Psychology01Why choose Psychology?

A fascinating subject with a rigorous and scientific approach.

Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and experience. This stimulating subject combines fascinating content with a rigorous and scientific approach to investigation. It has recently undergone a huge growth in popularity, both as a choice for A level and undergraduate students. The course aims to develop both an academic understanding of the subject and an appreciation of its impact on people’s daily lives.

Psychology A level develops your ability to formulate an argument by presenting and critically evaluating research evidence. Accurate and concise writing is important in answering short structured questions and longer essay style questions. There is no coursework, but an important element of the course is practical: designing and carrying out research, reporting findings and analysing data. This provides good opportunities to develop IT and number skills. Lunchtime workshops and a peer mentoring scheme provide further opportunities to further your understanding. There is a student-run Psychology Society which organises lunchtime talks by visiting speakers and shows videos of programmes of psychological interest. You will have the opportunity to take part in university research and to attend conferences consisting of lectures by academic and practising psychologists.


“I really enjoy the topics that we study as they vary from each other, and are all extremely interesting and exciting to learn about. The teachers are really supportive and great at explaining things.”
Francesca Anker

A level Psychology is a very useful (although not essential) basis for degree level study in the subject. Many of our students go on to study psychology at university. Psychology is a well-respected degree for a range of occupations which require graduate status, and also opens up opportunities to train as a chartered psychologist, for example as a clinical, criminological or counselling psychologist. For a psychology degree some universities, especially the more competitive ones, prefer students who have studied two ‘science’ subjects, in this case meaning psychology, mathematics, biology, physics or chemistry. However, many universities do not operate this policy, and for these institutions a broader spectrum of subjects is acceptable.

All units are assessed by examinations consisting of structured and/or essay questions.

“I enjoy Psychology because I am fascinated by it and would like to study it at higher education. I enjoy the lessons because of the amount of detail taught and explained and the frequency of class discussions.”
Megan McGowan

How can I find out more?

  • If you want to read more about the subject before applying, look at the text-book you will use in Year 12: ‘AQA Psychology for A Level Year 1 & AS’ by Flanagan et al. (ISBN 9781908682406).
  • There is also lots of information on the Internet: a good starting point is the BBC’s site (search for ‘BBC psychology’).
  • Keep an eye out too for TV programmes about Psychology - there are often programmes on topics such as sleep, mental disorder and child development.

Entry Requirements

GCSE grade B in Maths or Biology or Chemistry or Physics or in both Science and Additional Science, and GCSE grade B in English Language or Literature.

Awarding Body

AQA (Specification A)

Units of Study

Year 12

Psychology Year 12

You will study:
Social Influence

Social influences on behaviour such as conforming to the majority; Obeying evil authority figures; Resisting pressures to conform and obey; Explanations of change in society.



Models of memory; Explanations of forgetting; Eye witness testimony and police interviews.



Attachment between babies and their caregivers; Problems caused when attachment goes wrong; The effect of early attachment on adult relationships.



Origins of psychology; Learning approaches including classical and operant conditioning;Cognitive approach: computer models to understand mental processes; Biological approach: genes, brain chemicals and evolution.



Definition of ‘abnormality’; Biological, behavioural and cognitive explanations and treatments; Phobias, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.


Research Methods

Different methods used in research such as experiments and observations; Designing investigations, including sampling, ethical issues, control of variables; Presenting, analysing and interpreting data.


There is no coursework but you will carry out practical research activities as part of your learning in both years of the course.

Year 13

Psychology Year 13

You will study:

Further approaches

Psychodynamic: Freud and the unconscious; Humanistic: Maslow, the self and counselling; Comparing approaches.


Function of different brain regions; Split brain research and recovery after trauma; Brain scans and post mortem examination; Bodily rhythms and the sleep/wake cycle.


Research methods

Case studies and content analysis; Features of science: reporting and peer review; Data handling and analysis; Probability, significance and statistical tests.


Issues and debates

Gender and culture bias; Debates: Free will and nature/nurture; Explanations: parts or wholes, behavioural laws or individual characteristics?; Ethical implications and social sensitivity.



Evolved partner preferences; Factors affecting romantic attraction; Why relationships last and what happens when they don’t; Virtual relationships and ‘relationships’ with media personalities.



Symptoms of schizophrenia and problems in diagnosing it; Genes and brain chemistry; Faulty thinking and dysfunctional families; Therapies: drugs, family therapy and CBT.


Forensic psychology

Measuring crime: statistics and survey; Offender profiling – US and UK approaches Biological and psychological explanations Prison’s effects, behaviour modification and anger management.

There are three written exams, consisting of structured and essay style questions. Each lasts 2 hours.