A-Level Psychology

Psychology is an exciting and popular subject to study. This specification has been designed to provide a broad introduction to the scope and nature of psychology as a science. The emphasis is on applying knowledge and understanding rather than just acquiring knowledge, thereby developing students’ transferable skills of analysis, evaluation and critical thinking.


Paper 1:

  • Social influence – how we are influenced by our social group or our social situation and ways we can resist this.
  • Memory – the differences between short and long term memories, why we forget, how we can use what we know about memory to improve real life issues such as the accuracy of eye witness testimonies.
  • Attachment – why infants attach to their primary caregiver, different types of attachment and what happens if attachments are not formed.
  • Psychopathology – trying to define what we mean by abnormality, explaining and treating phobias, depression and OCD.

Paper 2:

  • Approaches in psychology – how psychology developed as a science, the way different approaches explain our behaviour. These are the Biological Approach (all our behaviours can be explained as having a biological basis, for example, we have inherited it through our genes), the Behaviourist Approach (all our behaviours are learnt through experiences we have), the Cognitive Approach (our behaviours can be explained by the way we process information and think about things), the Psychodynamic Approach (Freud’s views on how our unconscious influences our behaviour) and the Humanistic Approach (our behaviour needs to be explained by looking at us a whole person and helping us achieve our best in the world).
  • Biopsychology – looking at different parts of the brain and how it works.
  • Research methods - including many practical assignments.


Paper 3:

  • Issues and debates within psychology – some key areas that influence the way we see the world and explain behaviour, such as how much free will we have.
  • We then chose 3 topics to look at in detail, currently we study
    • Forensic psychology
    • Schizophrenia
    • Relationships


There is some Biology content in a number of the topics and 10% of the course examines basic Maths skills so GCSEs in these subjects are helpful, especially if pupils wish to study Psychology at university. However, pupils with a bias towards humanities subjects are carefully guided through this and offered support if required.


In the AQA linear specification, students take the 2 year course and complete the 3 papers outline above at the end of the course. All papers include multiple choice questions, short answer questions and extended writing.


Psychology works well in combination with many other subjects, both sciences and humanities. It is considered a science subject by universities, giving a sound grounding in critical analysis, research and independent thinking – skills needed for many degrees and careers. Pupils do not need to have studied psychology at GCSE level.

The type of degrees or careers that pupils may pursue include Medicine, Dentistry, Biology, Nursing, Advertising, Psychotherapy, Educational Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Education, Child Development, Social work and Forensic Science.