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 – they formulate theories, test hypotheses 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. You will need a good understanding of biology, research methods and maths.  At least 25% of the content is maths, statistics and research methods. 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. 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).

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. There are three 2-hour exam papers.

Entry requirements: 

Grade 6 in GCSE science and English. Ideally you will have a grade 6 in maths; grade 5 will be considered on an individual basis if all other entry requirements are met.

Progression Routes And Careers:

Psychology leads to 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.