Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behaviour.  Psychologists use the methods of science to understand how people think and why they act the way they do.  Psychology encompasses a wide variety of topics including the fundamental processes of thinking and feeling, the effects people have on each other’s behaviour and the nature and causes of developmental change in thinking, feeling and action.  Applied psychology uses this knowledge to solve problems in a variety of areas including mental and physical health, criminal behaviour, sports performance and the functioning of organisations.  In our Psychology course at King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Girls we introduce students to a variety of pure and applied psychology topics and educate them in how to think and conduct research as psychologists do.  In doing so we aim to develop our students as critical, scientific thinkers who are intellectually engaged with the world around them and well prepared for further study in any discipline at university level.

Students with a wide range of interests get a great deal from studying psychology. It is all about people and people are fascinating. Studying psychology we explore fundamental questions about the way we experience and make sense of the world around us and how we behave in it. What makes us who we are? Why do we behave in the ways that we do? Studying psychology is interesting and challenging and makes students think about abilities and social behaviour that they take for granted. They develop their oral and written communication skills, their scientific thinking and their powers of critical analysis, in a lively, yet focused, productive and supportive atmosphere.

Psychology at A Level is a science qualification. It combines well with humanities, creative arts, languages, mathematics or the physical sciences. The course provides an introduction to the field for anyone considering a career in applied psychology areas such as sport, criminal behaviour, mental health or education. It is an approved science subject for many medical and dental schools as well as being ideal for those intending to follow higher education courses in business, law, journalism, media, theatre studies and many others. Besides academic study, because it focuses on people and their interactions with each other and their environment, knowledge of psychology is useful in careers as diverse as product design, advertising, management, computing and IT, health care, teaching, policing and the military. Indeed, psychology has applications in nearly every career and the combination of scientific, literacy, critical and analytical skills a psychology student develops can only enhance any C.V. or job application.

Curriculum and Assessment Maps

Psychology Curriculum and Assessment Map – Year 12

Psychology Curriculum and Assessment Map – Year 13


  • Mr AB Sammons (Head of Department)
  • Mrs C L Hubble

Additional Information

What topics your daughter will study.

Foundations in Psychology (Paper 1)

  • Social Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Learning Theories
  • Cognitive Psychology

In Year 12, students study a range of topics that introduce them to the range of ground covered within psychology.  Each is concerned with a different aspect of human behaviour, makes different assumptions and uses different research methods to investigate things.  Social psychology is all about the way people relate to and influence each other.  Students learn about destructive obedience (how people can be induced to hurt others by authority figures) and prejudice (how people form judgements about and discriminate against people different from themselves).  Biological psychology is all about how our thoughts, feelings and actions depend on the biological processes in our brain. Students learn how the brain is structured and how the cells in the brain communicate with each other. From here they learn about how recreational drugs affect the brain, and consider whether it is possible to explain aggressive behaviour in biological terms.  Learning theories explain how the environment in which we develop shapes us into the people we are. Students come to understand fundamental processes of learning and how they can be applied to explain and change people’s behaviour through considering the causes and treatments of phobias. Cognitive psychology is about the processes of thinking. Here, students will focus on the memory system and learn how memory is structured and why we remember and forget things. They will also address the question of whether the memories we have are accurate.

Summer Project (June-July of Y12)

Following the end-of-year examinations, our students undertake an extended research and writing project, leading to a public presentation and an article on a psychological topic of their choice.  This helps them to adjust to the increased demands of Year 13 Level study and gives them a taste of the requirements of university level study. Prizes are awarded to the best presentation and article of the year.

Applications of Psychology (Paper 2)

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Criminological Psychology

In Year 13, students start by learning how the fundamental ideas they learned in Year 12 can be applied to real-world problems.  Clinical psychology is the application of psychology to the assessment, diagnosis, explanation and treatment of atypical behaviour.  Students start by learning how clinical psychologists distinguish between normal and abnormal behaviour, and then study two mental health problems, schizophrenia and depression, in depth. For each of these disorders, students learn how it is diagnosed, why it occurs and how it can be treated.  Criminological psychology is the application of psychology to crime, policing and the criminal justice system.  Students learn about a range of issues including police investigations and the interviewing of witnesses and suspects, the psychological processes that influence criminal trials, the reasons why people commit crimes and the ways that psychologists can assist in reducing offending.

