Subject Lead for Psychology: Ms Riona Sparks

Psychology by Ms Riona Sparks

Did you know there is a theory which states that we put more effort in when we know others are watching us? This phenomenon is known as social facilitation. For example, if you are running a race in front of a crowd you are more likely to try and run faster because you know others are watching. This theory is believed to be universal, meaning it can be applied to all humans. Interestingly, this theory even applies to cockroaches, when they know they are being watched they perform better! This is one of the countless things I learnt whilst studying Psychology at university. Psychology is a fascinating subject and can be applied to everything. This is because the subject scientifically investigates the way we think, feel and act. Once I began studying Psychology, I was intrigued by all the approaches, theories, and explanations of human behaviour. I was inspired by my lecturers to pursue teaching Psychology and it is a privilege to teach the subject that I am so passionate about. A quote that I think nicely summarises the intentions of the subject is:

"Don't become a mere recorder of facts but try to penetrate the mystery of their origin." - Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936).

Why Study Psychology?

Psychology, the study of human experience, is an exciting and popular option for any student interested in why people behave the way they do. This course has been designed to help students see the implications of psychology for everyday life and to reflect on their own behaviour and experiences. Any student thinking about working with people or entering the “caring professions” will find that embarking on A level Psychology is both an interesting and appropriate start to their journey.

Course Description

In Year 12 the course first looks at classic and contemporary Core Studies, which illustrate the scope of psychology and the range of methods used to gather evidence. In Year 13 it focuses on a choice of two options from applied psychology: child psychology, criminal psychology, environmental psychology and sports and exercise psychology as well as research into mental health. The course covers a wide variety of areas of interest such as the diagnosis of mental illness, features of autism, moral development, eyewitness testimony, the effect of imprisonment and the plasticity of the brain.

As in any A level subject, students are expected to take responsibility for their learning and become increasingly independent. Much time in class is spent in discussion and preparing for the demands of the exam rather than following a textbook, which students will read on their own. Psychological terminology is important, and students will have many new terms to learn which they will become confident with over time.

Students will attend at least two conferences over the course of the two years and will also benefit from lectures by outside speakers as well as a visit to the Psychology Department at the University of Kent at the end of Year 12. They will also have opportunities to carry out their own research, using experimental, correlational, self-report and observational designs as well as participate in some if they wish. Assessment is exam based, three papers with no coursework, although students will be asked to refer to their own research in the exam.

Beyond A level

Studying Psychology is very stimulating, and many students go on to study this subject at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Psychology is a popular subject on its own but can also be combined with criminology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy, to name but a few options. Psychologists are currently working in such diverse fields as education, human resources, the NHS, the prison service, the police force, marketing, counselling, advertising, and social work. The British Psychological Society website has plenty of information about careers related to Psychology.

Entry Requirements

Although Psychology is classified as a science, students who take up this course always come from a wide range of different disciplines and anyone is welcome if they have an interest in human behaviour and at least a grade 6 in English Language at GCSE. At least a Grade 6 in Mathematics at GCSE is also strongly recommended as there is a statistics component and 25% of the marks awarded are on mathematical ability. Students should be able to express themselves fluently in writing and be willing to engage in both critical and creative thinking.

Technical Details
Exam Board OCR
Qualification Type A Level
Course Title Psychology
Specification Code H567
  Number Duration Weighting of total A Level
External Exams (end of Year 13) Paper 1 2hr 30%
Paper 2 2hr 35%
Paper 3 2hr 35%