Module code: PSYM098

Module Overview

This module covers the core BPS theme of individual differences: the many and varied psychological ways in which humans differ from one another. Specifically, we will discuss and critically evaluate key issues of contemporary significance in the areas of personality, intelligence and psychopathology, synthesising them all together to form a broader understanding of the concept of individual differences as understood by contemporary psychologists. We will also use these principles to better understand the individual differences present in students’ own lives. Students will write an essay that allows them to apply some of the key individual differences to a real world problem of their choice, and critically evaluate their usefulness in explaining real world issues. This will develop and assess students’ independence, literature searching and critical thinking skills.



Module provider


Module Leader

HEPPER Erica (Psychology)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 121

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 7

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

First, we will discuss classic and more advanced issues in personality (e.g., trait models, evolutionary theories, interpersonal relationships, the Dark Triad).

We will then discuss theoretical issues, practical applications, and controversies about intelligence (including theories, measurement, and emotional intelligence).

Third, we will address the disordered end of these individual differences by discussing classification, theoretical accounts, and clinical treatment of key issues in psychopathology (e.g., personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and psychosis).

Finally, we will synthesise each of these themes together to give a wider perspective on individual differences and how they relate to each other.  

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY (2000 WORDS) 50
Examination WRITTEN EXAM (90 MINUTES) 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate each of the learning outcomes. Learning outcomes 1, 2 and 3 are each assessed in both summative assessments. Learning outcome 3 is assessed in the essay. Learning outcomes 4 and 5 are assessed in the examination.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

1. Coursework essay

Students are asked to write a 2,000 word individual essay addressing the following question: “To what extent can personality trait models inform our understanding of real world problems?” Specifically, students are asked to discuss research that has used trait models of personality to explain one selected real world problem, critically evaluate the extent to which traits are a useful way of understanding the problem, and apply their conclusions to practical settings (e.g., interventions).

Deadline: approx. halfway through semester 2.

This assessment allows students to demonstrate learning outcomes 1, 2, 3, and 4, and will be assessed on the basis of these outcomes.

2. 90-minute examination

Students will be given 90 minutes to answer 1 essay-based question from a choice of 4 options, and 20 MCQs. The ecam will draw on synthesising knowledge from more than one topic (learning outcome 5). Answers will require students to describe and critically evaluate theories and/or research, assessing learning outcomes 1-2.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will participate in regular interactive discussions within lecture sessions that involve group-level or individual formative feedback (e.g., on their understanding of a topic or their ability to critically evaluate a theory).

Tutorials will be conducted in small groups, allowing students to receive more personalised feedback on their understanding and ideas.

Students will have the opportunity to discuss the draft thesis statement for their essay with the lecturer and receive individual feedback before submitting their essay.

Module aims

  • This module aims to consider in depth individual differences between people, in several aspects of intrapersonal and interpersonal functioning: classic and advanced issues in personality, contemporary issues in intelligence, and theoretical accounts and clinical treatment of key issues in psychopathology. Overall, this module aims to extend your understanding of the whole spectrum of individual differences and integrate areas of psychology together that are often studied separately. Throughout, you are encouraged to participate actively in classes and think critically about the theories and evidence that we will discuss. In each aspect of individual differences we will discuss multiple perspectives critically and aim to synthesise them together to achieve a holistic understanding that appreciates the complexities of differences between people.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Systematically explain key theoretical accounts of individual differences in personality, intelligence, and selected types of psychopathology K
2 Critically evaluate these theoretical perspectives and the empirical evidence that tests them C
3 Discuss the implications of issues in personality, intelligence and psychopathology for everyday life and practical settings CPT
4 Construct and present a clear, reasoned and rigorous argument based on current theory and evidence CP
5 Synthesise different perspectives to provide a broader view on understanding the nature of individual differences T

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Provide students with core information about theories, concepts and research evidence fulfilling the BPS subject areas in a supportive and linked-up manner.

  • Provide students with the opportunity to develop their own skills of applying theory to practice (LO3), critically evaluating theories and evidence (LO2) and synthesising concepts (LO5) by enacting them themselves and gaining feedback in a supportive, interactive environment.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • 11 x weekly 2-hour lectures (together with the BSc students), including interactive discussions enabling students to develop and demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

  • 4 x interactive tutorials (only MSc students), designed to:

    1. provide an initial grounding in the classic theories of personality that precede the contemporary theories discussed in lectures (learning outcomes 1-2, 2hrs);

    2. provide support and formative feedback on the coursework essay (learning outcome 4, 2hrs)

    3. Apply theoretical knowledge of individual differences and psychopathology to clinical case formulation (learning outcome 3, 2hrs);

    4.  help students to synthesise the different perspectives and concepts covered in lectures (learning outcome 5, 1hr).

  • Dedicated discussion board on SurreyLearn virtual learning environment for MSc conversion course, on which students can post queries (e.g., about assessments) and discussion points/ideas (e.g., about readings) and the lecturer will respond and interact. Students will be encouraged to engage with these discussion board on a weekly basis, and will be provided with suggested discussion questions each week to kick-start their engagement. All course materials, links to key articles, and links to relevant interesting websites will also be posted on SurreyLearn.

  • Independent study: reading key readings each week, researching and writing independent essay.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: PSYM098

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Psychology (Conversion) MSc(CORE) 2 Core Each unit of assessment must be passed at 50% to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.