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Psychology is about what makes people unique and interesting and why they behave as they do. Psychology is a biological science, a cognitive science and a social science, that is, psychologists are interested in the relationship between brain and behaviour, in our mental processes such as thinking and reasoning, and in our social interactions in groups. Applied psychologists use the results of research to help solve human and social problems.

6th Form boysPsychology is the ideal ‘bridging subject’ between Arts and Science subjects. Psychology trains Humanities students to think scientifically and helps Science students learn how to write essays.

Students have enjoyed combining Psychology with subjects as diverse as Music, English Literature, Physics, History and Politics. 

You will learn to design scientific research and analyse quantitative and qualitative data from your own investigations and how to evaluate the research findings of others. You will also write essays, constructing arguments based on psychological evidence and debating complex issues. Students undertaking this option can expect to develop an understanding of how psychological knowledge is generated, developed and applied.

Our IB Psychology course takes a holistic approach, reflected in the syllabus, which looks at how biological, cognitive and sociocultural analysis can be integrated to develop an understanding of what humans share and how they differ.

Course content

Paper 1 (SL and HL)

Biological approach to understanding behaviour

This section investigates how human behaviour may be correlated with biological factors.  We look specifically at: The relationship between the brain and behaviour; hormones and pheromones; the relationship between genetics and behaviour.  HL students also study the role that animal research plays in the understanding of human behaviour.  

Cognitive approach to understanding behaviour 

The cognitive approach views humans as being processors of information and includes research on schema, memory, thinking and how these might influence behaviour.  We also consider how reliable these processes are and how emotion may influence them. HL students go on to consider how technology affects cognitive processes, both positively and negatively.  

Sociocultural approach to understanding behaviour 

Human behaviour is affected by social and cultural factors and this unit focuses on how the individual is influenced by the group and how culture affects behaviour and cognitive processes.  HL students continue this to study the influence of globalisation on individual behaviour.

Paper 2 Options (SL and HL)

Abnormal Psychology

This unit focuses on the diagnosis, explanation and treatment of abnormal behaviour.  A  number of disorders are considered in this topic but we mainly focus on Obsessive Compulsive disorder as we think about causes and treatments.  Classification systems and potential biases within diagnosis and treatment are also considered in this fascinating unit.  

Developmental Psychology (HL only) 

This is the study of how and why people’s behaviour and thinking changes over time.  We look at influences on cognitive and social development, including the roles of poverty, trauma and peers on development.  Developing an identity considers early development in attachment and how empathy may develop, as well as how gender identity may develop. 

Lastly, developing as a learner focuses on early brain development and how cognitive processes may develop.  

Paper 3 (HL only)

Psychology is an evidence based discipline that employs both experimental and non-experimental methods using quantitative and qualitative approaches.  A knowledge of these methods is required for both SL and HL but Paper 3 allows the HL students to delve deeper into the Research processes.

Internal Assessment (SL and HL)

Students work in groups to undertake a research study of their own, replicating a published research study of their choosing.  This allows students to really experience the scientific method used within Psychology and understand the processes of experimentation. 


Paper 1: (SL and HL) 2 hours.

Three short essays, one from each approach, and one long essay from a choice of each of the approaches.

Paper 2: 1 hour for SL, 2 hours for HL

One long essay from a choice of three within each of the option units

Paper 3 (HL only) 1 hour

Short answer questions applied to a stem research question.

Internal Assessment 40 hours of guided and self-guided time to produce an experimental study write up.


What's the difference between A level and IB Psychology? 
We cover much of the same material in both courses but in very different ways.  The A level covers more units of study but the IB covers most of these under different headings.  The assessments are very different. A levels include 3 exams and include multiple choice, short answer questions and longer essays whereas the IB uses short and long essays and there are 2 exams for SL, 3 for HL.  The critical thinking element of IB is more rigorous and gets you to think more critically about the material we learn. The IB has more of an international feel and this is evident in some of the material we look at, especially the Socio-cultural material and some of the Abnormal Psychology material.
How much science and maths is there in Psychology? 
Psychology is a social science and as such uses both experimental and non-experimental techniques. This means some research is very controlled, and this tends to have more maths in it. Other methods like observations or interviews are equally valid but produce more qualitative data and so uses different analysis techniques. You will need to understand these different techniques and what the strengths and weaknesses of them might be.  You will also have to do some statistical analysis in the Internal Assessment but we help you with this.  
What jobs does Psychology lead to? 
Taking Psychology as a degree can lead to all kinds of jobs although if you want to become a Psychologist (Educational, Clinical, Forensic etc) then you will need to do Postgraduate study after a degree in Psychology.
Is it a hard subject and should I take it? 
Psychology is a great choice for the Group 3 option and it can be taken as an SL or HL option. If you are interested in people and how they behave, then you’ll be interested in this course and you’ll enjoy it.  It involves a mixture of scientific method and good writing skills so being able to communicate knowledge clearly in short and long essay form is important - but we’ll help you develop those skills.  It also requires you to think and not just learn knowledge; if you want to simply know ‘what the answer is’ then this might not be the subject for you.  If however, you want to question, consider, weigh up, and ponder the complexities of human behaviour then this is definitely the right course for you.
It is a credible subject? 
There used to be 'facilitating subjects' that some thought were better courses to take than other subjects. Universities now don't talk of facilitating subjects because it depends what you want to go on to study. Psychology is incredibly advantageous in that it is accepted for both arts based and science degrees as a solid, strong and reputable subject; such is its stringency. It can be used as a third science for some medical degrees, allied health professionals such as therapists and midwives and social work. It is obviously accepted for social science degrees but also business degrees etc. It is certainly a subject that is accepted for natural sciences, arts and sciences and liberal arts degrees. Like Biology the maths element gives it credibility and strength that opens so many doors yet universities like it (for non mathematical degrees such as engineering) as it also incorporates the writing skills not found in a pure maths course.  

"The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water."