Question practice: application questions - Revision and exam skills

AQA A-level Psychology: Revision Made Easy - Jean-Marc Lawton 2017

Question practice: application questions
Revision and exam skills

With this type of question answers require relevant psychological knowledge to be combined with information drawn from a given scenario. The key is to provide the necessary psychological knowledge (e.g. explaining what unanimity is and its effect on conformity), while simultaneously using information drawn from the scenario as evidence to support the explanation. Generally speaking, if only psychological knowledge is provided (however good the description is) and there is no application to the scenario, then only half marks can be awarded.


1 When a group of Trevor’s friends said they all thought that the tea in the college cafeteria tasted like coffee, Trevor found himself publicly agreeing with them, even though privately he thought it did taste like tea. However, a few days later when his friends agreed again that the tea tasted like coffee but one friend stated that she thought it tasted like drinking chocolate, Trevor felt able to truthfully state that it tasted like tea.

Refer to the scenario above to explain how unanimity affects conformity rates.

[4 marks]

2 Betty has been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. She began hearing voices that criticised her behaviour and became convinced that she had been chosen by God to save the human race. Her family found it increasingly hard to understand her speech and she would only answer questions with very brief answers. It was also noticeable how Betty, who usually dressed very smartly, had become scruffy in her appearance and unenthusiastic about life in general, though she would spend hours walking backwards and forwards in her room.

Refer to the scenario above to identify negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

[4 marks]

Strategies for improvement

Image Use the marks in brackets at the end of the question as an indication of how much to write.

Image Use the PEA rule: (P) make a critical point, (E) explain it, (A) apply it.

Image Use two highlighter pens, one colour to highlight psychological knowledge and another colour to highlight the application in your answer. That way you can easily see whether you are getting the ’balance’ right between the amount of psychological knowledge and application to the scenario.

Image Practise answers in pairs — one of you does the theory part, the other one does the application part.

Image Regularly practise strategies that get you to apply your psychological knowledge to a specific scenario until it becomes an automatic process to do so.

Image Make sure you have attempted application type questions for all topic areas.

Common pitfalls

Image Giving the correct psychological knowledge but not linking it to the scenario

Image Commenting about the scenario without linking it to relevant knowledge

Image Not writing sufficient information to gain access to all the marks available

Answer 1

Unanimity concerns how much agreement there is within a majority group. The greater the level of agreement, the more likely it is that an individual would conform. In a variation of Asch’s experiment, one dissenter gave the correct answer when the rest of the confederates all gave the same wrong answer and conformity fell from the 32 per cent that occurred when all confederates gave the wrong answer to just 5.5 per cent. Indeed, when a dissenter gave a different wrong answer, conformity still fell sharply to 9 per cent. This shows that dissenters model that disagreement with a majority is possible.


2/4 marks. A really good, informative and coherent explanation of what unanimity is and how a lack of it reduces conformity. Well backed up with relevant research evidence too. Unfortunately, as too many students do with this type of question, there is no engagement with the scenario. The candidate here could easily have talked about how Trevor felt pressured to conform when all his friends said the tea tasted like coffee, but less pressured when a dissenter gave a different answer to the majority, even though their opinion was different again to Trevor’s.

Exam tip

However good the quality of the psychological knowledge concerning how unanimity affects conformity rates, no more than 2 marks would be earned unless there was sufficient reference to the scenario to back up the points made.

Answer 2

Betty is experiencing delusions and hallucinations which suggest a lack of reality. For example, she is hearing critical voices and she is convinced that she has been chosen by God to save the human race. Such behaviours are known as positive symptoms.

Negative symptoms interfere with normal functioning and in the case of Betty these include her answering questions with only brief answers and being unenthusiastic about life and becoming scruffy in her appearance.


4/4 marks. Both negative and positive symptoms are identified within the scenario and are clearly explained in a way that suggests understanding of the terms. The answer is applied to the information given within the scenario to such an extent that full marks can be awarded.

Exam tip

However good the quality of the psychological knowledge concerning positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, no more than 2 marks would be earned unless there was sufficient reference to the scenario to back up the points made.