What is this subject about?
Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and the mind, arguably the most
complex machine on earth. It seeks to explain what makes us who we are as individuals
in terms of how we think and feel, as well as understanding what influences our actions.
Psychologists apply scientific methodology. They formulate theories, test hypotheses through
observation and experiment, and analyse the findings using statistical techniques that enable
them to draw conclusions that can be used to provide insight into human behaviour. You will
acquire knowledge and understanding of psychological concepts, theories, research studies
and research methods in relation to various aspects of human behaviour.
What will I study over the two years?
In the first year you will study the following key topics:
• Approaches in Psychology - the learning, cognitive,
biological, psychodynamic and humanistic approaches
to explaining behaviour.
• Biopsychology - the nervous and endocrine systems,
localisation of brain function, functional recovery of the
brain after trauma, studying the brain (e.g. fMRI, EEGs)
and biological rhythms.
• Psychopathology - the nature of mental illness,
including explanations and treatments for depression,
OCD and phobias.
• Attachment - the formation of an emotional bond with
the primary caregiver and its influence on the
development of later relationships.
• Social Influence - examining how people influence the
behaviour of others: conformity, obedience and minority
• Research Methods (to investigate human behaviour)
- including experimental and non-experimental
methods, scientific processes (e.g. theory construction,
hypothesis testing), ethics, data handling and analysis,
inferential testing (e.g. the Sign test). Research Methods
is integrated throughout the course.
In the second year you will explore a range of topics that
aim to build on material taught in the first year of the
• Memory - the study of the nature of memory i.e. how
information is processed and stored, explanations for
forgetting and factors affecting the accuracy of
• Gender - biological and psychological explanations for
gender development and gender dysphoria.
• Stress - the role of stress in illness, sources of stress
(e.g. workplace stressors, life changes), and managing
• Addiction – risk factors, explanations and treatments for
nicotine and gambling addiction.
• Issues and Debates - gender/culture bias in psychology,
reductionism, nature vs. nurture, holism vs.
reductionism, idiographic vs. nomothetic approaches to
You will study Research Methods in greater depth and
learn more complex inferential statistical techniques of analysis.
How is the course assessed?
The course is assessed by three written exam papers 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 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.
What can the course lead to in terms of higher education and future 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 more competitive universities would require a
more strongly science-orientated programme at A
Level, including another science (for example Biology)
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.
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 achieve a minimum of a grade 4 in GCSE Maths and GCSE English Language, and ideally a grade 5 in GCSE Combined Science or GCSE Biology.