Psychology is the scientific study of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. There are many different approaches to Psychology including investigating Social, Cognitive, Biological and Developmental factors that explain thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

Psychology is predominantly interested in human behaviour, however animal models are often used in order to conduct research that would otherwise be unethical to do on humans.

About the Curriculum

The curriculum provides a challenging course that requires various different skills including mathematical skills (10% of the exam will be maths-based); scientific skills, whereby the students conduct their own research; analytical skills in evaluating research; and skills in essay-writing (the Applied Psychology exam will be heavily essay-based).

The course consists of 3 components, with 3 separate 2-hour exams at the end of the course.

Component 1: Research Methods

This component introduces and develops knowledge and understanding of the process of planning, conducting, analysing and reporting psychological research across a range of experimental and non-experimental methodologies and techniques. It promotes an understanding of the methods of scientific enquiry used in empirical research and aims to develop relevant knowledge and skills for this process. It also encourages the acquisition of a range of evaluative concepts for reviewing and discussing the design and outcomes of research, and the application of such knowledge to the wider community, society and the economy. Competency and confidence in a variety of mathematical procedures and problem-solving skills should also be gained through involvement with practical work associated with the concepts covered.

Component 2: Psychological Themes through Cores Studies

This component aims to develop the critical thinking and independent learning skills, essential tools to the scientific study of psychology through a focus on some of the key themes investigated within the subject. For each key theme, students are presented with both a classic and a contemporary study. The classic studies are ‘landmark’ pieces of research that have helped to shape the course of the subject and which all students of psychology should become familiar with. The contemporary studies are more up to date pieces of research that engage in some way with the issues being explored in the classic studies they are paired with. The core studies chosen reflect the contribution of psychology to an understanding of individual, social and cultural diversity.

Component 3: Applied Psychology

This component consists of three sections:

  • Issues in mental health
  • Child psychology
  • Criminal psychology

Learning approach

Students will get the opportunity to develop their independent learning skills as well as working together in groups to conduct research and make oral presentations.

Some approaches used include:

  • Student presentation and discussion
  • Detailed analysis of psychology case studies, which make up the core of the course and which provide opportunities to evaluate the findings of past researchers and to consider the ethical implications of their methodology.
  • Use of recent articles and newspaper cuttings to highlight the continued relevance of Psychology to daily life.
  • Use of feature films/clips to illustrate psychological examples , issues and debates
  • Encouraging students to carry out guided psychological investigations on accessible topics, to explore and evaluate psychological methodology.
  • Provision of background reading to encourage students to engage more widely with issues and ideas not engaged by the teaching specification.
  • ICT: Use of electronic resources to facilitate different approaches to the material and to promote individual research skills and presentations.
  • To provide regular assessment in a variety of formats to promote effective learning, for example iPads are used to engage pupil interest and also in assessments, i.e. by use of Kahoot.

The course provides many opportunities for differentiation, both by content and by outcome.

  • The material is covered in a variety of styles to engage the different learning styles of students.
  • Activities are varied to encourage both whole group involvement, others provide opportunities for individual or small group work.
  • Students are provided with opportunities for independent research and to present material in ways which reflect their own interests and abilities. Many make effective use of their iPads in this context. 
  • A study buddy system is encouraged, where students pair up and teach/test each other.
  • Students are provided with key study summaries, to assist the less academic to assimilate the material.


Students are encouraged to apply their knowledge of Psychology to current events around the world through additional written assignments throughout the academic year. Examples of recent assignments include analysing recent terror attacks from a psychological point of view and analysing how political parties/newspapers try to create cognitive biases in the general population to influence voting behaviour. These assignments allow the students to take a different perspective of current affairs revealing the motivating forces behind everyday life.


Having a solid foundation in Psychology can be the starting point for a great variety of career opportunities. The topics within the A Level course can be directly linked to specific careers. For instance, the Criminal Psychology topic links to a career as a Criminal Psychologist, Investigative Psychologist or Legal Psychologist. The Issues in Mental Health topic can be directly linked to a career as a Clinical Psychologist, Psychiatrist (Medicine) or Psychiatric Nurse. The Child Psychology topic can be directly linked to a career as an Educational Psychologist or Teacher. A degree in Psychology allows students to branch off into very specific domains, including a career as a Consumer Psychologist, Engineering Psychologist, Health Psychologist, Organisational Psychologist, Military Psychologist, Rehabilitation Psychologist, Spiritual Psychologist or Sports Psychologist to name but a few.