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A level

We are all amateur psychologists in that we attempt to explain the behaviour of people around us. However, professional psychologists take a more rigorous approach to understanding human behaviour and develop and test theories on why people behave the way that they do. In seeking to understand human behaviour, psychologists look at a range of influences from early childhood experiences and socialisation to biological factors such as genes, hormones and brain structure.  

Psychology can be defined as the scientific study of mind and behaviour. During the course you will have the opportunity to engage in this scientific process through practicals that require you to collect and analyse data using the skills and knowledge that you acquired during GCSE Maths and Science. Psychologists use a range of methods to investigate human behaviour and the strengths and limitations of these methods is an integral theme that runs throughout the course.

Course content

Year 1

  1. Introductory Topics in Psychology

You will explore four areas of psychology:

Social influence

You will focus on how our behaviour is influenced by the presence of others and we will cover obedience and conformity.


You will study models of memory, forgetting and eyewitness testimony.


You will explore how early relationships affect later psychological development.


You will look at how phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression can be explained and treated.

  1. Psychology in Context

You will study the emergence of psychology as a science and develop a detailed knowledge of a range of research methods. This will be done through examining existing research and designing practical activities with your classmates. You will learn how to analyse the data produced and use basic statistical tests. The main approaches to studying human behaviour will emerge:

  • Learning,
  • Cognitive
  • Biological
  • Psychodynamic
  • Humanistic

The biological approach is covered in greater depth and includes the nervous system, localisation and plasticity in the brain, scanning techniques and biological rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle.

Year 2 course content

3. Issues and Options in Psychology 

Issues and debates

There are a number of debates that run throughout psychology and you will learn to use the material you have covered to discuss whether behaviour is a result of nature or nurture, whether psychological research is gender biased and to discuss the ethics of psychological research. 



In this option we look at psychological and biological explanations of how our sense of being male or female develops. These include psychodynamic, cognitive and social explanations. We will also explore gender identity disorder.


Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder characterised by hallucinations and delusions. In this option we investigate the causes of schizophrenia and how it can be treated.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists attempt to explain and reduce crime using scientific methods. We will look at how psychologists use offender profiling to find the perpetrators of crime, biological and psychological explanations of crime and how we can deal with offending behaviour.

Throughout the course you will learn how psychologists design studies to investigate human behaviour and to become aware of the strengths and limitations of different research methods such as experiments and observations. 

Assessment is by examination at the end of Year 2, with each unit worth one third of the total.

Is it for me?

You will enjoy and benefit from Psychology if you:

  • are interested in the way humans think, feel and interact with each other;
  • would like to work in this area in the future;
  • have the ability to analyse theoretical concepts and to examine issues logically and systematically;
  • are keen to carry out independent investigative research, including extensive reading and using the Internet;
  • can express yourself well, both in discussion and on paper.

Special features

The department organises an annual trip to a conference on crime and criminal psychology and offers information on various national and local conferences and lectures for students to attend. Trips to Krakow and Auschwitz, and to London Zoo Phobia Clinic have been organised in recent years.

Entry requirements

At least 7 Grade 4s at GCSE. A Grade 4 or equivalent is required in Psychology if taken at GCSE level.   You also need grade 5s in English, Maths and a Science subject with a high Biology content.

Examination board: AQA A

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