Issues related to classification and diagnosis

In answer to a student query I received, here on some thoughts on this topic in the psychopathology section of the AQA A A2 exam. Students often do very poorly on such questions so it is important to be prepared.

The questions appear in two forms:

  • Assess issues related to classification and diagnosis of [named disorder]. (16 marks)
  • Discuss issues related to classification and diagnosis of [named disorder]. (8 marks + 16 marks)

It is easier to write the first essay which is all AO2 because you don’t have to spend time describing each issue (for the AO1). The challenge with describing the issues is making sure what you write is related to your specified disorder. Look at this paragraph from a student essay:

There are two types of classification system. The first is the DSM, Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of mental disorders. The DSM was published in America so is only available in English. This therefore means that the rest of the world are unable to use this classification system. The DSM is used now as the 4th edition as the first editions were simplistic and vague. The DSM consists of 8 categories which 42 mental disorders fit into.

What issue is being discussed? Is there any mention of a specified disorder? The paragraph would get almost no credit because no issue is identified clearly and described, and the same paragraph could be used for schizophrenia, depression, phobia or OCD.


What about the AO2? How do you evaluate the issues? The examiner’s report for January 2012 states ‘Stronger students approached [such a] question by identifying an issue (such as the lack of reliability between ICD and DSM IV) then considering possible consequences of this and/or research evidence regarding reliability of diagnosis using the respective systems’.

So AO2 is best done by considering consequences of issues raised and providing the conclusions from research evidence. (For AO2 you don’t describe a research study beyond a very brief mention – the focus is on what the research study showed).

Three or four issues is more than enough, each with two AO2 points.



No comments yet.

Leave a Reply