Although certain schools offer Psychology as a GCSE subject, a majority do not, meaning that when it comes to choosing A Levels, Psychology is an entirely new subject for most. This does not prevent it from being an extremely popular A Level; in fact last year 97,095 students chose Psychology at A Level.
Is A Level Psychology Really Nothing but Positive?
Are you considering taking A level Psychology yourself but are worrying that it’s somewhat of a leap of faith. After all you don’t know what the lessons and exams will be like, or whether or not you might be any good at the subject at this stage. So to help you out I will give you a run through of what you can expect from A Level Psychology.
This way you can enter the A Level less anxious and more excited about this entirely new subject.
8 Interesting Facts About Taking Psychology at A Level
1. You'll acquire revision tools
You may well pick up some handy revision tactics. If you study Psychology with AQA you will complete an entire module on memory, which will not only be very interesting but will teach you practical skills to help you excel in exams.
2. You'll learn research techniques
You’ll learn all about research techniques and how to conduct and evaluate an experiment. It’s certainly not as simple as you might have thought but a lot more interesting. You will even get the opportunity to conduct your own experiments.
3. You'll learn self appreciation
You will learn a lot about yourself, the world and your friends and family. Psychology is one of those great subjects that really does change the way you view your everyday life and the world around you. Because Psychology asks a lot of questions, it will prompt you to think critically about human behaviour, what we accept as natural and why people think in certain ways. It’s truly fascinating.
4. You'll become a critical thinker
Be prepared to do some critical thinking. You will have to pick apart case studies, experiments and surveys to discover biases, problems and inconsistencies. Psychology will encourage you to hypothesise, be self-critical and to deconstruct even the most convincing studies.
5. You'll learn basic science
You’ll have to learn some basic Biology. This will not be extremely complicated stuff so if traditional sciences aren’t your forte doesn’t let this put you off. It will be interesting, specific biology relevant to the Psychology topics. Psychology is enjoyable to students with a background in both science subjects and humanities.
6. You'll study ethics
You’ll learn all about ethics. In Psychology, ethics aren’t as simple as being told what is and isn’t right. Instead you will discuss where to draw the line between ethical and non-ethical and whether certain unethical experiments have been for the greater good of society. There are also a variety of ethical issues to be considered that are not just limited to physical pain and emotional stress.
7. You'll challenge yourself
Expect complicated questions rather than easy answers. Unlike traditional sciences, psychology doesn’t claim to know everything. Instead, it explores daring, difficult and often socially sensitive questions, always taking in to account alternative perspectives.
8. You'll have to write... a lot
A fair amount of writing and a number of essays at A2 level. So if articulating yourself and writing long pieces isn’t your forte then perhaps talk to a teacher to figure out whether you’ll be able to pick it up. However, if you’re eager to boost your writing skills, Psychology allows you to develop your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly, under time constraints.
Beyond Your Psychology A Level
So, you're thinking of a Psychology A Level... what comes next?
Taking a Psychology Degree / Masters
Did you know that you can continue to study Psychology, or elements of it by choosing related topics to specialise in at university? Many universities offer degree level courses as well as Masters, so if you know you want a career in Psychology then these are certainly great options for you.
"Psychology is one of the most popular subjects to study at degree level. Many degree courses are accredited and follow the professional body guidelines, set out by the British Psychological Society. This is important if you want to pursue a career as a practicing psychologist with chartered status. Courses can focus on scientific research and/or applied psychology. Many course providers will therefore offer research facilities for studying perception, developmental psychology, cognition, and behavioural neuroscience, as well as for the applied side, such as studying neurorehabilitation, education, and health.
Universities and colleges in the UK offer a wide range of courses, including in specialist areas such as:
- Applied psychology
- Child psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Educational psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Social psychology
- Sport psychology
Considering Psychology Careers
According to UCAS.com, there are many clear paths for those with a solid Psychology background. For instance, a Psychology graduate might become a:
- Clinical psychologist
- Counselling psychologist
- Educational psychologist
- Forensic psychologist
- Further education teacher
- Health psychologist
- High-intensity therapist
- Occupational psychologist
Do any of those interest you? If so, this might be some great motivation for signing up for the A Level and doing the best you can!
If you aren't sure what all of these roles will actually look like for you, then go and visit Prospects for students which offers some great information about courses and possible career paths.
For example, the website clarifies that a forensic scientist will do the following, taken from a typical job profile:
- "carry out one-to-one assessments, often to assess the risk of re-offending (e.g. for lifers being released into the community or sex offenders after a treatment programme), suicide, self-harm or other high-risk behaviour
- develop, implement and review appropriate offender treatment and rehabilitation programmes, including anger management, treatment for drug and alcohol addiction and social and cognitive skills training
- undertake research projects to evaluate situations affecting prisoners, e.g. investigating the impact of bullying in prisons or effectiveness of an anger management programme
- undertake statistical analysis for forensic offender profiling
- deliver training to support forensic staff in areas such as stress management, or training on how to cope with understanding bullying and techniques for crisis (hostage) negotiation
- provide expert witness testimony at court, for parole boards and mental health tribunals
- contribute to policy and strategy development to ensure continuous service improvement."
So, Why Pick Psychology as One of Your A Level Subjects?
If you’re worrying about the challenges of a new subject, do not fear. Psychology is a great subject that is popular for a reason.
Aside from the academic advantages of studying towards a Psychology qualification, there are many personal benefits to the subject too, like the way it:
- improves communication skills
- enables you to cope better with stress
- it alters your behaviours (in a good way)
- it helps you to empathise and understand others
- it gives you a better memory
- it allows you to help others
What could be better than improving your own self in the above way, while also giving to others?
However, if you are still a little jittery then perhaps read a few articles on Psychology or read some psychological fiction over the summer. It will not only get your psychological brain going but will hopefully get you excited about this new, inspiring subject.