A Level Psychology
What is it about at sixth-form level?
Psychology is the science of mind, brain and behaviour. As we grow up we all become experts in human behaviour. Isn’t Psychology all just common sense? Well yes and no: psychological understanding begins by formulating theories and looking for evidence to support or challenge them. Common sense can be found to both support and contradict what we find. As most students are new to psychology the course aims to develop an appreciation of the variety of possible explanations. Aggressive behaviour for instance: do we learn it or is it in our genes? Is it caused by abnormal brain chemicals, playing violent computer games or our upbringing? How can we investigate these questions? Psychology uses a range of methods including laboratory experiments, natural observation in the field, surveys or interviews and case studies. Learning about these methods and their strengths and limitations is an important part of the course. You also learn about the different fields of Psychology in the 21st century, including social, cognitive, developmental, biological and abnormal psychology.
Why study it and what skills does it develop?
If you are curious about people, what motivates their behaviour and what makes them who they are then Psychology should suit you. It might also help you to understand yourself! Through studying research methods in Psychology you will gain a very good awareness of the principles of science, as well as developing some of your Maths skills. Critical analysis is another essential skill to be developed: you will learn to evaluate different explanations and understand strengths and limitations of different research methods. The variety of approaches covered reflects the different academic disciplines which Psychology has been influenced by, including Philosophy, Biology, Medicine, Anthropology and Sociology. It can therefore make a good fit with many other A level subjects.
What prior knowledge and skills are required?
No prior knowledge of psychology is required. Good passes in GCSE Maths and English are important and an aptitude for biology would be an advantage.
How is the course assessed?
Paper 1 and 2 will be similar to those sat in the lower sixth but will include both AS and A2 content. The A level is examined in three written exams of equal weight, each lasting two hours. Questions in Papers 1 and 2 build on topics covered at AS: Paper one includes Social Influence, Memory, Attachment and Psychopathology while Paper 2 covers Approaches, Biopsychology and Research Methods. Paper 3 has questions on Issues and Debates in Psychology alongside three sections on Options in Psychology, each offering a choice of three topics: students answer one from each section based on the particular options they have studied. There is a longer answer of between one and two sides of writing.
To be confirmed at the start of the course
AQA Psychology for A Level Year 1 & AS Student Book – 2nd Edition
By Cara Flanagan, Matt Jarvis, Rob Liddle
Published by Illuminate Publishing, ISBN: 9781912820429
AQA Psychology for A Level Year 2
By C. Flanagan, D. Berry, M. Jarvis & R. Liddle
Published by Illuminate Publishing, ISBN 978-1908682413
Exam Board and Specification Codes
A level: AQA (A) 7182
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