Psychology

Exam Board

  • AQA Specification A

Psychology is the scientific study of mind, brain and behaviour. The brain is the most complicated structure in the known universe and the source of all our thoughts and actions. It is fascinating to study but also tricky – even if we split open the skull of a willing volunteer and have a look inside, we only see 3lbs of gloopy grey matter. We cannot see someone thinking nor can we observe their emotions, perceptions and memories. This means that psychologists have to adopt the best investigative approach available – the scientific method.  In every area of research psychologists formulate theories, test hypotheses through observation and experiment, and analyse findings with statistics to arrive at an understanding of human and animal behaviour.

Psychology is extremely varied and the A Level course gives you a chance to study a wide range of topics that reflect the breadth of the subject. At the same time it requires you to have a good understanding of biology, research methods and maths.  At least 25% of the content is maths, statistics and research methods.

Psychology is constantly evolving – in the last few years psychologists have been engaged in whole new areas of research including behavioural economics (the decision-making behind financial choices), genetics & behaviour, nudge (how to use subtle techniques to get people to behave the way you want them to), and the amazingly interesting psychology of self-driving cars.

Students who take this course will be encouraged to discuss psychological research and take a critical view of the subject. Students need to be organised, motivated and should have a genuine interest in the topics under consideration. Competence in biology is essential as there are significant amounts of biology in the course.  Above all, you should be willing to participate actively in lessons and be enthusiastic about learning.

Course Content

Paper 1:    Social influence, memory, attachment, psychopathology.

Paper 2:    Approaches in psychology, biopsychology, research methods and statistics.

Paper 3:    Issues and debates in psychology (compulsory) plus 3 options: relationships, aggression and schizophrenia.

Assessment:

You will be assessed via external examinations. Questions are of three types: short answer questions, methods & statistics and essays. There are three 2-hour exam papers.

Entry Requirements

You should have grade 6 in GCSE science and English Language. Ideally grade 6 in maths, grade 5 will be considered if other entry criteria are met, in which case additional maths lessons will be given to support.

Progressions Routes and Careers

Students who go on to specialise in psychology at degree level may pursue careers in clinical psychology, counselling psychology, educational psychology, criminal psychology, prison psychology and occupational psychology. Other possibilities include mental health nursing, academic research, social work and teaching.