Overview

What is this subject about?

Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour. You will learn about the theories psychologists have developed in various areas of the discipline and the research studies they are based on.

What will I study in the first year?

You will study five key topics in Psychology:

  • Developmental Psychology - early infant development and attachment.
  • Cognitive Psychology - the nature of memory i.e. how information is processed and stored in the brain.
  • Abnormal Psychology - the nature of mental illness, including explanations and therapies.
  • Social Psychology - how people influence the behaviour of others: conformity and obedience.
  • Approaches in Psychology – including the learning, cognitive and biological approaches to behaviour.

You will also study Research Methods (including statistical techniques of analysis). This is integrated into each of the topics listed above, as we examine the methods used by various psychologists to investigate human behaviour.

What will I study in the second year?

You will explore a range of topics that aim to build on material taught in the first year. For example, you will look at other approaches in Psychology, such as the psychodynamic and humanistic approaches. You will also develop your understanding of biopsychology, studying localisation of function in the brain, methods of studying the brain (e.g. EEGs and ERPs) and biological rhythms.

You will also examine the various explanations put forward to explain gender development, as well as studying the topic of stress, where you will gain an understanding of the various sources of stress and the impact that it can have on the body over time.

Furthermore, you will research various issues and debates in Psychology, for example, discussing the extent to which Psychology can be considered a science, and the role of nature and nurture in influencing human behaviour. In addition, you will study research methods in greater depth and learn more complex statistical techniques of analysis.

How is the course assessed?

The course is assessed by three written examinations at the end of the two-year course. Questions vary in style from multiple-choice to short answer questions and those requiring extended writing in the form of full essay responses. Some questions require the application of knowledge to novel scenarios.

What skills will I need and develop on this course?

Psychology is not usually available at GCSE, but the GCSE subjects that are closest to the ways in which you will need to work are Combined Science or Biology (where there are technical terms and theories to learn) and History (where there is an emphasis on essay writing). You need to enjoy getting to grips with ideas and issues through reading and you need to be good at organising ideas on paper in extended writing. You also need to be comfortable with scientific and mathematical approaches. The course develops your skills in analysis, evaluation, research and the analysis of data.

Careers

What can the course lead to in terms of Higher Education and Careers?

To study Psychology at most universities, you would need to have a substantial scientific component within your A Level programme. This need not be A Level Psychology itself, though in many cases A Level Psychology would in fact provide enough science within your A Level programme to meet this criterion. It would also indicate a commitment to the subject, provide a sound foundation for university work and enable you to get to grips with what is involved in the scientific study of the subject. However the more science-orientated degrees in Psychology at some of the ‘top’ universities would require a more strongly science-orientated programme at A Level, including another science (for example Biology) and/or Mathematics.

Psychology can be studied as a single or joint honours degree. To work as a professional, accredited psychologist you will need a higher degree (MSc). Professional psychologists work in a range of fields, including forensic psychology, health psychology, counselling psychology and educational psychology. However A Level Psychology is not just for those thinking of taking a Psychology degree and going on to work as psychologists. Any career that involves dealing with people will be enhanced by studying Psychology at A Level. This includes teaching, the police, nursing, social work and work in human resources.

Entry Requirements

What are the formal entry requirements for this course?

In addition to the general entry criteria that the College requires, you will also need to ideally achieve a minimum of grade 5 in GCSE Combined Science or GCSE Biology, a minimum of grade 4 in GCSE Maths and a minimum of grade 4 in GCSE English.

Extra Support

What extra support/enrichment activities are on offer?

The department offers subject tutorials to support students. We offer a practical application of Psychology in our ‘16-19 Counselling Skills’ course. This is a nationally recognised qualification for young people wishing to improve their skills as peer supporters. In the College’s Wider Skills Week we offer a number of trips to museums and to the zoo, as well as a taster of the Counselling Skills course.

We also offer a course in Psychology (including looking at the presence of psychological ideas in film) as part of the College’s Complementary Studies programme.

Subject combination advice

Subject combination advice:

Psychology combines well with any other subject. Many students combine it with another science subject such as Biology or Mathematics. Others combine it with Social Sciences and Humanities subjects, such as Sociology, History or Economics. If you wish to study Psychology at university it is regarded as a science, and degree level Psychology has a heavy biological and statistical emphasis.

What is the difference between Psychology and Sociology?

Both subjects are interested in human behaviour, but ask different questions from a different perspective. For example in thinking about aggressive behaviour, Psychology might ask what makes individuals aggressive while Sociology might ask why violence has increased in society as a whole. Psychology is a science and you will study explanations of behaviour based in Biology. A Level Psychology also has a strong emphasis on scientific research methods and statistical analysis of data, whereas A Level Sociology is more descriptive.