A level Psychology can be overwhelming for people and it doesn’t need to be.
My names Saj and I self-taught myself A level Psychology receiving my certificate in January 2013 having scored an A* grade. I scored 100% in both A2 papers and I did this without any teachers while working full time (40hrs per week and juggling married life). The point I suppose is, if I can do it, YOU CAN and I’ll break down exactly how you start and go through your journey step by step, just like me.
This is part 1 and will focus primarily on AS Psychology (Psya1 and Psya2) for the AQA exam board.
First things first – You need the specification which you can get from the AQA website. Grab this – this is your map that tells you everything you need to know about what can be asked in the exam. I have taken the main extract you need for Psya1, which is below:
Everything that can be asked in the exam is above. The same applies for the Psya2 paper and you simply look at the section related to that. If it isn’t in the designated section in the specification it cant be asked. Understanding this is incredibly important because studying for this A level is only overwhelming if you don’t understand what it consists of. Once you know where the boundaries for it are you know how much you need to learn. Your next task is then to break this down like a tick list. It’s done almost for you with the bullet points above but even they break down into sub-sections. In total there are about 35 things you need to know for Psya1, which counts for 25% of your mark – ONLY 35 things and you can nail this exam.
Next up you need a good textbook and everyone has his or her favourites. The Complete Companion is a good book to use however I personally would recommend my psychology revision books here. This gives you enough theory and evaluation points to source for the small questions as well as the possible 12 mark essay questions. Its wise to use both however as the Complete Companion book will help you grasp the topics and when you’re ready for more information you use my books to help you form the answers.
Your next task is to work through the bullet points and learn each section and how it can be asked. You do this by downloading the last 4 years worth of exam papers from the AQA website here.
Print these past exam papers and the mark schemes too. You then work your way each paper writing the answers in pencil. After each paper cross-compare against the mark scheme for that paper and see which you got right or wrong. Make a note of the ones you got wrong and practice writing the correct answer.
Then move onto the next paper doing the same again. Once you’ve done all the papers, practice them again from the beginning until your total marks start to increase and your hitting enough for an A grade. I scored a low D when I first did this so don’t worry – its ok to struggle at first, it took me about 3 weeks to get better. The same tactic is used for the Psya2 paper as the questions tend to range from small questions to the big 12 marker. The 12 mark question is best practiced by creating model essay answers and then practicing them from memory. Doing this will also help with the smaller questions too as you only get one 12 marker in the exam while the rest will be smaller.
You wont realise this until you start to see increases in your scores but what is happening is your beginning to answer the questions how the exam board want you to answer them and your adjusting your mind frame for this by repeating the papers and cross-comparing against the mark scheme. This helps you improve your exam technique. A good sign that it’s working is your scores start to increase gradually.
I dedicated 2-3 hours per day to this and sat both AS exams with 3 months revision using this technique. I scored two A’s. Its very possible for you to do it too.
A video explanation from myself explaining all this is available here:
About the author: Saj Devshi
Saj Devshi is a former A* student who now runs a Psychology blog dedicated to helping students achieve the same. Over 2500 of his books are used by students and teachers all over the UK. You can catch him on his Psychology blog here: http://www.loopa.co.uk