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Psychology A level at Esher College

Course description

Psychology is the study of human behaviour and mental processes from a scientific viewpoint. This is a broad-based course; you will learn a wide range of theories that have been put forward to explain various aspects of human behaviour, and you will consider the research evidence underpinning them. 

Psychology is considered a science and the scientific nature of the discipline is emphasised throughout, as you will examine biological explanations of behaviour and develop an understanding of the use of the scientific method in Psychology.

Course content

In the first year you will study five key topics in Psychology:

  • Developmental Psychology - early infant development and attachment.
  • Cognitive Psychology - the nature of memory i.e. how information is processed and stored in the brain.
  • Abnormal Psychology - the nature of mental illness, including explanations and therapies.
  • Social Psychology - how people influence the behaviour of others: conformity and obedience.
  • Approaches in Psychology – including the learning, cognitive and biological approaches to behaviour.

You will also study Research Methods (including statistical techniques of analysis). This is integrated into each of the topics listed above, as we examine the methods used by various psychologists to investigate human behaviour.

In the second year you will explore a range of topics that aim to build on material taught in the first year. For example, you will look at other approaches in Psychology, such as the psychodynamic and humanistic approach. You will also develop your understanding of biopsychology, studying localisation of function in the brain, methods of studying the brain (e.g. EEGs and ERPs) and biological rhythms.

You will also examine the various explanations put forward to explain gender development, as well as studying the topic of stress, where you will gain an understanding of the various sources of stress and the impact that it can have on the body over time.

Furthermore, you will research various issues and debates in Psychology, for example, discussing the extent to which Psychology can be considered a science, and the role of nature and nurture in influencing human behaviour. In addition, you will study research methods in greater depth and learn more complex statistical techniques of analysis.

Entry requirements

Psychology is not usually available at GCSE, but the GCSE subjects that are closest to the ways in which you will need to work are Additional Science or Biology (where there are technical terms and theories to learn) and History (where there is an emphasis on essay writing). You need to enjoy getting to grips with ideas and issues through reading, and you need to be good at organising ideas on paper in extended writing. You also need to be comfortable with scientific and mathematical approaches. The course develops your skills in analysis, evaluation, research and the analysis of data.

The minimum entry requirement for study at Esher College is 5 GCSEs at A* - C (or 9 – 4 in Maths and English).  We encourage students to aim significantly higher than this to ensure that study programmes are successfully completed.

In addition to the general entry criteria that the College requires, you will also need to achieve at least a Grade 4 in GCSE English Language and GCSE Mathematics and a grade C in GCSE Science.


The course is assessed by three written examinations at the end of the two-year course. Questions vary in style from multiple-choice to short answer questions and those requiring extended writing in the form of full essay responses. Some questions require the application of knowledge to novel scenarios.

Future opportunities

To study Psychology at most universities, you would need to have a substantial scientific component within your A Level programme. This need not be A Level Psychology itself, though in many cases A Level Psychology would in fact provide enough science within your A Level programme to meet this criterion. It would also indicate a commitment to the subject, provide a sound foundation for university work and enable you to get to grips with what is involved in the scientific study of the subject. However the more science-orientated degrees in Psychology at some of the 'top' universities would require a more strongly science-orientated programme at A Level, including another science (for example Biology) and/or Mathematics.

Psychology can be studied as a single or joint honours degree. To work as a professional, accredited psychologist you will need a higher degree (MSc). Professional psychologists work in a range of fields, including forensic psychology, health psychology, counselling psychology and educational psychology. However A Level Psychology is not just for those thinking of taking a Psychology degree and going on to work as psychologists. Any career that involves dealing with people will be enhanced by studying Psychology at A Level. This includes teaching, the police, nursing, social work and work in human resources.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Esher College directly.

Last updated date: 12 October 2016
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