A-level Psychology AQA Revision Notes

Revision guide for AQA Psychology AS and A-Level topics, including straightforward study notes and summaries of the relevant theories and studies, past papers, and mark schemes with example answers. Fully updated for the 2023/24 academic year.

Revision Notes

Paper 1: AS and A-Level

Paper 1: A-Level

Paper 2


Paper 3: Compulsory

Option 1


Cognitive Development

Option 2

Eating Behaviour

There are three assessment objectives assessed in each examination: 

There may be one, two, or all (only in the extended writing 16-mark question). It is important to understand how assessment objectives are allocated to each type of question to maximize your chance of obtaining full marks.

AO1: Demonstrate knowledge

  1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques, and procedures.
  2. Show knowledge and understanding of psychological theories, terminology, concepts, studies, and methods.

AO2: Application of knowledge

  1. Apply knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, processes, techniques and procedures:
    • in a practical context
    • when handling qualitative data
    • when handling quantitative data
    • in a theoretical context
  2. This skill area tests knowledge of research design and data analysis, and applying theoretical understanding of psychology to everyday/real-life examples.

AO3: Analyse, interpret and evaluate

Analyse, interpret, and evaluate scientific information, ideas, and evidence, including in relation to issues, to:

  • make judgements and reach conclusions
  • develop and refine practical design and procedures.
Examples of how you can score AO3 marks
  • Whether or not theories are supported or refuted by valid research evidence: After describing a theory go on to describe a piece of research evidence saying, ‘X’s study supports/refutes this theory…’ and then describe the research study.
  • Contextualising how the topic in question relates to broader debates and approaches in Psychology: For example, would they agree or disagree with a theory or the findings of the study?
  • Animal Research: This raises the issue of whether it’s morally and/or scientifically right to use animals.The main criterion is that benefits must outweigh costs. Animal research also raises the issue of extrapolation. Can we generalize from studies on animals to humans as their anatomy & physiology is different from humans?
  • General criticisms and/or strengths of theories and studies: E.g. ‘Bandura’s Bobo Doll studies are laboratory experiments and therefore criticizable on the grounds of lacking ecological validity’.To gain marks for criticising study’s methodologies the criticism must be contextualised: i.e. say why this is a problem in this particular study.‘Therefore, the violence the children witnessed was on television and was against a doll not a human’.

10% of the examination will consist of mathematical questions at the GCSE level. These questions will cover basic arithmetic, data, and graphs. There is no need to be worried if you have a GCSE pass grade of 5 or higher, as you will be familiar with these concepts.

To do well, you must get organized and plan your time logically and rationally to make sure you cover everything on the syllabus in an adequate amount of depth.

What are the most effective ways of revising subject knowledge?

  1. Ask ‘How” and ‘Why’ questions when revising and try to connect ideas (this method is called ‘elaboration’)
  2. No cramming: Distribute your revision over time and use a spaced system of repetition
  3. Switch topics regularly when revising (this is called ‘interleaving,‘ and it will help you to identify connections between different topics)
  4. Words and visuals. Combine words and visual representations to create two ways of remembering key ideas (this is called ‘dual coding’)
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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Educator, Researcher

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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