A-Level Past Papers

How Hard is A-Level Psychology?

In A-Level by Think Student Editor6 Comments

Psychology is still a relatively new subject to most students. Consequently, A-Level Psychology is often a popular subject, which is over-subscribed, as students want to get involved! It is definitely an interesting subject, covering all sorts of topics from memory and development to forensics and mental health. However, despite its intrigue, A-Level Psychology is still an A-Level. This means that it will still be relatively hard!

A-Level Psychology can be seen as a difficult A-Level because of the amount of content you will be taught and have to remember. However, it may not be as difficult as other A-Levels, where the application in exams is more challenging. Due to the lack of maths in the exams, it can also be seen as easier compared to other A-Level Sciences, depending on your strengths.

Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinion of only one student who take A-Level Psychology. Your own opinions may not align with the views expressed in this article.

If you want to find out more about A-Level Psychology as a subject and discover how difficult it would be for you to complete it, check out the rest of this article!

Why can A-Level Psychology be considered hard?

In my experience, A-Level Psychology was considered hard because of all the content that had to be remembered. During the course, you will be taught a range of topics, that are all completely different from each other.

This is what makes A-Level Psychology so interesting! However, that is also what makes it so difficult. I completed the AQA Psychology A-Level and this involved having to learn eleven different topics.

Eleven may not seem that much over the space of two years. However, each topic required you to remember many different case studies, experiments and key models. For each model or experiment, you would then have to memorise a range of evaluation points in case you got asked an essay question on it.

Consequently, I had way too many flashcards in my bedroom, with questions on all of the different topics. Therefore, A-Level Psychology can be considered hard not because of understanding the content but because of the content quantity.

You will have to sacrifice a number of hours to revision if you take this A-Level. You can check out the different topics the AQA examination board expects students to learn if you check out this page from the AQA website.

Research methods is a big part of A-Level Psychology and most students find this section especially challenging. Then of course, there is a neuropsychology section and students who hate biology are not fans of this!

Why can A-Level Psychology be considered easy?

All A-Levels have easy and hard sections. Which parts are considered hard and easy depends on each individual. However, in A-Level Psychology, I think there are definitely some parts which can be seen as easy by everybody.

For instance, much of the content is just learning key definitions. During the exams, you will then just be asked about these via multiple choice or short answer questions.

There are some longer answer application questions which can sometimes be difficult. However, if you just break down what the question is asking and think about key theories you have learnt, the answer is often in reach.

The A-Level Psychology mark scheme was also pretty friendly in my experience. This is in comparison to A-Level Biology, which seemed to have the meanest mark scheme imaginable!

Are A-level Psychology exams hard?

A-Level Psychology exams can be considered hard as a result of all the content that you need to know. Due to how many topic you are taught, there are only actually a few questions per topic!

Consequently, you are only actually assessed on a small part of the course. This can be frustrating, especially if you’re ready to write loads on an experiment you know really well but are then not even asked about it!

In my experience, A-Level Psychology papers can be quite mean because they could ask you about a really small, obscure section of the course and expect you to write a full essay on it. Therefore, you need to make sure that you know all of the content really well.

Some sections of A-Level Psychology exams are easy because you are just required to answer multiple choice questions or short answer questions. However, there are other sections which request you to write long essays.

For AQA, each essay is worth 16 marks and you could be given up to three in a 2 hour exam paper! Therefore, managing time in exams also makes A-Level Psychology exams challenging.

There seems to be 3 exams used to assess A-Level Psychology for each exam board and the timings are difficult for every one! You can check out the different specifications on the AQA website here, the OCR website here, or the Pearson Edexcel website here.

Which type of students will find A-Level Psychology difficult?

If you are not the best at writing essays and writing thoughtful, evaluative paragraphs, A-Level psychology may be a difficult subject for you to take. The exams require you to write several essays, so if you struggle with this aspect of school, A-Level Psychology will definitely be difficult!

However, on the other side of things, students who struggle with understanding statistical tests may find A-Level Psychology difficult too. After all, research methods is a big part of the A-Level Psychology course.

If you find memorising and remembering large quantities of information challenging, you also may struggle with A-Level Psychology. However, don’t let these aspects of the subject outlined above put you off!

All A-Levels are challenging! This is why you should choose the subjects you enjoy the most or think will be the most interesting for your A-Levels.

What is the hardest exam board for A-Level Psychology?

The best way to determine the hardest exam board for A-Level Psychology is to compare the pass rates between them. What grade counts as a pass at A-Level is debatable.

A grade E is technically a pass, however this probably won’t impress universities or employers. You can find out more about grades which are considered as passes if you check out this article from Think Student.

In my experience, a C is seen as an acceptable grade at A-Level. In June 2023, the percentage of students who achieved a C or above in A-Level Psychology was 69.9%. You can discover more grade statistics on this document from the AQA website.

For Pearson Edexcel, this was 69.1%, which can be viewed on this document from their website. For OCR, this was 70.46%, as viewed on their website here. These statistics imply that OCR is possibly a slightly easier exam board to use for A-Level Psychology. However, the pass rates seem to virtually be the same.

