“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”
- Oliver Sacks
Why Study Psychology?
Psychology is very much a ‘living’ subject which is constantly occurring all around us, observable in every subtle and gross human action, from our development in childhood, through to how we behave in social settings, including the barely perceivable non-verbal cues we involuntarily express about our internal states.
Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour, thought and emotion, and is a unique and interdisciplinary science which is now very much at the heart of modern cognitive neuroscience. It has close links with biology and seeks to explain the interactions between nature (our biology) and nurture (our environment and learning).
If you have ever wondered whether a serial killer’s brain is different from yours; whether our intelligence is genetic or learnt; what areas of the brain are linked to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or depression, then psychology is probably the subject for you.
Psychology is divided into different schools of thought, making for a rich landscape of views, equipping you with a wide range of perspectives which can be employed critically to engage deeply with the course content.
Utilising the scientific method, you will continually learn research methods throughout the course. This not only equips students with the skills necessary to interpret data and findings of published studies, but prepares students who wish to pursue Psychology or other sciences as degree subjects.
Psychology has become an immensely popular discipline, and a popular choice at both A level and undergraduate level.
What Skills Will I Learn?
Psychology students develop considerable transferable skills, including:
- The ability to consider a topic from multiple perspectives with a view to developing a critical and evidenced based evaluation.
- Introduction to basic data handling (including numeracy), applying appropriate research methods and statistical procedures.
- Problem solving, fitting psychological theory and knowledge to applied real world settings.
- Understanding the philosophical underpinning of psychology and the scientific method.
Developing written and verbal communication are key aspects of the subject, with discussion being a central component to exploring the specification content.
- Engaging in practical research, including the collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
- Understanding the role of ethics as set out by the British Psychological Society in conducting research and when working as a psychologist.
- Developing independent study skills to deepen and broaden subject knowledge, allowing students to keep abreast of recent developments.
Course Content & Details
Examination Board: AQA
You can download a copy of the full specification here:-
The AQA specification is well balanced with a strong focus on skill development in key areas such as research methods. The two year ‘A’ level course provides students with an in-depth and critical exposure to many of the key areas of the discipline.
Issues & Debates
Cognition & Development
The A level is currently assessed through three, two hour papers, Introductory Topics in Psychology, Psychology in Context and Issues and Option in Psychology.
Psychology is offered at most universities (including Oxbridge and Russell Group) and since it is so popular, new courses are being offered all the time. For example, Psychology is now offered as a joint honours degree with many other topics (from the more traditional Psychology & Biology, to Psychology & English Literature or Psychology & Criminology). However it is essential that any joint courses meet the British Psychological Society’s (BPS) accreditation criteria for graduate basis for chartered membership (GBC) otherwise additional conversion courses may be required to pursue a career in psychology.
There are a huge range of potential careers in psychology, but to become a ‘psychologist’ requires a degree and usually an additional post graduate qualification, which needs to be factored into career planning and costing. Areas of work within psychology include; clinical psychology, sports psychology, occupational psychology, educational psychology, counselling psychology, and many more (see the BPS website for details). There are an even larger range of careers where psychology is a real advantage and employers are keen to hire Psychology graduates due to their extensive transferrable skills as well as their understanding of human behaviour.
We hope to be able to undertake various visits and field trips as part of the A level course. These might include:
- Psychophysiology demonstration and workshop at the London School of Economic behavioural / psycho-physiology laboratories.
- Visit to the Bethlem Museum, based at the Royal Bethlem Hospital (with its early history dating back to 1247 and infamous connections to the 17th century Bedlam). https://museumofthemind.org.uk/
- The London Freud Museum, The final home of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud https://www.freud.org.uk/
Professor Coral Dando (Westminster University) – a prolific researcher within the field of Forensic Psychology. She works extensively with polices forces in the UK and the FBI in the USA.
Karl William – is a consultant counsellor working within the UK prison system, specialising in psychological interventions in custodial and community-based secure environments.
Professor David Messer (Open University) - a widely published developmental psychologist who has previously worked for AQA developing the A level specification, placing him in a unique position to offer practical advice on how to excel in the AQA examinations.
Dr Chris Sterling a cognitive neuropsychologist with a lifelong interest in dyslexia and cognitive neuropsychology. Chris’s work explores what we can learn about our behaviour and brains from those who have damaged theirs.
Dr Graham Hole (Sussex University) – a forensic researcher with an interest in facial recognition in relation to offender identification.
Dr Simon Noyce
Simon is a chartered member of the British Psychological Society and has worked extensively in both the university sector (teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels) and as a private behavioural consultant specialising in the education and behaviour management of children with autism. His psychological background has a strong focus on biological, behavioural and developmental psychology, and he has extensive academic and practical experience in research methods and statistics. He joins us from Coloma Convent Girls School, where he was previously Head of Psychology and was involved with supervising and teaching on the AQA Extended Project Qualification.