Welcome to Psychology!  There can be little doubt that psychology (the study of human thinking and behaviour) is one of the most fascinating subjects that you can choose to study – but be warned – it is also a very demanding subject that requires the following key skills:

  • The ability to work independently
  • The ability to analyse material and assess the strengths and weaknesses of different models and approaches
  • The ability to demonstrate critical thinking – to show that you can weigh evidence
  • The ability to think holistically (to see the whole picture)

Why study Psychology?

The qualification lays an appropriate foundation for the further study of Psychology and related subjects in higher education. The material studied would also be useful for candidates intending to pursue careers in Clinical Psychology, Social Services, Human Resources, Police Service, Journalism, Teaching, Prison Service and a wide range of other related areas. In fact, most careers that involve working with people. Students interested in the thinking and behaviour of others, and themselves, will find this a fascinating subject to study.

This specification has been designed to provide a broad introduction to the scope and nature of psychology as a science, bringing the content up to date while at the same time retaining the popular features of the previous Psychology Specification A. The emphasis is on applying knowledge and understanding rather than just acquiring knowledge, thereby developing students’ transferable skills of analysis, evaluation and critical thinking.

At AS, the specification offers a broad range of topics, with research methods in context. At A2, there is a range of topic-based options that bring together explanations from different approaches and engage students in issues and debates in contemporary psychology.

As with any subject at A-level, students will need to be self-motivated and organised. Students will be required to write essays in class and at home in preparation for the exams, with regards to psychological concepts and methodology. It is also worth bearing in mind that Psychology is assessed entirely through examinations.

There are four exams and each one is worth 25% of the A Level. Below is a basic outline of the 2-year programme of study,


We study the following subjects:

  1. Cognitive psychology  – Memory
  2. Developmental psychology  – Attachment (the bond between mother and infant)
  3. Research Methods
  4. Biological psychology (stress)
  5. Social Psychology (obedience and conformity)
  6. Individual Differences (abnormality – definitions, models and treatments)

Year 1 is split into 6 modules:

  1. Research methods
  2. Cognitive Psychology and Developmental Psychology
  3. Biological psychology
  4. Social Psychology
  5. Individual Differences and revision
  6. Revision and exams

Year 1 is assessed with 2 exams, each one lasting 90 minutes:

PSYA1: Cognitive psychology, Developmental psychology and research methods

PSYA2: Biological Psychology, Social Psychology and Individual Differences


In Year 2, there is more freedom for students to choose the topics that they wish to study.  For the PSYA3 exam Students choose 3 topics from the following options:

  • Biological rhythms and sleep
  • Perception
  • Relationships
  • Aggression
  • Eating behaviour
  • Gender
  • Intelligence and learning
  • Cognition and Development

For the PSYA4 exam students choose one psychopathology topic, from the choice of schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders.

Students also choose one ‘Psychology in Action’ topic, from the choice of the influence of media on social behaviour, addictive behaviour, and anomalous (unusual) experiences.

In addition to their choices in PSYA4, students also study Research Methods.

A typical A2 year might look as follows:

  1. Relationships
  2. Aggression and Eating Disorders
  3. Schizophrenia
  4. Anomalistic Psychology
  5. Research Methods
  6. Revision and exams

Year 2 is assessed with 2 exams, one lasting 90 minutes and the other lasting 120 minutes.

PSYA3: Relationships, Aggression and Eating Disorders (90 mins)

PSYA2: Schizophrenia, Anomalistic psychology and Research Methods (120 minutes)

Grade Requirements

Students must achieve 5 A*-C grades at GCSE, including ‘B’ grades in English Language, Mathematics and a related Humanities subject, in order to study Psychology.

Complementary Subjects

Psychology complements most subjects in particular Sociology, Biology, Media Studies, History, English and Physical Education.

Why study at the Leigh?

The Psychology course at the Leigh specializes in teaching students to think independently and to question the assumptions that they may have regarding the validity of scientific knowledge. The strengths and weaknesses of the scientific method are explored in depth.

Recommended Reading

  • Psychology AS: The Complete Companion Student Book by Mike Cardwell and Cara Flanagan (Oxford Press)
  • Psychology AS for AQA A by Mike Cardwell, Claire Meldrum and Liz Clark (Collins)