PsychologyHead of Department: Mrs A E Jervis                            Board: AQA             Taught at HMSG

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental processing. Psychology is a diverse subject, which overlaps with, and complements, many other AS/A Level subjects in the realms of arts, science and social science. At AS Level the course is designed to help students acquire a broad knowledge and understanding of the core areas of psychology – social, cognitive, developmental, biological and individual differences. Students will also be required to critically examine the research methods used by psychologists in the study of human behaviour. At A2, the specification offers a range of topic-based options which bring together explanations from different psychological approaches examined at AS Level. This is designed to engage students in the issues and debates surrounding psychology. The A Level Specification consists of 4 units of study – 2 at AS Level and 2 at A2 Level.

What do I need to study Psychology at AS/A Level?

To study Psychology, students need a high level of both literacy and numeracy, as both essay writing and statistical skills are required. Students taking this subject need an interest in scientific analysis and evaluation, as well as having an interest in human behaviour in general. Like many other subjects at Advanced Level, students are required to undertake a significant amount of reading and research. Due to the complexity and diversity of human behaviour, Psychology often poses more questions than it answers. To succeed at Psychology you need a critical eye and be able to take on board a number of conflicting perspectives.

What teaching and learning strategies are employed?

A wide range of strategies are used to engage students and to aid the understanding of challenging concepts. These strategies include traditional lecturing and note-taking; student research and presentation; mind-mapping; discussions; numerous games and quizzes; cut and paste activities, and peer learning. Assessment focuses on maximising exam technique and is based around short answer questions, data response exercises and essays. Students are expected to think for themselves and be proactive in learning.

AS Level course outline


At AS Level, assessment is based on structured compulsory questions, including short answer, stimulus material and extended writing questions. The specification consists of two 1 hour 30 minute written papers, each constituting 50% of the total AS weighting or 25% of total A Level marks.


Unit 1: Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology & Research Methods • Cognitive psychology, including the structure and theories of memory and eyewitness testimony • Developmental psychology, including early childhood social development, parental attachment and the effects of day care on children’s social development • Research methods – methods and techniques for data collection, the experimental process, analysing and presenting data

Unit 2: Biological Psychology, Social Psychology & Individual differences • Biological psychology, including stress, factors affecting stress, coping with stress and managing stress • Social psychology, focusing on why some people conform and obey, whilst others resist • Individual differences, including definitions of abnormality, approaches (psychodynamic, behavioural and cognitive) and therapies for treating abnormal behaviour such as phobias, personality disorders, anxiety and depression.

A2 Level course outline


Unit 3: One 1 hour 30 minute written paper consisting of 3 essay style questions. This constitutes 25% of total A Level mark. Unit 4: One 2 hour written paper based on two essay questions and one structured question, constituting 25% of the total A Level marks


Unit 3: Topics in Psychology  Three topics chosen from:  • Biological rhythms and sleep (its nature, function and disorders)
• Perception (theories, development and face recognition) • Relationships (formation and breakdown, reproductive behaviour, social and cultural influences) • Theories of aggression • Eating behaviour/disorders • Gender  – social, biological and cognitive differences between the sexes • Intelligence and learning – theories, animal intelligence, the evolution of intelligence • Cognition and development – the development of thinking processes , moral and social understanding in children

Unit 4: Psychopathology, Psychology in Action & Research Methods • Understanding psychological disorders through a range of approaches – biological, behaviourism, social learning theory, cognitive, psychodynamic and humanistic approaches • Applying psychology to investigate a contemporary issue – the media, addiction, anomalistic psychology • Methods in psychology, inferential statistics, issues in research (building on the knowledge and skills developed as part of AS Level