What is Psychology A level about?
You are human – yet, chances are, you have learnt very little about the workings of the human mind – the organ that governs your every perception and sensation.
Psychology focuses on the science of the mind, behaviour and experience. It looks at how individuals think, what they do and the way they are affected by their biological make up and the wider social group.
Why study Psychology?
If you are fascinated by the idea of understanding the brain - if you want to grasp the complexities of human behaviour - Psychology A level is for you. In lessons, you may be exploring various areas to do with cognitive, behaviour, developmental and even biological psychology by focusing on issues such as memory, child and adult developmental stages, social behaviourism, abnormalities in behaviour, physiological responses and psychological research methods. As you progress you will learn more about critical issues related to the mind, behaviour and thinking style by exploring the physiological and psychological explanations on specific issues such as Biological rhythms, relationships, gender, psychological disorders and many more.
Psychology will offer you a unique academic experience. You will need to be able to learn scientific information such as the aims, procedures and findings of studies but you will also need to be able to evaluate these theories critically and provide relevant evidence. Some answers require you to be concise but there are also longer essay based answers, thus again providing diverse experiences and useful transferable skills - developed through the study fascinating topics.
Lessons will offer different learning opportunities with teachers who are enthusiastic about the subject, with written work conducted alongside discussion and pair work, presentations, videos and practical (experiments).
Most importantly, Psychology gives you an opportunity to learn, understand and evaluate issues happening around you in your everyday life, which could then be applied to the wider world. Thus, It is not just a factual subject but enables reflection on one's own experience.
What does the course consist of?
You will be given the opportunity to study many of the core areas of psychology, thus giving you a broad knowledge of the subject.
Throughout the course, you will hone your research and analysis skills – in a way that is never dry and factual, but instead relates to your own experiences. Learning about the human mind is constantly surprising, never boring.
- Unit 1: a written paper (1.5 hours – 50% AS award). Structured compulsory questions that include short-answer, stimulus material and one 12-mark question. The three topics covered are Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Research Methods, available January and June.
- Unit 2: a written paper (1.5 hours – 50% AS award). Structured compulsory questions that include short-answer, stimulus material and one 12-mark question. The three topics covered are
- Biological Psychology (Stress)
- Social Psychology and Individual Differences (Eating Disorders).
- Unit 3: a written paper (1.5 hours – 50% of the A2 award) with three essay-style questions chosen from eight topics: Biological rhythms and sleep; Perception; Relationships; Aggression; Eating behaviour; Gender; Intelligence and learning; Cognition and development
- Unit 4: written examination (2 hours – 50% of the A2 award) with 3 sections
- Psychopathology: One essay-style question chosen from three (Schizophrenia)
- Psychology in Action: One question chosen from three (Addictive Behaviour)
- Research Methods: One compulsory structured question
There is one modular examination in January, two in June but no courseworkIn AS each module consist of 3 topics, making it 6 topics to be covered. These are examined through short answers in AS and essay-based papers in A2. All AS and A2 Units are available in January and May / June.
What GCSEs do I need?
No specific subjects are required, although a C grade or above is desirable in English and Maths.
Skills needed to succeed
Students who wish to do psychology should be able to learn and memorise terminologies, analyse and evaluate scenarios as well as apply the knowledge gained to various aspects of life. There needs to be a high level of commitment and the willingness to work on an on going basis. The knowledge gained must then be expressed effectively in writing using evidence that can be found in theories or studies in psychology. The subject requires students to master all relevant theories and studies which are the crucial elements in psychology.
What might the subject lead onto?
Psychology compliments all areas and subjects. Its focuson human mind, behaviour and thinking is attractive to all employment and areas of work involving human resources. The subject also instils skills in research, analysis, communication and organisation that go well beyond the value of the material covered. It is, of course, relevant to those interested in Psychology at degree level, but also popular amongst students who plan to follow other paths.
As a university subject, Psychology is popular. Graduates enter a wide range of employment sectors, with only a minority pursuing careers in Psychology.
Who will teach you?
You will be taught by Patricia Dass, who is an educational psychologist and the Head of the psychology department in d'Overbroeck's. She has 12 years experience of teaching both local and international students.
Kelly Bristow, has recently joined d'Overbroeck's, having previously taught at another sixth form college. She is a Chartered Psychologist, an examiner for Psychology and an advanced practitioner.
Do I need to have studied the GCSE before?
No, as the majority of students doing Psychology with us have not studied this subject before. Any relevant knowledge in this subject would help your understanding when discussing the subject in lessons. However, if you have an interest in understanding human thinking and behaviour, then you will enjoy it.
Are there grades in specific GCSE subjects I should have achieved?
You should have a minimum of 5 appropriate GCSEs at grades A -C. This includes at least a B or higher in English Language, A minimum grade C or higher in GCSE Maths.
What skills should I have?
The skills required for psychology include the ability to understand scientific methods and to grasp statistics, good communication skills, a sound analytical and questioning mind, the ability to work independently and in groups, as well as the ability to listen.
What else should I consider before choosing?
Consider the fact that Psychology is very similar in its approach and subject matter to Sociology. There can be areas such as Research methods or studies which would overlap but the major difference is the choice of examples which will be considered exclusively from a psychological point of view.
Anything else I should consider?
Reading up on some Psychological theories and studies would give you some introduction to the subject as well as the ability to evaluate possible issues. In AS, the majority of the exam requires evaluation skills for mainly short questions. However, in A2, you would need to be able to manipulate your knowledge and apply your evaluation skills when writing essays.
Suggested Reading or Research
AQA A Psychology webpage - www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/psychology