The A level exams comprise three papers of two hours each and cover all topics from the two year course. Two papers will consist of compulsory questions but the third will be optional questions. Papers will be of equal length and topics will be equally weighted within papers. A brief summary of the specification content is given below.
Introductory Topics in Psychology: Covered in Year 1
Social influence: explanations of why some people tend to obey and conform and others tend to be more independent; research into this area and how research findings may help explain social change
Memory: models of how memory works and evidence that supports such theories; explanations for forgetting; research into the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and implications of this research on police questioning
Attachment: caregiver – infant interactions, multiple attachments and the role of the father; the work of Lorenz and Harlow; the genetic and learning theories of attachment and attachment types; maternal deprivation and the effect of institutionalisation; the influence of attachment on adult relationships
Psychopathology: how psychological abnormality is defined; the clinical characteristics of phobias, depression and OCD; the behavioural approach to treating phobias such as systematic desensitisation and flooding; cognitive approaches to explaining and treating depression such as CBT; biological explanations of OCD
Psychology in Context
Approaches in Psychology:
- the behaviourist approach: classical conditioning and Pavlov’s research; operant conditioning; types of reinforcement and Skinner’s research
- the cognitive approach: the study of internal mental processes; the role of schema; the use of theoretical and computer models to explain and make inferences about mental processes
- the emergence of cognitive neuroscience
- the biological approach: the influence of genes, biological structures and neurochemistry on behaviour
- the psychodynamic approach: the role of the unconscious; the structure of personality, that is Id, Ego and Superego; defence mechanisms including repression, denial and displacement; psychosexual stages
- Humanistic Psychology: free will, self-actualisation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Biopsychology: the structure and functions of the nervous and endocrine systems; the basic structure of the brain; areas associated with language and split brain research; methods used to study the brain and various biological rhythms such as the sleep / wake cycle
Research methods: basic research methods, the scientific process, data handling and inferential statistics
Topics in Psychology: Covered in Year 2
Issues and Debates in Psychology: Topical debates such as free will/determinism, the nature of sexism in Psychology, cultural differences and whether psychology should be considered a science.
Schizophrenia: Characteristics of the disorder; issues with classification and diagnosis of Schizophrenia; the biological and psychological explanations for the disorder as well as the biological and psychological treatments.
Relationships: Factors that affect romantic attraction; the nature of virtual relationships; celebrity attraction; evolutionary explanations of partner preferences.
Forensic Psychology: Criminal profiling; the nature of the criminal justice system; psychological and biological explanations for offending behaviour.
Full details of the specification can be found on www.aqa.org.uk
A minimum of grade 6 in GCSE Dual Award Science (or a 6 in Biology) and grade 6 in both Mathematics and English Language will be needed to cope with the demands of the course.
- A trip to Twycross Zoo to observe primates and listen to a talk on the evolution of intelligence
- True Life Conferences where time served criminals come in to school to discuss their experiences from the perspective of forensic psychology
- Criminal Psychology Lectures at Manchester University
- Heythrop Psychology Essay competition - University of London
The dramatic increase in the popularity of Psychology at both A level and degree level has continued. It is one of the top ten most popular examination subjects at A level and in the top five subjects studied at degree level. The demands of Psychology A level are such that it spans the divide between the Arts and Sciences. It is an academically demanding subject. The ability to read widely, write fluently and critically, and analyse novel situations is essential. As a result, it is an A level that can be used as a stepping stone towards a wide range of competitive degree courses and careers. This is evidenced by a sample of some of our recent students who have gone on to study Law, Medicine, Mathematics, Dentistry, History, Architecture, Computer Science, Biochemistry, Neuroscience, Fine Art, Sports Science, Biology, Modern Foreign Languages, Philosophy, Criminology and English Literature to name but a few. They have also gone to a wide range of universities such as Cardiff, Durham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Sheffield.