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Devonport High School for Girls

Head of Department

Miss L Wilkinson, BSc (Hons), PGCE, NPQSL

Statement of Intent

At Devonport High School for Girls, we take a scientific approach to the study of Psychology, with the overall aim of using our psychological knowledge and understanding to have a positive impact on the world around us.  Upon completion of the A Level Psychology course, students will: 

  • understand and be able to explain the influence of the many and varying factors that affect human behaviour as well as being mindful of the complex interaction between these factors; 
  • be able to apply psychological knowledge and understanding to explain real-life situations as well as offering practical strategies and advice based on this knowledge and understanding;
  • be able to analyse both quantitative and qualitative data to draw logical conclusions;
  • be able to critically appraise even the most academic and scientific research; 
  • have developed abstract thinking skills, e.g., the notion of type 1 and 2 errors in statistical testing and the concept of the unconscious mind; 
  • be able to express themselves clearly and concisely using appropriate subject specific terminology; 
  • appreciate the value of psychology in a wide variety of workplace settings and in our personal lives. 

We achieve this by building on: 

  • prior learning from GCSE Science and Mathematics, e.g., synaptic transmission, hypotheses, descriptive statistics and graphs;
  • students’ own experiences, e.g., conforming to fashions, different types of memories and obedience to teachers/parents; 
  • historical events e.g., the holocaust, the London Bombings and the murders of Jeffrey Dahmer;
  • more recent societal changes e.g., the increase in mental health issues, the smoking ban and charging for carrier bags;
  • practical experiences, e.g., designing and carrying out research, acting out procedures and testing ideas on themselves. 

A Level Course Outline

Studying psychology at A level enables students to think scientifically about why people behave and think in the ways they do. It focuses on knowledge and understanding of concepts, theories and research studies from a wide range of topics; from why babies love their parents to what causes serious mental illness.

Higher Education and Career Opportunities

Success in psychology A Level shows that you can master complex subject content and use advanced critical analysis. Course content is relevant to a range of careers: Law, Crime and Policing, Teaching, Medicine and Nursing, Psychology, Psychiatry, Counselling, Management and Marketing. Each year a number of students go on to study for psychology degrees at university.

Course Content

Examination Board


Full details of the specification and assessment criteria can be found on the AQA website

A-level Psychology

A Level

Paper 1

Introductory Topics in Psychology:

Social Influence



Paper 2

Psychology in Context:



Research methods


Paper 3

Issues and Options in Psychology:

Issues and Debates in Psychology




Curriculum Programmes of Study 


Cycle Content

Year 12

Cycle 1

Approaches – the origins of psychology, behaviourism, social learning, the cognitive approach, the biological approach, the psychodynamic approach the humanistic approach and comparison of approaches.  

Research methods – Experimental research, sampling, ethics, observations and self-report techniques, correlational research, case studies and content analysis.  

Psychopathology – Definitions of abnormality and phobias. 

  • Mini-assessment – Research methods. 

  • Main assessment – Approaches.  

Cycle 2

Psychopathology – depression and OCD.  

Research methods – Types of data, mathematical skills, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics, graphical representation of quantitative data, reliability and validity, pilot studies, peer-review, psychology and the economy.  

Social influence – Conformity, obedience, resistance to social influence.   

  • Mini-assessment – Psychopathology 

  • Main assessment – Research methods 

Cycle 3

Social influence – Minority influence and social change.  

Memory – Multi-store model of memory, working memory model, Rulings' explanation of LTM, explanations of forgetting, factors affecting eyewitness testimony, the cognitive interview.  

Attachment – caregiver-infant interactions, stages of attachment, the role of the father, animal studies, explanations of attachment: Bowlby and learning, types of attachment, cultural variations in attachment. 

  • Mini-assessment – social influence 

  • Mock exam – memory, social influence, psychopathology and approaches.

Year 13


Cycle 1

Attachment - maternal deprivation, the effects of institutionalisation, influence of early attachment on later relationships. 

Biopsychology - the nervous and endocrine systems, neurons and synaptic transmission, localisation of function, hemispheric lateralisation, split brain research, plasticity and functional recovery of the brain, ways of studying the brain, circadian rhythms, infradian and ultradian rhythms.  

Cognition and development – Piaget, Vygotsky, Baillargeon, Selman, theory of mind, the mirror neuron system.  

  • Mini-assessment – attachment.  

  • Mini-assessment – cognition and development. 

Cycle 2

Forensic psychology – Offender profiling, atavistic form, genetic and neural explanations,  
Eysenck’s PEN personality, cognitive explanations, differential association theory, psychodynamic explanations, custodial sentencing, behaviour modification, anger management and restorative justice.  

Schizophrenia - Diagnosis and classification, biological explanations, psychological explanations biological treatments psychological treatments, the interactionist approach.  

Issues and debates – culture and gender bias, free-will and determinism, nature-nurture, holism and reductionism, idiographic and nomothetic approaches, ethical implications.  

  • Mini-assessment – Forensic psychology.  

  • Mini-assessment – Schizophrenia.  

  • Mock exam – paper 2 – Research methods, approaches and biopsychology.

Cycle 3


  • Mock paper 3