Wondering how to revise for A level psychology? The good news is we've got you covered with a complete step-by-step study guide and the best way how to get an A* for psychology A level.
How to Get an A* in A-Level Psychology
To start revision for your exams and get an A* grade, we first need to understand all the topics your exam papers will consist of. To do this, you will want to get the exam specification.
Every exam board will release a course specification that tells you what topics the questions will be asked on within the exam itself. Our strategy is then to break down the specification and identify the variety of questions within these topics that could then come up and prepare for them thoroughly.
Our revision tips and advice will focus on the AQA exam board as this tends to be the most popular, however, the revision tips are effectively the same across all the exam boards.
You can download the specifications below dependent on your relevant exam board:
- For AQA psychology, you can download the specification here.
- For Edexcel, the course specification is here.
- OCR has its subject specification here.
- And WJEC has theirs here.
Once you've downloaded the specification, give this a read. This is your road map and gives you a summary of what you will be building your revision timetable around. All of your psychology revision notes will also be based on this.
What you will find is this specification gives you an explanation of everything you need to know across your different exam papers.
You will sit either 2 exam papers if you are doing only AS psychology, or 3 exam papers if you are doing the full A level in which case, you would be expected to sit all 3 exams at the end of your two years of study.
It is also important to understand what the grade boundaries for a-level psychology are likely to be. This gives you a good idea of what you need to be scoring across all your exam papers to achieve an A* grade.
Is a-level psychology revision hard?
Previously the exams used to be modular which actually gave you more flexibility to learn the content with more opportunities for students that were struggling to sit retakes. Unfortunately, this isn't the case anymore as the exams have become linear meaning when you are doing A levels, you have to study all the content and then sit the exams usually at the end.
This means you need to ensure you score a good A-level grade the first time and need to commit to starting your revision as soon as possible.
The truth is AQA a level psychology revision is hard and many students make the mistake of preparing far too late which can result in them feeling overwhelmed because there is so much content to learn.
There are also a huge number of essay exam questions and theories to learn and if you're not prepared with model essay answers, this can also make AQA A-level psychology a difficult subject.
There are also questions on key research and statistics which will require you to reread a number of times to cement the information into your memory.
So to answer the question students often ask: is psychology a soft A level?
The answer is no, it isn't, but there's a huge amount to learn and remember which is where the challenge is.
What topics do you need to learn for A level psychology?
Dependent on whether you are doing AS or A-level, the exams you'll sit will vary so it's important to note which topics you need to focus your psychology revision on.
For AS psychology you will need to learn the following topics for paper one:
- Social influence
For AS psychology and paper two, you need to know the following topics:
- Approaches in Psychology
- Research methods
If you are studying A-level, you will need to analyse and learn the topics above but usually in more depth. I would say it's important to learn these as early as possible because a-levels that are heavily content-based like psychology, require a lot of hard work and for you to organise and practice well in advance. You will also have additional topics on which you will need to answer questions (see below):
For A-level psychology, you will need to learn the following for paper one:
For paper two, a-level students will need to learn the following:
For paper three, your A-level revision must cover:
- Issues and debates in psychology
- One topic from Relationships, Gender or Cognition and development
- One topic from Schizophrenia, Eating Behaviour or Stress
- One topic from Aggression, Forensic Psychology or Addiction
Understand what you need to revise for your AQA exam
Let's pick the social influence chapter to break down further from the spec above. The course specification tells us that we need to learn the following sub-topics for social influence:
We can see in the image above all the further sub-topics we need to learn for social influence.
The first topic is on the types of conformity and this then breaks down to explain how we need to learn about internalisation, identification and compliance.
The next line tells us that we also need to be confident in our knowledge for explanations of conformity e.g. informational social influence, normative social influence as well as variables affecting conformity including group size, unanimity and task difficulty (as investigated by Asch).
This is basically how you create a study plan or revision timetable of all the topics you need to practise revising and their individual chapters that need covering.
To do this we need to now get ourselves a good revision guide or textbook that explains this all in detail.
- Thankfully we have you covered as we've covered everything you need to know for your psychology a-level revision for free.
- You can also download our revision guides (coming soon) for each chapter which cover everything you need to know. They also have potential questions that can come up too and are the most comprehensive guide available and use A* grade content which has been tried and tested by countless students and reviewed by teachers.
Download past papers to practice exam questions
Another good technique is to practice past paper questions. Past exam questions are a great way to get into the habit of improving your technique and getting into the habit of writing in a way that the examiner is looking for when marking your answers.
To do this, what you want to on your first day of revision is download all the past papers and the mark schemes and compile them into workbooks and then do the practice questions over and over using a pencil and comparing your answers to the mark scheme.
If you keep doing this over time, rubbing out your answers after each attempt once you've compared to the mark scheme and examiners comments, you will find you will adapt your responses into the correct way of answering the questions.
This is a great way of improving your exam technique and get into the habit of writing in the way the examiners are looking for.
Create a revision timetable
Since a lot of time needs to be dedicated to learning the course content, it makes sense to create a revision timetable to plan out how you will learn all the key information.
You need to think about your other subjects too and one way a revision time-table helps is by ensuring you dedicate in enough time to each subject and the relevant topics within it.
We've included a revision timetable on the back of all our workbooks which can be printed to help you with focusing and planning your learning.
Practice your essay writing under timed conditions
To score full marks, you need to work at improving your essay writing ability and know the key studies while writing at speed under timed conditions. The focus is on quality over quantity, so every point needs to be concise because you won't have much time to waffle. It is therefore vital that if you want to score a lot of marks, you practice your essay writing over and over until you can complete them within strict time frames.
A good technique is to use a stopwatch and see how long it takes you to complete your essays. You want to keep practicing these until you can write essays that are likely to score the full marks within a set amount of time of 10-15 minutes.
Create a mind map of everything you need to learn
Mind Maps can help you visualise everything that's swirling around in your head and offer a good alternative rather than listing everything. Using a mind map, you can capture everything you need to learn in a way that is more visually easier to understand and recall using colours to code topics based on priority and relevance.
A large number of people struggle to recall lists however remembering visual images are easier and thats where mind maps can be really useful.
Using single key words can be a great way to memorise huge chunks of information and filter out things you don't need to recall. There are countless Youtube videos on how mind mapping works if you are curious to learn more about this.
Use flashcards to learn all the psychological concepts
Flashcards are a great way of condensing and memorising information. The idea is if you can summarise large amounts of information about topics onto flashcards in a concise way, you should be able to recall the additional details that go with the topic too.
A good strategy is to use a combination of chunking and acronyms. By breaking down a huge essay and arranging it in a way so the first letter of each paragraph spells a word, this can help you recall the entire essay by simply remembering the word.
For example, if you wanted to memorise an entire essay on the working memory model and its strengths and weaknesses, the essay should be formed in a way where each paragraphs first letter is organised in a way that when joined up would spell a word such as PUG-BUG (for example). By remembering this simple word and what each of the first letter stands for at the beginning of your essays paragraph, it should help trigger your memory for all the other information that is related within the essay itself.
This should hopefully get you started - if you have any questions or comments, you can ask this on our subject page and we will be happy to help!