St John Plessington Catholic College

About the course:

This subject is offered as an A Level course. Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour and mental processes and how they are affected and/or affect individuals’ or groups’ physical state, mental state and external environment. Its goal is to describe,  understand, predict and modify behaviour. The course allows students to study theories, research, terminology, concepts, studies and methods as well as to develop skills of analysis, interpretation and evaluation. Students will develop an understanding of different areas of Psychology, including Cognitive, Social, Developmental and Physiological Psychology, Individual Differences and Research  Methods. They will also explore ethical issues in Psychology, including the implications of research. It is expected that students will  have gained at least a C grade in GCSE English to take this course.


There are two units of study for both AS and A2 Levels.


Unit 1: 1½ hour exam
Cognitive Psychology, Development Psychology, Research Methods

  • Cognitive processes of memory eg: memory storage
  • Developmental Psychology (which attempts to explain behaviour in terms of the ways in which people change as they age)
  • Research methods - their advantages and limitations and how they relate to the scientific nature of Psychology and the nature and usage of ethical guidelines in Psychology

Unit 2: 1½ hour exam
Individual Differences, Physiological Psychology, Social Psychology

  • Abnormality eg: Schizophrenia. Students evaluate the different models, causes and treatments for mental disorders
  • Experiences and behaviour with reference to biological systems eg: stress
  • Reasons why people conform and obey in society and how social conditions affect the individual. This part of the course also looks at the ethics of experimenting on people


Unit 3: 1 ½ hour exam
A choice of three of the following topics will be covered:
Biological Rhythms and Sleep, Relationships, Aggression, Eating behaviour Gender

  • Circadian, infradian and ultradian rhythms, the consequences of disrupting rhythms, the nature of sleep and explanations for various sleep disorders including insomnia
  • Formation, maintenance and breakdown of romantic relationships, human reproductive behaviour and the effect of early experiences on adult relationships
  • Biological and physical processes that affect and are behind aggressive behaviour and the effectiveness of biological explanations
  • Biological explanations of eating behaviour, factors influencing attitudes to food, explanations for the failure/success of dieting and the
  • psychological explanations of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa
  • Role of hormones and genes in gender development, evolutionary explanations of gender roles, cross cultural studies on gender roles and the psychological explanations of gender development

Unit 4: Psychopathology, Psychology in action and research methods

  • Students will study Psychopathology and will write an essay style question on either Schizophrenia, Depression or Anxiety Disorders (Phobias or OCD)
  • The Psychology of addictive behaviour including models of addiction, vulnerability to addiction and reducing addictive behaviour
  • The application of scientific methodology in Psychology including design, data analysis and reporting of investigations. Evaluation of different debates in the field of Psychology eg: Reductionism, Psychology as science, nature-nurture

Progression Routes:

The subject combines well with English, Biology, Maths, Sociology, Religious Studies and History. A degree in Psychology offers graduates a wide choice of future employment opportunities such as teaching, clinical/occupational/developmental/forensic/ sports psychologist roles as well as providing valuable transferable skills that can apply to a wide range of occupations.

Student quotes

“A fresh and interesting subject that allows you to understand more about yourself and the behaviour of others”. 

“The subject is interesting and the lessons are enjoyable”

“I think Psychology lessons are exciting and fun.  The staff are dedicated and determined”. 

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