However, these results are only taken from one year and all examining boards should have the same level of difficulty, in theory. The table below displays the differences in cumulative percentages of all grades above C in A-Level Psychology between the different examination boards:

Grade AQA Pearson Edexcel OCR
A* 5.7 6.2 4.99
A 19.0 19.5 17.42
B 44.6 44.0 44.62
C 69.9 69.1 70.46

As you can see, there is little difference in percentages between the examination boards. An A* grade is always difficult to get! However, if you do want to discover some tips on how to achieve an A* in A-Level Psychology, check out this article from Think Student.

How hard is A-Level Psychology compared to other A-Level Sciences?

Most students will say that A-Level Psychology is much easier than any other A-Level Science. After all, it doesn’t contain anywhere near as much maths and is a very essay-based A-Level.

However, how difficult A-Level Psychology seems compared to other sciences of course depends on the individual. The table below summarises the cumulative percentage of students who obtained a grade C or more for these Science A-Level subjects in June 2023:

Subject AQA Pearson Edexcel OCR
Biology 67.3 69.0 66.70
Chemistry 71.3 73.8 69.50
Physics 66.4 71.5 70.25
Psychology 69.9 69.1 70.46

As you can see, there is not that much difference in students obtaining a grade C or above across the different science subjects. This implies that A-Level Psychology isn’t much easier than the other Science A-Levels.

In fact, in some cases, it may even be harder to pass! A-Level Psychology is seen as a respected A-Level after all, according to this article from Think Student.

In my opinion, A-Level Psychology is as hard as the other A-Level Sciences, but in a completely different way. This is because it requires critical thinking skills and questioning of theories, rather than learning about concrete theories and accepting proven scientific processes.

I believe that individuals may see it as easy because psychology is an interesting subject and many people enjoy it. In comparison, they may find chemistry hard because they don’t enjoy it.

However, just because nearly everyone who does A-Level Psychology enjoys it, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard! You don’t have to hate a subject to find it as challenging.

Is it hard to get help with A-Level Psychology?

When considering taking A-Level Psychology, you may be worried about the amount of support and resources there is available to help you achieve the very best grade. After all, there are so many helpful online resources for A-Level Chemistry, Biology and Physics.

A-Level Psychology resources don’t seem as easy to come by. Getting help with A-Level Psychology can be seen as difficult because teachers can only do so much. Due to the nature of the subject, all teachers can do is tell you the content, which you have to go away and revise yourself.

It isn’t like other subjects, such as A-Level Maths, where a teacher will sit down and explain a problem with you. Therefore, if you don’t understand a concept in A-Level Psychology, it can be difficult to receive the right support.

Regardless, there are plenty of A-Level Psychology tutors online, as you can se on this page from My Tutor. Exam board websites will also often provide past papers for students to practise on.

A-Level Psychology resources are becoming more abundant. After all, it is a very popular A-Level! You can discover all of the other popular A-Levels if you check out this article from Think Student.

Is it hard to get accepted into A-Level Psychology?

Some schools offer psychology as a GCSE. However, this is not the case in all schools. As a result, this is not a requirement to be accepted onto an A-Level Psychology course.

To be accepted into A-Level Psychology, you will most likely need a grade of 4 or 5 in GCSE Maths, GCSE English Language and some GCSE Sciences. In my school, I also needed to get a grade 6 in A-Level Biology.

Therefore, the entry requirements may be specific to your school. However, they won’t be ridiculously high!

You can find more information about this and also some information on what grades you need to study Psychology at university, check out this article from Immerse Education.

How do you revise for A-Level Psychology?

Often, the hardest part of any subject is figuring out how to revise for it! Therefore, gaining some advice on how best to revise for a subject can be invaluable.

In my experience, the best way to revise for A-Level Psychology is to use flashcards. This is because they provide an easy way to actively revise, to ensure that you know all of the content that you need to for the exam. If you want to discover how to make the best flash cards, check out this article from Think Student.

Another good revision tip is to do as many past papers and past questions as you possibly can. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the sorts of questions that you will be asked.

Finally, my favourite revision method is ‘blurting’. This is where you write down as much as you can remember about a certain topic. As A-Level Psychology has a range of different topics, this can ensure that the information will stay in your brain!

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Julia Pollock
Julia Pollock
2 years ago

This is unbelievably misleading and full of inaccuracies. I really hope no student makes a decision based on it because they will regret it.

Reply to  Julia Pollock
2 years ago

hi i dont know whether to take it or not, would u be able to explain why this is misleading and ur opinion on it pls?

Reply to  Leah
2 years ago

there is so much content and thast just yr 12 and y13 is hellllll

2 years ago

If you take Alevel psychology your book is your best friend. Just memorise the main details and you’re good to go.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ava
2 years ago

Oops, I posted a bash on the keyboard earlier, but I take a level psychology. It’s not hard content-wise unless you don’t revise AT ALL. If you revise the topic after you finish it then the exam questions are easy. I never did any exam questions for practice, all I did was memorise the content, keywords are important. Quality over quantity. With that method I’ve been getting A*’s all year 12/13. Averaging around 80% on the papers during mocks. I recommend it if you’re interested in biology, a very fun subject and a lot of real-life application.

Christopher Power
Christopher Power
Reply to  Ava
10 months ago

Whoa, you make it sound so easy and il paraphrase,read some relevant books, remember key words/phrases and your good to go.we can all have a go then lol