Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour. It has recently been reclassified as a Science subject, and this is reflected in the A Level and IB Diploma syllabuses. The student who wishes to study Psychology, whether A level or IB, needs to be able to critically evaluate text, analyse figures and use scientific methodology. Thus, skills acquired at GCSE in English, Maths and Science are important, along with an interest in understanding human behaviour. During the course, students need to be able to communicate effectively and to research information from a variety of sources.
A Level Psychology
Psychology is a very popular subject A level subject which is attractive to students because it develops a range of valuable skills, including critical analysis, independent thinking and research. These skills are particularly relevant to young people and are transferable to further study and the workplace. It allows students to appreciate the scientific nature of psychology and to debate contemporary issues through an understanding of research.
A level Psychology offers students an engaging and stimulating introduction to the study of psychology, combined with the academic integrity and skills that Higher Education and employers value. The AQA linear A level specification will ensure that the psychologists of the future will have a fascinating and coherent introduction to the subject. One of the ways this is achieved is through practical investigations both inside, and outside, the classroom.
There are three papers that are taken at the end of the two year course.
Paper 1: Introductory topics in Psychology
This paper covers the topics of: social influence, memory, attachment and psychopathology. Social influence is about studying the extent to which people conform or obey and why. This research is able to offer answers to the question: ‘how could the Holocaust happen?’ Within memory we explore why people experience false memories and why eye-witness testimony cannot be relied upon. Attachment explores the importance of early childhood on later relationships. Through case studies, we uncover the effects of privation on later development and whether the effects can ever be overcome. Psychopathology looks at what it means to be ‘abnormal’. How do we diagnose and treat those with abnormalities? Are drugs always the answer? With one in five people likely to suffer from depression in their lifetime this is an important area to explore.
Paper 2: Psychology in context
This paper cover the topics of: approaches in psychology, biopsychology and research methods. There are many different approaches to Psychology which offer different perspectives and answers to why people behave the way that they do. For example, Biological Psychologists will attribute behaviours to genetics and neurotransmitters, whilst a Behaviourist will see that same behaviour as due to the person’s environment (e.g., parent, peers, culture). Biopsychology is concerned with how the brain functions and its impact on human behaviour. It specifically explores the concept of brain localisation and whether the brain has elements of plasticity to aid recovery following trauma. Research methods in Psychology underpins all that we do. It is the concerned with how we design and conduct research as well as how we analyse and interpret the data collected.
Paper 3: Issues and options in Psychology
This papers covers the topics of: issues and debates, schizophrenia, gender, and aggression. This paper is designed so that each of the topics can be explored in some detail. Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood disorders in Psychology with many believing that it is concerned with having a split personality, when in fact it is about when an individual loses touch with reality and is often characterised by hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations. Gender is concerned with what it means to be male and female and the extent to which gender is a biological or a socially constructed concept. Aggression considers the difference influences on an individual which can lead to aggressive behaviour. This includes biological and environmental factors such as the media.
The three papers are equally weighted, with each paper consisting of 96 marks (each paper is 2 hours long).
Psychology at IB level aims to develop students’ understanding in a number of different ways:
- Develop an awareness of how psychological research can be applied for the benefit of human beings
- Ensure that ethical practices are upheld in psychological inquiry
- Develop an understanding of the biological, cognitive and sociocultural influences on human behaviour
- Develop an understanding of alternative explanations of behaviour
- Understand and use diverse methods of psychological inquiry.
- For Higher Level student there are three papers are studied during the course of two years:
Paper 1: Students explore the biological approach, the cognitive approach and the sociocultural approach as well as the consideration of approaches to research and ethical issues in research. For each approach, higher level students will also look at an extension of that approach.
Paper 2: The topics studied in this paper are abnormal psychology and health psychology. Abnormal psychology focuses on explaining and treating individuals suffering from psychological disorders. Health psychology is concerned with how different factors, such as biology, lifestyle and social context may influence health and illness, particularly obesity.
Paper 3: Quantitative and qualitative approaches to research methods are different ways that psychologists can carry out research. The method chosen will depend on the aim and objectives of an investigation and students will need to appreciate the individual strengths and limitations of each method. This paper will require students to apply their knowledge to a research scenario.
For Standard Level students two papers are studied over the two year course. Paper 1 is identical, except that standard level students do not cover the extension of each approach. In Paper 2, standard level students only cover Abnormal Psychology and they do not study Paper 3.
Both levels complete an Internal Assessment which is a report on an experimental study that they carry out, this gives hands on experience of the research process and the score gained counts towards the final Psychology grade.