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Psychology A Level


TITLE: AQA Level 3 Advanced GCE in Psychology (601/4838/X)


So what exactly is Psychology?

The word psychology is derived from two Greek words; psyche (mind, soul or spirit) and logos (study), which put together gives ‘Study for the mind’.

Whereas only a few would think of themselves as doctors, engineers or novelists, unless we had received a special education or training or had a special talent, we all consider that we know something about people and why they behave as they do. So there is a sense in which we are all psychologists.

A common reaction amongst students faced with the findings of a piece of psychological research is to say ‘it’s only common sense’. It may be common sense, but in trying to make sense of some aspect of behaviour in animals or humans, the psychologist uses research methods to establish patterns in behaviour and attempt to explain those patterns.

If you are interested in research, like to be challenged, involved in discussing issues and can draw together, often conflicting information into written or verbal reports, then you may well be interested in psychology as a course.

Some of the major studies in psychology, which you would encounter in the course, include:

  • Does the autistic child have a theory of mind?
  • A study of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison
  • Autism
  • Eye Witness Testimony
  • A case of multiple personality
  • On being sane in insane places
  • Split Brains!
  • Teaching sign language to a chimpanzee
  • A nation of morons!


Paper 1
  • Introductory Topics in Psychology
  • 2-hour written exam. One third of A Level
Paper 2
  • Psychology in Context
  • 2-hour written exam. One third of A Level
Paper 3
  • Issues and Options in Psychology
  • 2-hour written exam. One third of A Level.


  • Topics in Psychology
  • Social Influence
  • Memory
  • Attachment
  • Relationships
  • Forensic Psychology

Approaches in Psychology

  • Origins of Psychology
  • Wundt, introspection and the emergence of psychology as a science.
  • Assumptions
  • The basic assumptions of the following approaches:
  • Learning approaches: the behaviourist approach (Pavlov & Skinner) and social learning theory.
  • The cognitive approach: the study of internal mental processes and the emergence of cognitive neuroscience.
  • The biological approach: the influence of genes, biological structures and neurochemistry on behaviour. Genotype and phenotype, genetic basis of behaviour, evolution and behaviour.
  • Psychopathology
  • Biopsychology

Research Methods

  • Students should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the following research methods, scientific processes and techniques of data handling and analysis:
  • Experimental method. Types of experiment, laboratory and filed experiments, natural and quasi-experiments.
  • Observational techniques. Types of observation: naturalistic and controlled; covert and overt; participant and non-participant.
  • Self-report techniques. Questionnaires; interviews, structured and unstructured.
  • Correlations. Analysis of the relationship between co-variables. The difference between correlations and experiments.


Psychology would be beneficial for university degrees in Psychology, Social Sciences and vocational courses such as teaching, speech therapy, nursing social work etc. Psychology would also be useful in such areas as careers/degree courses in business studies and management science, particularly personnel work, industrial relations, advertising, marketing and tourism.