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Study notes

Pilot Studies

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Pilot studies are small, trial versions of proposed studies to test their effectiveness and make improvements. They are helpful in identifying potential issues early, which can then be rectified before committing to the length and expense of a full investigation.

Any part of the study could be tested, for instance the validity of measure (e.g. does the questionnaire measure what it is supposed to?) or whether a procedure is effective (e.g. does it take too long, are the instructions too complicated for participants to understand, or have any vital steps been left out).

The pilot study is an important part of the experimental process and is good practice which is widely used.

Exam tip on pilot studies:

When writing about pilot studies in the exam, make sure that your answers are specific to the context or study presented.  

For example, if the question referred to an experiment investigating the effects of a strategy to improve memory, you could refer to the need to check the stimuli being used in the memory test and how long participants should be given to learn them.

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