‘The science of mind and behaviour’

The subject matter of psychology relates to the sciences, humanities and mathematics, so combines successfully with many subjects and provides good preparation for many university courses. As psychology is a science, it has the same requirement as other sciences for examination papers to have 10% of questions testing relevant mathematical skills.

Aims of psychology:

  • To explore people’s thinking and behaviour.
  • To develop investigative skills and critical thinking in relation to theories and research.
  • To apply knowledge and understanding of psychology to the real world in areas such as eyewitness testimony in Year 12 and schizophrenia in Year 13.
  • To develop a thorough understanding of how psychologists conduct research, for example using experiments, of the skills needed to design and conduct effective investigations, and of ways to analyse results using a range of statistical techniques.

The psychology A-level is 100% examination across three two-hour papers and comprises:

Paper 1: Introductory topics in psychology (total 96 marks, 33.3%)
Cognitive Psychology explores human memory, focusing on models of memory, explanations of forgetting and eyewitness testimony.
Developmental Psychology looks at attachments in child development and considers the impact that our early attachments have on later childhood and adult relationships.
Social influence covers conformity, obedience to authority and minority influence, focusing on the darker side of human nature.
Psychopathology considers biological and psychological models of abnormality and the key ways in which mental abnormality is defined and treated.

Paper 2: Psychology in context (total 96 marks, 33.3%)
Approaches considers the origins of psychology including how it emerged as a scientific discipline. This topic covers the key approaches taken by psychologists in explaining human behaviour.
Biopsychology allows pupils to gain an understanding of brain structures and their function, biological rhythms and evolutionary behaviours such as the fight or flight response.
Research methods involve research design and implementation, hypothesis testing, the use of key research methods, ethical issues, sampling and the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. This component runs through all topics of the course and although examined as a topic on paper 2, runs across all examination papers.

Paper 3: Issues and options in psychology (total 90 marks, 33.3%)
Schizophrenia looks at how schizophrenia is diagnosed and the issues surrounding this, covering both explanations and treatments.
Gender considers why we feel masculine or feminine and looks at biological, psychological and environmental influences.
Aggression discusses biological and social factors that contribute to how aggressive an individual is. This topic also considers evolutionary theories of aggression and the applicability of animal studies.
Issues and debates looks at the wider ethical implications of psychological research as well as considering the range of issues and debates that the study of human behaviour raises.

Psychology in school
The sixth form psychologists organise 'Psychology Film Club', a Sixth Form society for all students to enjoy exciting aspects of psychology within films. A-level psychology and Psychology film club together provide a diverse introduction to the range of ideas which psychology explores. As a result, many pupils have gone on to read psychology at university.