mark ao2, Should the ao1 part of the question contain any research? Would a good piece of advice be that there is NO research in a DESCRIBE/OUTLINE part a question and to focus on how the theory explains behaviour? A: There is no simple rule about this because sometimes a study can be used as part of an explanation. But generally it is good to avoid studies in the AO1 part. Students find it hard to focus on describing an explanation and default to describing studies, which doesn’t gain that much credit.

Q: When looking at the topic of sexual selection, if it was an AO1/AO2 split, should research by Buss be saved for AO2 as support for the theory, and then AO3 comes after the AO2?! A: There is no separate AO3 – look at the mark schemes. There is no criteria that says ‘how science works is effective’. If students give useful methodological criticisms AND relate this to the explanation (not the research study) ie they say ‘this means the study may not offer support’ then it will get credit but there is NO requirement to do this.

Q: It seems research that is in the textbooks is used very much as support or contradiction of a theory and therefore am I right in saying would act as AO2? A: Research is only AO2 if it is used in that way – the key here is to use ‘lead in’ phrases such as ‘there is research support’. Descriptions of procedures is marginally relevant, the key focus is on findings/conclusions and, even more importantly, what these tell us about the explanation you are evaluating.

Q: In the textbook I am using there is a lot of ‘key studies’. How necessary is it to discuss the study in detail in terms of methods, findings, conclusions?  A: Procedures are unlikely to gain credit at A2 but may be useful for making criticisms. 

Q: How many pieces of research would they be expected to use in each question? I’m guessing that may be a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question! A: For AO2 I think 5 pieces of evaluation is plenty for a Grade A, as long as they are each well elaborated.