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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)
Varun Srinivasan
4 IB Guides

Ultimate Guide to the IB Psychology HL Exam

What’s Covered:


When it comes to secondary school curricula, nothing is quite as demanding and intellectually intense as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, or IBDP. Although IB is viewed as being on par with APs in the United States, there is a case to be made that it is a preferable option abroad because of its focus on global inclusion.


Six topics must be taken by each student during the two-year program. Psychology is one of the IB courses that students most frequently take. IB Psychology is known for a challenging series of tests; therefore, this guide can simplify the exam structure and make it easier to study for.


Overview of the IB Psychology HL Exam


IB Psychology belongs to category 3, which is about people and society. Since this is a particularly research-intensive course, your internal evaluations will need considerably more fieldwork and data analysis than the standard lab hours you may spend for IB science courses.


Internal assessments fundamentally refer to the percentage of the class grade that is determined by in-house/school work rather than tests. This may include tasks like assigned homework or tests like midterms.


IB HL vs SL: What’s the Difference


We must comprehend the distinction between higher level courses (HL) and standard level classes (SL)  in order to understand how papers function. As a result of the increased amount of homework that must be completed, HL might be considered more demanding intellectually than SL. Since HL tests are expected to meet higher academic standards, they can be thought of as being graded much less leniently.


However, SL tests should only be regarded as simpler than HL exams. Psychology SL calls for a great deal of in-depth knowledge of the assigned readings, which may span many chapters. Additionally, students are expected to complete field studies that they are typically responsible for in addition to the required courses.


How Do HL Papers/Exams Work?


Psychology is one of the most filled IB subjects when it comes to loads of coursework. The exams aren’t different in styling and are structured as follows:


  • Paper 1: 2 hours / 49 Points (number of points are susceptible to change)

  • Paper 2: 2 hours / 22 Points (number of points are susceptible to change) 

  • Paper 3: 1 hour / 24 Points (number of points are susceptible to change) 


Paper 1


The first paper focuses on the biological, cognitive, and social axes of psychology. Three short-answer Questions and one essay response make up Paper 1. The essay response requires students to answer questions based on options of three prompts. This section is usually about content/coursework exclusive to HL such as cognitive psychology. 


Paper 2


The evaluation for Paper 2 consists of an essay response with three options/prompts. Students in HL respond to two prompts, making the paper last up to two hours. Each essay response is scored using the same criteria as Paper 1 and is worth 22 points. Upon completing this, SL students would be finished with the examination but HL students have one additional paper on top of this. 


Paper 3


Paper 3 is more lab and research focused than the other papers, focusing more on qualitative research methods and techniques. 


Paper 3 for HL focuses on methods used in psychological research. There are three questions on the page, and you must respond to each one, along with any subsections and tiny questions within each of them. You must respond to questions about procedures going about research methods and findings upon conducting any investigation for psychology. 


Past papers are often the finest method of exam preparation since they allow you to simulate exam conditions if necessary. Since these are only outdated IBO questions, they are also most likely the most accurate practice you can obtain. Each set of examinations also has a unique rubric and scoring system. This demonstrates not just the correct response but also how to get at it in a way that earns the most points.


How are the IB Psychology HL Papers/Exams Scored?


Rubrics are used to mark tests and papers, as was previously noted. The rubric simply evaluates an answer for keywords in disciplines like psychology where queries frequently need essay-like solutions. Students may be penalized if certain terms are not included. The examiner will read your entire response, of course.


There are up to 46 points available for paper 1 and 22 points available for paper 2. To determine your mark for the class, tally up all of your points and divide them by 88, plus an additional 20 for internal evaluations. Your teacher determines the internal assessment component. This method yields a fraction, and we can establish our grade in the class by looking at where its relative percentage falls on the “final” column. The final grade is assigned on a scale of 1 (worst) to 7 (best).



This method is repeated for each of the six IB topics to get your overall diploma mark. The maximum possible score is 42, with three points added for the extended essay and theory of knowledge. This totals 45, with a score of 24 constituting a pass for the diploma.


Final Tips


Because of the vast quantity of research necessary to prepare for IB Psychology tests, the amount of time required to study for them is a bit more demanding. There’s the coursework, and then there’s the expectation that you’ll study more than what’s offered.


There are steps we can take to make these tests easier on ourselves, beginning with some self-care.


Study Earlier


Getting little to no sleep before an exam is the worst thing you can do! Cramming the night before an exam seldom results in productive or valuable study sessions. Instead, begin studying early and ensure that you put your books away the night before and get enough sleep. This way, you won’t feel exhausted or that your performance is suffering during the exam.


Your IAs Matter Too


Internal assessments (IAs) account for around 20% of your final mark in psychology SL. Neglecting coursework or other kinds of IAs may result in you losing 20% of your grade. Concentrate on this 20% because it might mean the difference between passing or failing the class. A 4 out of 7 is a pass, so you want every point you can get.


How Does the IB Psychology HL Exam Affect My College Chances?


When it comes to college admissions, your exam results don’t actually matter much. College admissions departments are more interested in seeing kids participate in challenging and intellectually demanding programs like psychology, demonstrating levels of dedication and endurance.


When it comes to college admissions, however, there are various additional aspects to consider, such as GPA and extracurricular activities. Fortunately, CollegeVine’s admissions calculator takes these criteria into consideration and calculates your individual odds of admission to the college of your choice.

Short Bio
Varun is a recent graduate from Arizona State University, Tempe, with a degree in Computer Science. He aims to share his knowledge of computer science, the IB Diploma Program, and all things college-related with high school students. In his free time, he can be found performing DJ sets or cooking!