Making sense of IDA, synopticity and AO3

I have received a few questions recently about the synoptic aspect of the A2 papers and thought I would pass on my views!


The synoptic criteria has been dropped from the mark scheme. It is essentially equivalent to IDA.


  • The AO2 mark scheme includes a criterion regarding IDA.
  • IDA is not credited in Psychopathology, nor in AO1 (if a question is parted and a student puts IDA in the AO1 part there is no credit).
  • The mark scheme indicates that a student who only presents superficial IDA should gain a maximum of 8 out of 16 marks … however
    • In January on Unit 3 the Grade A boundary was 43 out of 75 marks which means 14.3 was a Grade A, which further means that students were probably getting Grade As with only superficial IDA. This boundary may of course rise.
    • I gather from people marking this summer that they were instructed to give a maximum of 12 AO2 marks for essays lacking IDA, and that in essays with poor IDA they should move the mark to the bottom of the band otherwise appropriate.
    • I think what this means is that Grade C candidates should forget about it!
  • In the report on January’s exam it pointed out that IDA must be elaborated and relevant, sustained and effective to gain any credit. Candidates should focus on answering the question set. Just identifying a debate or issue gained no extra marks.
  • I think that 1 good issue or debate or approach paragraph per essay will be plenty. Often approaches offer the best kind of commentary e.g. contrasting a theory with an alternative approach. In some areas e.g. relationships, cultural bias would make an excellent point – but look for the obvious IDA points.


  • There are no special AO3 marks for the essays. AO3 is incorporated in AO2 and now called AO2/AO3.
  • If a student presents evaluation in terms of methodology, that will gain AO2/AO3 points (as it always has done).
  • If a student provides no evaluation in terms of methodology, they will not lose marks. There is no mention of HSW in the mark schemes. It is good AO2 but not required.
  • If methodological comments are included they must be sustained and relevant and effective in order to gain credit. Just saying ‘This study had a poor sample’ would attract little or no credit.

Any comments or further queries are welcome!

14 thoughts on “Making sense of IDA, synopticity and AO3

  1. Jessica Bullock says:

    Does methodological issues count as IDA?

    • No they don’t count – except ethical issues. There is no requirement to include any reference to methodology in your answer. You can achieve full marks without it. Often comments about methodology fail to score marks because there is no link to the theory being criticised.

      Hope that helps, Cara

  2. S Akhtar says:

    Hi Cara

    I’m a little confused as to what constitutes an IDA. Is it purely application and the approaches, or do methodological points like stating a study is only correlational, thus lacks a cause and effect link, count as an IDA.

    Also, how many IDA points per essay are needed in order to reach the top band?

    One other thing, when you say that marks can only be earned if they are relevant and have been sufficiently elaborated, how much elaboration is needed? For instance, if I say the social learning theory for aggression is reductionistic because they do not account for possible biological explanations such as inherited genes from parents, is that enough elaboration and how many marks would that gain?

    I’m also struggling to write essays under timed conditions that have enough content to achieve the higher bands. I can’t seem to grasp how much detail is needed in order to achieve the marks. For example, if I include a study supporting a point I made earlier, how much would that gain? Is it one mark per study or does the breadth element allow for 3 or 4 marks depending on the detail?
    How would you advise I structure an essay and with how much depth?

    By the way, I’ve asked my psychology teacher all this and he never seems to be able to give me a straight answer. He admits he doesn’t really know. Please reply as soon as possible because my exam is in a week or so.

    Many thanks!

  3. Nass37 says:

    Hello Cara,
    sorry to disturb you, I just had a question to ask. Basically I am studying A2 at the moment, and sitting PSYA4 next week. I was just wondering for ‘synopticity’ in the mark scheme, how important is it? And what does it consist of.
    For example for my essays, I have included reductionism, weakness with research method used, environmental factors. Would that be fine? Would one synoptic paragraph be enough? I am aiming for 24/24.

    I am really sorry if you have answered this before somewhere, but I’m really worried about it.
    Also I was wondering whether psychosocial factors (family relationships/ socio-economic status) would be a creditworthy psychological explanation of schizophrenia?

    Many thanks.

    • Hello

      ‘Synopticity’ is not a term used in the mark schemes. What you are referring to is IDA (issues, debates and approaches). There are a few queries in the forum which explain IDA and what to do. Reductionism would count as IDA, issues related to research methods would not (except ethical issues). Environmental factors would not be IDA unless you are relating this to the nature-nrture debate. The key factors are (1) IDA must be contextualised and (2) it should not be tacked on to the end of the essay. One or two IDA points is plenty (i.e. one or two short paragraphs).

      HOWEVER there is no need to do any IDA in PSYA4 – it is not included in the mark schemes and is only required for PSYA3. You will probably benefit more from focusing on directly relevant evaluation points rather than trying to work out IDA points.

      Psychosocial factors are creditworthy as psychological explanations of schizophrenia.


  4. Nass37 says:

    Thank you!

    I am just confused on one thing. This might sound like a really silly question. There has been uncertainty on the structure of section A. For schizophrenia when writing the essay, do you need to leave spaces between the A01 A02, or let it be continuous? At the moment I am just writing one paragraph for A01, then leave some space, write a paragraph for A02 etc…

    Sorry for the silly question…

  5. Nass37 says:

    Thanks a lot.
    I am really sorry about this, I was also wondering if I could ask you a few more questions. By the way ‘The Complete Companion Student Book’ is great.

    1) Can cognitive priming be used as an explanation of media influences on pro-social behaviour? It is used to explain media influences on antisocial behaviour, but can it be used for pro-social behaviour too?

    2) For the cognitive model of schizophrenia. Would it be okay if I said stress lead to a diminution of cognitive resources leading irrational beliefs? I am aware that the model focuses on cognition, but a small reference to stress in the A01, allows me to evaluate it in the A02.

    3) Can the cognitive model of schizophrenia be said to be holistic? Especially since the introduction of neurophysiological explanations as a new branch of the model? Or should I just say it is reductionist when compared to the diathesis-stress model.

    4) Can correlational research be laboratory experiments?

    Thanks a lot!

  6. cana12 says:


    In my essays I don’t do AO1 points and A02/A03 points separately- they are often blended in paragraphs. My IDA points are also blended in my essay and I don’t do them all together as one separate paragraph. Do you think this would lead to examiners discrediting me for lack of clarity and structure?

  7. I have moved your query to the forum and answered it there.

  8. maria says:

    what is effective a02 when describing how animal studies can’t be generalised to humans, I struggle to elaborate on this

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