A level Psychology

Psychology A level has experienced a surge in student demand in recent years and has become a popular choice for Ashbourne students who continue to achieve excellent results in this subject.

Psychology explores how the mind works and attempts to explain how and why people behave as they do. Memory, stress, depression, phobias, schizophrenia, prejudice and obedience to authority are just some of the areas discussed in the course.

Students will draw from a variety of resources including the Psychology Review journal, video clips of classic psychology experiments, online classroom software and extensive presentations dealing with all the assessment objectives.

Students will need to be rigorous in their research, methodology and evaluation when presenting their ideas and will need to examine issues from a number of different approaches including behavioural, cognitive and biological. A sound grasp of Maths and Biology is an advantage but students will receive plenty of help and guidance throughout.

Why study Psychology?

Whilst we would love to tell students that studying Psychology will confer upon them the ability to read people’s minds (it doesn’t) or that it will make students more attractive to the opposite sex (it won’t do that either), there are still many reasons for studying this increasingly popular A level.

Learning how memory works and how to improve it, what causes stress and how to combat it are just two invaluable research areas that could help you get through your A levels more smoothly. You will also gain a fascinating insight into the causes of mental illness and methods for helping people cope, as well as exploring the reasons why some people do what they are told even when it goes against their moral beliefs.

Studying Psychology will help you to begin to understand your own thoughts and emotions and be able to empathise more with others by better understanding the context of their behaviour.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows AQA specification for Psychology AS and A level

What is covered in the course?

Psychology is the scientific study of mind and behaviour. It combines biological, cognitive and behavioural approaches to understand human behaviour.

AS and A level students will be introduced to a range of Psychology topics and will examine how psychologists carry out research, develop theories and implement therapies and treatment.

A level students will also look at current issues and debates in Psychology as well as exploring a selection of optional topics such as relationships, eating behaviour and addiction.

IntroductionPsychology in contextIssues and debates

This is your introduction to some of the major themes studied in Psychology: social influence, memory, attachment and psychopathology.

You will explore many aspects of these themes including why most people stick with the group, rather than stand out; why the mind fills gaps in your memory making you a poor witness; what causes children to cling to their parents when they try to leave; and what leads people to deviate from social norms to develop phobias, depression and obsessions.

You will also evaluate the research methods used by psychologists to investigate these issues.

Psychologists carry out research, measure data and develop theories which they then use to implement therapies and treatments. Students will explore the work different psychologists, analyse their approaches and evaluate how appropriate and effective their therapies and treatments are.

The three main approaches are behavioural, cognitive and biological.

The behavioural approach includes research by Pavlov, Skinner and Bandura and touches on conditioning, reinforcement, social learning and mediation.

The cognitive approach looks at mental processes and uses theoretical and computer models to predict behaviour. Students will also explore the growing area of cognitive neuroscience.

The biological approach explores the influence of genes, biological structures and neurochemistry on behaviour.

Students will also carry out their own scientific research, evaluate the results and, if appropriate, make suggestions for treatment. They will also consider ethical issues.

A level students will consider current issues and debates in psychology in greater detail as well as exploring three optional fields from the lists below (one topic per list):

Option 1
Cognition and development

Option 2
Eating behaviour

Option 3
Forensic psychology

Who teaches this course?

Sarah Thompson

BA Human Sciences (Oxford); MSc Neuroscience (UCL)

Sarah joined Ashbourne in September 2014. She has an enthusiastic approach to teaching which is reflected in how much her students enjoy the course and their level of success.

Sarah is also an accomplished player of a variety of traditional Celtic musical instruments.

Emily Browne

BSc Psychology; PGCE Biology (King’s College, London)

Emily joined Ashbourne in 2017 to teach Psychology and Biology after completing her PGCE and attaining a first class degree in Psychology. She is particularly interested in biopsychology and its influence on psychopathology.

Beyond A level Psychology

A level Psychology is unique in that it works with almost all other A levels. It is also an invaluable foundation for anyone planning to study a wide range of degree courses including Medicine, Biology, Nursing, Advertising, Psychotherapy, Educational Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Social work and Forensic Science.

Suggested reading and resources

BooksOrganisationsBroadcast and online
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, Scott O. Lilienfeld et. al
A myth busting book that distinguishes fact from fiction and takes a looks at key areas of modern psychology including brain functioning, perception, development, memory, emotion, intelligence, learning, personality, mental illness, and psychotherapy.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Kahneman (and Amos Tversky)’s groundbreaking, and Nobel Prize winning, research into human behaviour finally debunked the long-held theory that people are purely ‘rational thinkers’. Their experiments demonstrate how systematic (and unconscious) biases influence the way people think and make decisions.

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
In this classic and influential book psychiatrist Viktor Frankl draws from his own and others’ experiences of Auschwitz to describe how people cope with suffering and concludes that people seek meaning and purpose to survive.

More popular psychology books

All in the mind
Psychologist Claudia Hammond presents this BBC radio series exploring new ideas in how we think and behave.

The Human Zoo
BBC radio series examines the quirky way we think, behave and make decisions.

What makes us tick?
Psychology talks on TED by psychologists, journalists, doctors and patients.

The Brain: A Secret History
Watch clips from this BBC series tracing the history of attempts to understand and manipulate the brain.

More popular psychology documentaries from the BBC


AS levelA level

Title – AQA Psychology A AS: Student’s Book
Author – Wilson et. al
Weblink – AQA Psychology AS

Title – AQA Psychology A A2: Student’s Book
Author – Bailey et. al
Weblink – AQA Psychology A2

Scheme of work

Why Choose Ashbourne College?
Ashbourne has broadened my academic and personal horizons beyond any expectation I may have had when I first arrived here. I think a good school gets you where you want to go, but an outstanding school takes you to a place beyond what you would ever have envisaged for yourself, and therefore I can only describe Ashbourne as an outstanding and incredible place to study. As planned, having finished my A levels, I am now entering into my gap year in order to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. I intend to gain work experience in the business sector im entering into, in hope to build a strong foundation of authentic understanding and knowledge of the industry, on which I hope to build a successful business in the near future
NicolaGap year
Our grandson was very ready to make a huge step from recluse, out­ of ­step with his age group, not knowing what to do with himself or how to relate to others, many of whom he found terrifying. He found travelling on the tube terrifying and trusted few people. Ashbourne has never pushed him too hard but has always encouraged every step he has taken towards what was sometimes a big risk for him. He has learned to respect himself as a learner, to be realistic about his strengths and what he finds difficult, and is learning what to do about the things he finds difficult. He is becoming sociable, well­ informed good company, smiles 100% more than he did and travels to and from Ashbourne by tube without a qualm. He is punctual (or sends a message if held up). He is learning to trust the many good people he now recognises as on his side. He is very aware of how much Ashbourne has contributed to these huge changes and is looking forward to trying out University in September, becoming a student, knowing lots of other people will arrive by different routes. A real success story/work in progress. Thank you Ashbourne
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Dennis FulcherHead of Multi-Media and Social Science Faculty