A-Level Psychology is a really popular subject and is great for combining with the humanities or sciences. Sometimes psychology can be underestimated and seen as an ‘easy’ subject, but it actually takes a lot of hard work and effort. If you want to get an A*, you need to commit to lots of revision but there are a few tips to help you along the way.
In this article, I’ll be discussing the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to learning and writing about the key studies. Statistics and research provide a lot of marks in the exam so you need to understand and know these. Watching videos can be really helpful. Flashcards are a great tool for revision, these should be clear and easy to read and you should go over them regularly. Mind maps are really valuable for summarising an entire topic, they should be colourful and easy to memorise. Testing yourself is the best way to prepare for your exams as you’ll be more confident with the content and understand how to pick up marks.
1. To Get an A* in A-Level Psychology, Quality Over Quantity is Really Important
For A-Level Psychology, there are tonnes of studies that you need to learn and all this information can be really overwhelming. There will be some questions in your exam that ask you to talk about a specific theory or study – to be prepared for this you need to have an understanding of every study. The most important things to know for each study are the:
If you’re struggling for time or just can’t seem to remember anything, focus on studies that relate to several topics. Make a list of every study you could talk about and note which topics they’re relevant to. You’ll find that some are very niche and only apply to a certain area of your course but others can be used to answer a variety of questions. Try to learn a few studies that can be used in several areas but just ensure you have at least one study for each topic.
For the studies you look at in detail, you’ll need a great understanding of the study and the ability to critique and analyse it. Reading around the topic can really develop your knowledge – ask your teacher if they have any recommendations for extra reading material.
Learning a few key studies ties into the idea of quality over quantity; it’s much better to write about a couple of studies in-depth rather than list off lots of information but not really analyse anything properly. The marks in your exam will come from having a high level of analysis and being critical, so it’s important to focus on this instead of learning meaningless facts and dates.
When you actually learn the studies, mind maps can be really helpful for revision. I’ll be discussing how to make the best mind maps for revision later in the article but if you want more information now, check out this article.
2. Understand A-Level Psychology Statistics and Research Methods
Research methods form a large number of marks in your exam but many students struggle with it, the same goes for learning and using statistical tests. The best thing to do is learn these as early as possible, so they are easier to revise later on and you can become more familiar with them. If it’s getting closer to your exams and you’re still struggling, there are many ways to improve.
For learning the research methods there are some really valuable resources. Tutor2u has some really helpful videos, notes and quizzes on all the research methods that are covered in A-Level Psychology.
YouTube is a really valuable resource for A-Level Psychology so it’s a great idea to search for any specific areas you are struggling with and see what you can find. Here is a helpful playlist on YouTube which has several videos covering different research methods and statistical tests.
Psych Boost is a great channel on YouTube that covers main course content, research and statistics and how to answer the questions in the exam. It’s well worth watching these videos and making some notes. It will really help improve your understanding of the topics and how to answer the exam questions.
If you find yourself specifically struggling with maths and statistics, CGP sell a maths guide for A-Level Psychology. This breaks down the tests into easy steps, with diagrams, and it also has practice questions for you to do. If you like this style of revision guide, CGP has others that are relevant to the whole course.
Flashcards are the best method for revising statistics and research, and I’ll be discussing how to make the best flashcards later in this article. If you do want to read more about making valuable flashcards, read this Think Student article.
3. Making Flashcards is a Great Way to Learn A-Level Psychology Content
Since there’s so much content in A-Level Psychology, it can be difficult to know where to start your revision. A trusted method is making and using flashcards but you need to ensure your flashcards are as beneficial as possible.
Start by printing off your course specification and looking at each of the headings for your course, such as Gender or Memory. Using your textbook and specification, work through these headings to create sets of flashcards for each topic. Make sure you clearly mark the topic in question, as this makes your resources much easier to find and use later on.
There are several ways to structure your flashcards but the simplest rule is to phrase your flashcard notes as questions. Answering questions is closer to the real exam style and it doesn’t feel like you’re just reeling off information, as you need to think about your answer.
Some students like to have one question per flashcard but this can take up a lot of space and use lots of cards unnecessarily. To avoid this, you should try to fit multiple questions on to one card that all relate to a certain topic but make sure it’s all clear and legible.
Another way to use flashcards is have a broad question on one side and more in depth notes covering the content on the back. For instance, “Explain the types of conformity” can be expanded into definitions, explanations, variables and even a relevant study.
Although it seems obvious, you need to actually use the flashcards, not just make them! Set a scheduled time each day to go through 5-10 flashcards – by the time you reach your exams you’ll have gone over the flashcards several times and the information will be firm in your mind.
4. The Best Grades Go to Those Who Make Mind Maps…
Mind maps can be a really valuable revision tool for A-Level Psychology and can help you get As and A*s in the exams.
For an extensive guide on how to utilise mind maps with maximum efficiency, check out this article.
Start by making notes on each topic. You might have done this as earlier revision or have notes from your lessons. The information from these notes should be condensed and turned into your mind maps, this means you can filter out extra information from your textbooks and your mind maps will be clear and simple.
When making the mind maps, you should have one for each topic and the points on the specification make up the first arrows from the main bubble. As you fill in more detail, your mind map will grow outwards but you can still easily see each section.
The aim of making a mind map is that you’ll be able to picture it in your head during the exams, so using colour and images can really help. Rather than writing long sentences, try and use diagrams or doodles that still trigger the thought in your head – this saves space but also makes the mind map easier to recall. You should highlight key words or statistics in your mind map and try using different colours for different parts of the spec so the information is easier to retain.
Once you’ve made your mind maps, you can try to progress from this and condense the information even further into small A5 posters. These can be written up however you choose, but having something small and easy to look at that summarises key parts of the course is great in the run up to exams.
5. You Must Test Yourself Regularly to Achieve an A* in A-Level Psychology
The best way to steadily build your knowledge and confidence in A-Level Psychology is to test yourself regularly. Your teacher may have already set tests at the end of each topic but if they don’t, or you just want more practice, here are some useful tips.
Once you finish a topic, you should do several past paper questions – vary these so you do some multiple choice, some short and some long. Past papers are incredibly valuable for revision, as they prepare you for how the real exams will be and stop you from focusing on answering easy questions.
When doing past paper questions, avoid looking at the mark scheme before and try to answer the question without your textbook or other resources. After you’ve finished the question, work through the mark scheme and annotate any points you missed or any key information that you didn’t know. From these notes, make a plan of what you need to reread and what areas of the topic you need to work on.
When first doing exam questions, it’s easy to spend far too long planning, reading your notes and trying to make your answer perfect. This isn’t realistic, when compared to how much time you’ll have in the exams, so it’s good to time yourself and try not to spend too long on questions. As you practice more, writing answers will come more naturally and you’ll be much quicker.
If you’re using past papers directly from your exam board’s website, there should be an examiners’ report included. This document is very useful as it goes through each question and the examiner comments on how the country did, as a whole, and key marks that students commonly missed. By reading this report, you can start to identify where students lose marks and where you can gain them and, therefore, score higher than other candidates.