Psychology A level

Psychology translates as ‘the study of the human mind’ - but psychology is more than this. Psychology is everywhere around us. It is intriguing, it is emotional, it is scientific and above all it is thought provoking. This course offers you the opportunity to learn about the science behind human behaviour by understanding how research is conducted and used to develop theories and laws about human behaviour.

Curriculum outline

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.
  • Memory: Models of memory; explanations of forgetting; eye witness testimony and police interviews.
  • Attachment: Attachment between babies and their caregivers; problems caused when attachment goes wrong; the effect of early attachment on adult relationships.
  • Approaches: 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.
  • Psychopathology: 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

You will study:

  • Further approaches: Psychodynamic: freud and the unconscious; humanistic: maslow, the self and counselling; comparing approaches.
  • Biopsychology: 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.
  • Relationships: Evolved partner preferences; factors affecting romantic attraction; why relationships last and what happens when they don’t; virtual relationships and ‘relationships’ with media personalities.
  • Schizophrenia: 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.

I enjoy psychology because it’s an opportunity to learn a subject in the sixth from you have never been able to study before.
Year 12 student

Potential career paths and further study

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.

I like psychology because it is different to any other subject available to study and allows for any opportunities later in life.
Year 12 student