Psychological Skills (Paper 3)

  • Research Methods and Statistics
  • Classic Studies in Psychology
  • Themes, Issues and Debates in Psychology

Throughout the whole course, students learn how psychologists design research, collect and analyse data and draw conclusions about human behaviour. As well as being examined through the Paper 1 and Paper 2 topics, research methods and statistics are examined on Paper 3, where students will be asked to apply their skills and understanding to research studies they have never encountered before. In preparing for this paper, students will revisit key pieces of research (one per topic) that have had a significant influence on psychology. They will also learn about a range of themes, issues and debates that emerge repeatedly throughout the subject, and learn how to use material from all over the course to debate and draw conclusions about them.

What your daughter may do in lessons

We use a wide range of teaching and learning techniques to deliver the subject in a dynamic and engaging manner. In a psychology lesson students might find themselves researching issues on the Internet, planning and carrying out some practical research, solving problems in applied psychology, analysing their own or others’ behaviour, preparing presentations, discussing theories or research or pulling apart a (model) brain to find out what’s inside. Regardless of whether it is an individual, small or large group activity they will always be expected to get involved, try things out and explain or defend their ideas, views and conclusions.

Students will have plenty of work to do outside class. We expect our students to read about and prepare for topics before they encountered them in lessons. This allows us to focus more directly on the things that are most interesting or difficult and to spend our time working on skills and understanding that need a teacher’s direct input.  Students will also spend time in and outside class designing their own psychological studies (one per topic), collecting and analysing data, and drawing conclusions and writing up their research.

Students are encouraged to develop independent study skills, to use texts, journal articles and the Internet in order to broaden their awareness of contemporary and controversial issues in research and the current applications of psychology.

How your daughter’s progress will be assessed.

Internal Assessment
Students’ progress in Psychology is assessed regularly through preparation and home learning activitie.  Students complete regular formal assessments (under exam conditions). These follow the exam format and are intended to help students develop good study habits and exam skills.  Students are given detailed feedback on their assignments and assessments and are expected to show that they are using this feedback to make progress in their learning.

External Assessment
Assessment format: three written papers taken in May-June of Year 13.  There is no Non-Exam Assessment (NEA) in psychology. However, students must complete six practical investigations, one on each topic.  They may be asked questions about these practical investigations in the written examinations.

  • Foundations in Psychology (Paper 1): 2 hour written paper consisting of a mixture short and extended response questions.
  • Applications of Psychology (Paper 2): 2 hour written paper consisting of a mixture of short and extended response questions.
  • Psychological Skills (Paper 3): 2 hour written paper consisting of a mixture of short and extended response questions.

Papers 1 and 2 each contribute 35% of the marks for the A Level, with Paper 3 contributing the remaining 30%.

How can parents help?

How can parents and carers help?

Psychology students start to flourish when they develop the habit of using what they learn through their studies to understand the world around them.  You can help by encouraging students to develop the range of their psychological interests beyond the curriculum and pursue topics and ideas of personal importance to themselves.  Doing this can be as simple as asking them about what they have been learning, or being prepared to offer your own experiences and insights to a conversation about a recent topic.  Those psychology students who achieve the most are frequently those who have extended their knowledge of the field through their own research and reading.  Encouraging them to subscribe to a relevant magazine, join the British Psychological Society as a student member, attend university masterclasses on psychological topics, watch or listen to documentaries on TV or radio or simply to borrow and read psychological books from the library can only help.

Parents and carers can also play a crucial role in helping students to develop the beliefs and study habits that support achievement in Psychology.  This would include:

  • Stressing that achievement in any subject is the result of sustained effort, not innate ability.
  • Discouraging students from comparing themselves with others and focusing them on whether they are making progress against their previous performance.
  • Encouraging them to follow the advice given in feedback on their written work.
  • Prompting them to prepare sufficiently for assessments and exams by spacing their learning out – not cramming at the last minute.
  • Encouraging the use of active learning techniques involving lots of self-testing.
  • Prompting them to practise important skills like essay writing under timed conditions.

Useful links

If you are interested in finding out more about psychology the following web links may be of interest:

The Research Digest of the British Psychological Society – All the latest Psychology news.

Very Well Psychology  – Lots of interesting articles.

The Open University –  Information on careers in Psychology (Open University).


If you have any further questions about how we teach psychology at King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Girls, please contact the Head of Department: