The WJEC A level GCE in Psychology provides a basis for the study of Psychology and has been designed to provide a suitable foundation for the study of Psychology or a related area of study at further or higher education and/or preparation for future employment. Examples of related areas of study in further or higher education can include degrees e.g. in Psychology, education, teaching and or diplomas/certificates in health, care, counselling, and sports studies.

All assessment units require the candidate to exhibit essential skills developed through Psychology, i.e. the ability to identify, understand and evaluate key critical concepts and issues from psychological theory and methodology.


This specification is divided into a total of four units, 2 AS units and 2 A level units.

AS (2 units)

PY 1 40% (Within AS) 1 hour 15 minutes Written Paper 60 marks (80 UMS)

Approaches in Psychology

Candidates answer five compulsory questions based on four approaches in Psychology.

PY 2 60% (within AS) 1 hour 45 minutes Written Paper 90 marks (120 UMS)

Psychology: Core Studies and Applied Research Methods

Section A and Section B questions are based on the Core Studies and candidates answer three compulsory questions in each section. Section C is based on Research Methods and candidates answer one question from a choice of two.

ADVANCED (A further 2 units)

PSY 3 40% (Within A2) 1 hour 30 minutes Written Paper 80 marks (80 UMS)

Psychology: Research Methods and Issues in Research

This unit assesses the candidate’s knowledge, understanding and evaluation of research methods, data analysis and issues in research. This includes the consideration of scientific and ethical issues in the design and implementation of an investigation.

PSY 4 60% (within A2) 2 hours 30 minutes Written Paper 100 marks (120 UMS)

Psychology: Controversies, Topics and Applications

Unit 4 tests the student’s ability to describe and evaluate a range of controversies, topics and applications in Psychology.


Four major psychological approaches form the basis of this Unit:

The Biological (Physiological/Medical) approach, the Psychodynamic approach, the Behaviourist approach, and the Cognitive approach.

For each of these approaches it will be necessary to focus upon:

  • the main assumptions of each approach
  • how each approach can be applied to one theory;
  • how each approach can be applied in one form of therapy;
  • the strengths and weaknesses of each approach;
  • the four approaches in terms of similarities and/or differences (compare and contrast);
  • an explanation and evaluation of the methodology of each approach.

Students will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how each approach has been applied to a theory and a therapy. Students should also be able to assess critically each approach in terms of its strengths and weaknesses and in terms of similarities and/or differences with other approaches. In addition, it will be necessary to explain and evaluate the methodology of each approach.

The theories and therapies relevant to each approach are set out in the table below:




Selye's General Adaptation


Psychosurgery or

Social Learning Theory of


Aversion Therapy or
Systematic Desensitisation

Freud's theory of personality


Dream analysis or free association

Attribution theory


Cognitive Behavioural
Therapy or Rational
emotive therapy



The core theme for this unit is psychological research. It is designed to encourage students to explore the nature and practice of psychological enquiry. The unit comprises two parts: the Core Studies and Applied Research Methods.

Core Studies

The ten Core Studies cover research drawn from the main areas of Psychology. The focus for the Core Studies is for students to be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of psychological research, reflecting the diversity of psychological enquiry.

Students will also be expected to be able to assess critically each of the Core Studies in terms of its methodology and in terms of complementary/alternative research findings.

The following table illustrates how the Core Studies cover the main areas of Psychology: Social, Physiological, Cognitive, Developmental Psychology and Individual Differences.  

For each Core Study, students should be able to describe:

  • Aims and Context
  • Procedures
  • Findings and conclusions
  • For each core study, candidates must be able to evaluate:
  • The methodology used in the core study
  • The findings/conclusions in comparison with complementary/alternative research findings

Applied Research Methods

The focus of this section is for students to apply their knowledge of research methods to a novel situation.

Students should be able to:

  • Define and offer advantages and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative research methods including laboratory experiments, field experiments, natural experiments, correlations, observations, questionnaires, interviews and case studies.
  • Issues of reliability and ways of ensuring reliability (split-half, test-retest, interrater).
  • Issues of validity (experimental and ecological) and ways of ensuring validity (content, concurrent, construct).
  • Ethical issues relating to research including a lack of informed consent, the use of deception, a lack of the right to withdraw from the investigation, a lack of confidentiality, a failure to protect participants from physical and psychological harm.
  • Define and offer advantages and disadvantages of different sampling methods including opportunity, quota, random, self-selected (volunteer), stratified and systematic.
  • Define and offer advantages and disadvantages, and draw conclusions from the following ways of describing data, including:
    • Development of a coding system - Mean - Scatter graphs
    • Content analysis - Median - Bar charts
    • Categorisation - Mode - Histograms
    • Range

Unit 3:  Research methods and issues in research

Students need to be able to apply and evaluate the following, using relevant psychological terms:

Research methods

  • Aims and Hypotheses
  • Design issues linked to research methods
  • Operationalisation of key variables
  • Different ways of overcoming confounding variables
  • Ethical issues and ways of overcoming such issues in everyday research Procedures including sampling and choice of apparatus
  • Appropriate selection of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Levels of significance
  • Levels of measurement to include ordinal and inferential statistics
  • he accurate use of statistical tests include Chi square, Mann Whitney, Wilcoxon Matched pairs, Spearman rank order
  • Issues relating to findings including validity and reliability

Issues in research

  • The advantages of the scientific method
  • Ethical issues when using human participants
  • Ethics associated with the use of non-human animals
  • Ethical issues in the real world

Unit 4 (PY 4) Psychology: Controversies, Topics and Applications

Section A Controversies

Students develop a synoptic understanding by consolidating knowledge drawn from earlier study and applying it to wider issues of controversy in Psychology. Students will study four controversial issues:

  • Methods of dealing with ethical issues involved in research with human participants
  • Use of non-human animals in psychology
  • Issues of gender bias in psychology
  • Issues of cultural bias in psychology

Section B Topics

The focus within these topics is for candidates to be able to describe, analyse and evaluate information. Students will study:

Adolescence and Adulthood

  • Lifespan theories of development (e.g. Erikson’s ‘Eight ages of man; Levinson’s ‘Seasons of a man’s life; Gould’s ‘Evolution of adult consciousness’).
  • Explanations of Adolescent Identity (e.g. Blos’ psychoanalytic theory; Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development; Marcia’s theory).
  • Conflict during Adolescence including storm and stress and alternative views.
  • Effects of events during Middle adulthood (e.g. marriage, parenthood, divorce).
  • Effects of events during Late adulthood (e.g. retirement, adjustment to old age, bereavement).

Section C Applications

Students are expected to be able to describe and evaluate the following:

Forensic Psychology

  • Approaches to profiling (e.g. the US ‘Top down’ approach, the British ‘Bottom-up’ approach and geographical profiling).
  • Decision-making of juries (e.g. minority influence, majority influence and characteristics of the defendant).
  • Theories of crime including biological and social/psychological influences.
  • Factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony (e.g. reconstructive memory, face recognition, attribution biases, the role of emotion).
  • Treatment and punishment of crime (e.g. cognitive therapies, behavioural therapies and zero tolerance).

Abnormal Psychology

  • Issues of bias in diagnostic systems (e.g. culture and gender).
  • Aetiologies of Schizophrenia including physiological and psychological explanations.
  • Two treatments for Schizophrenia (e.g. chemotherapy, behavioural therapies, cognitive therapies, humanistic therapies).
  • Aetiologies of Unipolar Depression including physiological and psychological explanations.
  • Two treatments for Unipolar Depression (e.g. behavioural therapies, cognitive therapies, humanistic therapies).

Entry requirements

Students are expected to achieve a minimum of 5 GCSEs to include:

  • GCSE English                grade B
  • GCSE Maths                 grade C
  • GCSE Science               grade C

Our expectations within the Social Science Department

Within this department, we work very hard to ensure students and staff are treated fairly.  In order for this to be achieved, we require that students attend all lessons and submit the necessary assignments on time.

It is also expected that students engage in additional reading around the topic areas.  It is vital that at this stage in education, students behave accordingly to the school policy and maintain a positive and mature attitude during lessons. 


Within the department, students will have access to a range of text books and the internet.  Students will benefit from the use of laptops, which will aid them in their research.  In addition to text books available in the department, the school library holds a wider range of books suitable for the A Level Psychology course.  There will be additional reading sources available on ‘Moodle’, as well as class notes and resources aimed to support students through the course. 

Teaching staff
Mrs C. Lloyd
Mrs V. Evans
Miss H. Davies