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Are you curious about what makes people behave the way they do? Do you want to know how your childhood affected you? Would like to know what causes people to develop mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ then Psychology is the course for you!
Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behaviour. It relates to why people think in certain ways, how experiences affect you and how groups and individuals behave. It has some overlaps with humanities such as Sociology and sciences such as Biology. Psychologists observe behaviour and then develop theories which try to explain why we do what we do. These theories are then tested through research which might involve laboratory experiments, interviews, or observations in the field. You will find out about these theories and learn how to carry out and evaluate psychological studies through the A Level.
A Level Psychology is taught on the AQA board specification. In the second year you will sit three two-hour exams which assess the content taught in both years to achieve the full A Level qualification.
A minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4 and above, including Maths.
A grade 5 in GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature.
A grade 5 in any GCSE Science or GCSE Psychology (if taken).
Over the two year A Level you will study the following units. You will study some of the topics in the units in the first year before covering further topics in the second year.
1. ‘Introductory topics in Psychology’: In this unit you will study several distinct strands which are backed up with practical research activities where you design, carry out, analyse, and interpret data. You will look at social influence and why people are obedient, exploring research and experiments by Zimbardo and Milgram. You will look at memory and how our brains process information into short and long-term memory through different models and examine how to improve the accuracy of memory. You will examine how attachments are formed in both humans and animals and what influences these special bonds that we form. You will explore Psychopathology which involves studying phobias, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and what causes these mental illnesses whilst also exploring how they can be treated.
2. ‘Psychology in context’: This unit examines psychological concepts, theories and research studies including a focus on research methods and ethical issues. You will examine the origins of Psychology as well as exploring the different perspectives psychologists take when explaining and investigating human behaviour. You will also look at Biopsychology which explores the science of the nervous system and how it functions, for example, exploring the psychological processes that underpin the stress response. There is also a large focus on research methods which involves undertaking a series of practical investigations on how psychologists support the theories they propose.
3. ‘Issues and options in Psychology’: This unit focuses on several distinct strands in psychology in greater depth. You will explore some of the issues and debates in Psychology which include gender and culture bias, free will and determinism, the nature-nurture debate, and the ethical implications of research studies. You will examine relationships including how evolution shapes what characteristics we look for in those to whom we are attracted to. You will also look at the symptoms and explanations for Schizophrenia as well as the treatments for it. Lastly you will look at forensic psychology and look in greater depth at what causes people to commit crime and what techniques psychologists use to catch criminals and rehabilitate them.
With an A Level in Psychology, you can then take courses in Higher Education which will qualify you to work in areas such as clinical psychology; child psychology; forensic psychology; education; market research; prisons; counselling; advertising; personnel; and many other areas. Combing psychology with Art may allow you to focus on an art therapy route, whilst combining psychology with sociology, law or criminology prepares learners for a career as a criminologist. Another useful combination is Psychology with the sciences to further delve into how the human body works.
Psychology is a rapidly growing field and psychology students are in demand in many careers as they have many useful skills. Psychology teaches you to: think logically and critically, be able to approach problems from different angles, argue a case effectively, handle basic statistical problems and to think scientifically.
Psychology students have lots of opportunities to help consolidate your wider understanding of the subject. There is an annual trip to the Glenside Psychiatric Museum in Bristol where you will learn in greater depth about the history of Psychiatry. In addition, psychologists can attend the Psychology Academy, where you will learn about careers in Psychology in greater depth. There is also the Legal Academy which looks at criminal cases and offenders in greater depth or the Medical and Science Academies which take the scientific studies of the subject further. Psychology learners also benefit from many of the speakers we have in the Sixth Form talks programme where you will have the chance to attend talks relevant to the subject.