What is A-Level Psychology?
A common description of Psychology as a discipline is ‘the scientific study of mind and behaviour’ and as such Psychology centres around an understanding of the many facets of the human form.
Psychologists ask questions such as:
How reliable is eye witness testimony?
Why do human beings obey?
Are phobias caused by our learning experiences?
Is OCD simply a product of faulty serotonin transmission?
Are online relationships different to face to face relationships?
What is it that makes an individual commit crime?
And, if psychology can explain our behaviour, do we even have free will?
These are some of the questions we too will try to answer, through learning about and evaluating the available research evidence from a number of different approaches, including biological, cognitive and behavioural.
Whom does this subject suit?
Most of our students will be new to Psychology, and whilst the GCSE may provide you with a foundation of some of the theories and terminology, the A level quickly builds on this from a starting point of assuming no prior knowledge.
Please be aware that in order to study Psychology at University, many of the top institutions require at least a grade 6 in Maths at GCSE, with many requiring higher. In addition, specific grades in English and Sciences at GCSE are specified by many. The overwhelming majority require at least one science subject at A level, but this does include Psychology A level for most. Note that a substantial number of departments also prefer a range of subjects to be offered at A level, with maths and further maths specifically mentioned as too narrow if only offering three A levels. Please see www.ucas.com for entry requirements for all courses at all institutions.
Psychology is a broad subject, and as such students will require a number of skills which they will develop over the two years. With the varied and interesting topics we study comes a relatively heavy workload in terms of learning content, from abstract theories to complex physiological terms. Analytical skills are required in order to evaluate theories with relevant research evidence, and then evaluate the methodology on which these studies are based.
The A level places a high demand on scientific thinking with at least 25-30% of overall assessment marks coming from research methods and an appreciation of ‘How Science Works’ and at least 10% from mathematical skills equivalent to level 2 or above.
Students will be required to analyse data from sample studies and select appropriate inferential statistical tests by the end of the course and so a willingness to learn will be important here. In order to obtain the highest grades a focused written style will also be necessary. In addition to these, students should be able to work independently and with their peers, listen respectfully to others’ views and work to deadlines.
What might the subject lead to?
Psychology is unusual in its broad scope and can thus be seen as beneficial in a number of careers, not least due to the wide set of transferable skills it aids in developing. Data analysis, evaluative and written skills, as well as an insight into the human form are valuable in careers from teaching to human resources and marketing. For information on some of the varied careers in Psychology open to you see the British Psychological Society website.