Subject Overview

Psychology is only an option for Sixth Formers as an A Level subject.

As a new subject, it can appear to be exciting as it is very different from the previous GCSE options. However, it demands the ability to learn a lot of specific factual information which provides the evidence for the theories; it also requires the higher intellectual ability of analysis and critical comment. The subject is taught using the AQA specification.

Psychology is part of the Science curriculum and students will spend much of their time dealing with new terminology and scientific concepts, including planning and producing their own psychological research. As part of the new A Level qualification, at least 10% of the marks in assessments for Psychology will require the use of mathematical skills. These skills will be applied in the context of topics in Psychology and will be at least the standard of higher tier GCSE Mathematics.

Teaching Aims and Objectives

The specification aims to give candidates a fundamental understanding of the theory, concepts and research practices of the subject and a critical appreciation of the scientific nature of Psychology. The course creates opportunities for critical thinking and encourages students to relate important psychological issues to contemporary events. Coursework is no longer an option, but investigations run throughout the two-year course and research methods are a compulsory section throughout.
Course Information

Students will complete all external examinations at the end of Year 13, consisting of 3 2-hour exam papers. Internal examinations and mocks will take place at regular intervals throughout the course, including January (internal assessment period) and June (mock exam). The course content is as follows:

  • Paper 1 – Students study Social Psychology which includes social influence i.e. conformity and obedience. These include famous studies which are the basis for the present-day thinking. Students also study memory which covers models of memory, theories of forgetting and eye-witness testimony. Students also study attachment, looking at how bonds are formed with primary care givers, types of attachment, deprivation and privation and how this leads to attachment in adulthood. Finally, students study psychopathology which requires students to gain an in-depth understanding of different mental disorders, including OCD, phobias and depression. They learn about how this is explained and treated.
  • Paper 2 – This aims to create an understanding of the foundations of Psychology. This is taught through learning about the different approaches to Psychology and their relative theories about the nature of our behaviour. These include the learning theories (Behaviourist and Social Learning Theory), the Cognitive approach, the Biological Approach, the Psychodynamic approach and the Humanistic approach. Research Methods is also studied in order to understand how the subject attempts to use evidence to support the different approaches. This is an essential and compulsory component and students can be asked questions on research methods in any of the topics studied. This section is double-weighted in Paper 2. Finally, students will study Biopsychology where students will gain an in-depth understanding of biological processes in the body and brain that influence behaviour, such as synaptic transmission, localisation of cortical functioning and our biological rhythms.
  • Paper 3 – This unit covers topics which include the Issues and Debates e.g. Free Will versus Determinism; Nature versus Nurture. Students will need to use the topics they have learnt over the two years to support their understanding of the issues and debates studied. The rest of this paper covers optional units. The area of applied options includes explanations and the treatment of schizophrenia. Students will also study Gender, focusing on androgyny, explanations of gender development, the influence of culture and media on gender and atypical gender development. The final topic is Forensic Psychology where students will cover concepts, such as offender profiling, explanations of criminal behaviour, the effectiveness of custodial punishments and the effectiveness of treatment programmes such as anger management.
A Level
Paper 1 – 33.3% of total A2 marks Written Paper 96 marks 2 hours
Paper 2 – 33.3% of total A2 marks Written Paper 96 marks 2 hours
Paper 3 – 33.3% of total A2 marks Written Paper 96 marks 2 hours

Department Resources

It is essential that each student should buy their own textbook for this course. This is supplemented by books which are kept in the Library or in the Psychology classroom. Extra reading is necessary for the development of critical thinking and for extension of knowledge and understanding. There are a variety of websites which aid learning (see the intranet for links). Students can also access lesson resources, such as worksheets and PowerPoints via the school intranet. The Department may also introduce extra reading booklets for a number of the topics covered. This will help to challenge students in their thinking of contemporary issues. Finally, students are recommended to subscribe to The Psychology Review for further exam-related tips and help.

Taking it further

Psychology can be studied as a single subject in higher education, or can be combined with a range of other subjects such as criminology. Ideal combinations therefore are Marketing, Criminology and Biology.

  • Subject Leader: Alannah Cullen
  • Teachers: Tamsin McKenzie