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

PLUESS Michael (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: 86

Lecture Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 7

Guided Learning: 11

Captured Content: 24

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, cultural issues 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 (2,000 WORDS) 50
Examination Online ONLINE EXAM (1HR WITHIN 4HR WINDOW, 1,500 WORDS) 50

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate each of the learning outcomes.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:


You will be asked to write an independent essay critically evaluating the usefulness of personality trait models in understanding a real world problem (chosen from a list provided). Support and formative feedback will be provided in class, tutorial, via SurreyLearn, and in student drop-in hours. Deadline will be approximately midway through the semester.


You will be asked to answer 1 essay question from a choice of options, which will draw on synthesising knowledge from more than one topic. Support will be provided in a revision lecture and tutorial.

Justification for Assessment Methods

The coursework essay assesses the extent to which you have met Module Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3 and 4. It will also help you to develop resourcefulness, resilience (e.g., in time management) and understanding of a chosen global and cultural issue. The skills are also required in many graduate jobs or advanced postgraduate training in psychology.

Examinations will assess Learning Outcomes 1, 2, 3  and 5.


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, ideas and coursework plans (e.g., draft thesis statement).

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. Preparation for the coursework assessment aims to further develop students¿ critical thinking, literature searching strategies using research databases, ability to synthesise evidence, and skills in developing and presenting a written argument. . All of these skills are important in further psychology training and employment.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Systematically explain key theoretical accounts of individual differences in personality, intelligence, and selected types of psychopathology K
002 Critically evaluate these theoretical perspectives and the empirical evidence that tests them C
003 Discuss the implications of issues in personality, intelligence and psychopathology for everyday life and practical settings CPT
004 Construct and present a clear, reasoned and rigorous argument based on current theory and evidence CP
005 Synthesise and link 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:


  • Weekly lectures (together with the BSc students), including interactive discussions. These will develop students’ understanding in order to be able to explain and critically evaluate theories and evidence (LO 1-2) and some weeks have a focus on practical application (LO3). As the weeks progress the lectures will model synthesis across topics (LO 5). Students are expected to attend and engage with lectures to ensure they have the opportunity to develop these skills.


  • 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);


    1. provide support and formative feedback on the coursework essay – these will also help students to develop skills in critically evaluating and synthesising research findings and developing an argument (learning outcomes 2, 4)


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


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

  • Independent study. Students are expected to read at least one textbook chapter or article each week, consolidate notes after lectures, and undertake assessment preparation in independent study time.

  • SurreyLearn will be a key resource for supplementary materials, links and a dedicated Discussion board. 

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

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:


Resourcefulness and resilience:

Students will be encouraged to engage actively in small group activities in tutorials and discussions in lectures, further developing their confidence in talking about academic work in Psychology. The coursework deadline in the middle of the semester encourages students to develop time management skills and resilience.


Global and cultural capabilities:

The module will include discussion of theory and research concerning cultural influences on key topics. The coursework will enhance students’ understanding about a chosen ‘real world problem,’ which include key challenges facing global society to varying extents (e.g., environmental behaviour, loneliness, obesity).



Through the coursework assignment, students will further develop their skills in searching the literature, reading and thinking critically about research, synthesising evidence, forming an argument, and written communication. All of these are key skills required in many graduate jobs or further postgraduate study/training.


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 2025/6 academic year.