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Students in a Psychology lesson

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour, and as a discipline tries to understand why people think and act in the way that they do. Psychology is a science and therefore includes the conducting of research, collection of data, and the creation of theories.

It is a challenging subject that can help individuals understand themselves and those around them in more depth. As it ultimately involves understanding people, the subject has clear links to a wide range of career paths, including psychiatry and medicine, the criminal justice system, and performance in education, sport, business, and management.

The course

The department follows the AQA specification which covers a range of topics that represent the breadth of Psychology as a whole. The course also provides opportunities to discuss, debate, and conduct research in lessons because unlike other disciplines, we are actually studying ourselves.

Phrenology head

During Year One of the course, pupils cover the following topics:

  • Psychopathology – where they discuss the nature of mental illness, including explanations and treatments of phobias, depression and OCD;
  • Social Influence – which investigates how the presence of others affects our thoughts, feelings and behaviour;
  • Memory – where various models of memory and why we forget are explored;
  • Attachment – focuses on how our early relationships with our caregivers affect our adult relationships,
  • Approaches in Psychology – considers the different ways psychologists have gone about understanding people over time, including behavioural, cognitive, biological, humanistic and psychodynamic approaches, which are also compared and contrasted.
  • Biopsychology – examines the basic structure of the brain, split-brain research, ways of studying the brain and biological rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Research Methods – covers how research is designed and carried out to ensure it is scientific and trustworthy. This topic includes data handling and inferential statistics.

Year Two of the course allows us to investigate behaviours in more detail:

  • Issues and Debates in Psychology considers broad debates in philosophy and science including the determinism versus free will debate, and nature versus nurture;
  • Aggression covers biological and psychological explanations for aggressive behaviour, aggression in prisons, and the influence of the media on aggressive behaviour.;
  • Schizophrenia focuses on understanding issues in diagnosis, as well as possible causes and treatments of the disorder;
  • Relationships covers evolutionary explanations of mating strategies, relationship formation, maintenance and breakdown, and virtual relationships.

There is no coursework involved in the assessment of A-level Psychology and the assessment of the course is 100% examination. Here are full details of the new specification (syllabus).

Please consult the Sixth Form Handbook (pdf) for further information

Who should study Psychology?

Psychology is a broad subject and the content covered in the course has links to a wide range of other subjects, such as Biology and social sciences.

Furthermore, the range of skills required by the examination includes essays, which provides links with written subjects such as English, as well as calculations, which provides links with Mathematics and other sciences.

As Psychology involves understanding people, it is extremely relatable and the breadth of its subject matter also makes the course extremely varied and appealing to a wide audience.

The subject would be useful for pupils who wish to study Psychology at university, but may also have useful links for those wishing to study Medicine, Law, Business, or any social science. The course helps prepare pupils to enter any jobs that involve working with other people.

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