GCSE Psychology – New for Sep 2024

Why Study Psychology?

The study of Psychology at GCSE level engages students as it offers a multifaceted exploration of the human mind and behaviour, providing invaluable insights into the complexities of the human experience. As students explore human behaviour, they get an understanding of themselves and others, and gain skills that will support progression to further study of Psychology and a wide range of other subjects.


It aims to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of key psychological concepts, theories, and research methodologies, enabling them to critically analyse human behaviour and mental processes. Secondly, the qualification seeks to foster the development of essential skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, which are transferable to various academic disciplines and real-world contexts. Additionally, it aims to cultivate an appreciation for the ethical considerations inherent in psychological research and the application of psychological principles in society. Thus, providing students with knowledge and skills that will support progression beyond GCSE level in Psychology and a wide range of other subjects.

Curriculum Overview


Autumn Term 1

Autumn Term 2

Spring Term 1

Spring Term 2

Summer Term 1

Summer Term 2


Research Methods


The Brain and Neuropsychology

Psychological Problems

Social Influence



Criminal Behaviour

Sleep and Dreaming

Issues and Debates




Year 10

In Year 10, the decision to start with Research Methods has been made for the following reasons:

  • It establishes the scientific foundation of the discipline
  • Equips students with essential skills
  • Fosters critical thinking and scientific literacy
  • Provides a framework for understanding subsequent topics in Psychology

For example, when students learn about studies, they need to understand how that study has been conducted and the strengths and weaknesses of the study referring to the research methods involved. Teaching students how to evaluate research methodologies and evidence empowers them to distinguish between credible and unreliable sources of information. Students will take part in practical experiments to demonstrate the skills learnt in research methods and it will serve to engage students from the outset.

Memory is a fitting follow-up topic in GCSE Psychology after Research Methods as it delves into fundamental cognitive processes that underpin human behaviour and mental functioning. Understanding memory allows students to explore how information is encoded, stored, and retrieved, providing insights into learning, decision-making, and problem-solving. Memory is also a versatile topic, offering opportunities to discuss various models and theories, such as the multi-store model and working memory model, and to explore real-life applications like memory strategies and techniques for enhancing memory performance, which are relevant to students’ academic and everyday lives.

Moving on to Brain and Neuropsychology builds upon the foundation of memory by examining the biological mechanisms that support cognitive processes. Exploring the brain’s structure and functions enables students to understand how neural networks and neurotransmitters contribute to behaviour and cognition, offering insights into topics such as perception, emotion, and motivation. Moreover, studying neuropsychological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury, provides a tangible link between brain function and psychological problems, emphasizing the intricate interplay between biology and behaviour.

Psychological problems offer a comprehensive exploration of mental health issues, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment approaches. By examining psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, students gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of human experience and the impact of environmental, genetic, and social factors on mental well-being. Moreover, discussing psychological interventions and therapies highlights the importance of early detection and intervention in addressing mental health challenges, promoting empathy, and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness.

Building on the foundation of previous topics, the study of Social Influence allows students to explore how social norms, conformity, obedience, and persuasion shape human behaviour within various social contexts. By investigating classic experiments such as Milgram’s obedience study and Asch’s conformity experiments, students gain insight into the power dynamics and social pressures that influence individuals’ decision-making processes.

Following Social Influence, Development allows students to explore how individuals grow and change psychologically, cognitively, and socially from infancy through adulthood. By examining key theories such as Piaget’s stages of cognitive development and Erikson’s psychosocial stages, students gain insights into the factors influencing developmental trajectories and the impact of early experiences on later life outcomes. Furthermore, studying development provides opportunities to analyse the interplay between nature and nurture, individual differences, and cultural influences on human development, thereby enriching students’ understanding of the complexities of human behaviour and the dynamic nature of psychological processes throughout the lifespan.

Year 11

In Year 11, the Criminal Topic is taught first as it is inherently engaging and relevant to students’ everyday lives, capturing their interest and motivating their learning. Exploring topics such as crime, deviance, and the criminal justice system provides students with a tangible context to apply psychological theories and concepts, fostering active participation and deepening their understanding of psychological principles. Additionally, studying criminal behaviour allows students to explore complex issues such as the causes of crime, the role of socialization and environmental factors, and the effectiveness of interventions and rehabilitation programs, stimulating critical thinking and encouraging students to consider real-world implications, building on previous topics such as Social Influence.

Sleep and Dreaming are universal experiences that resonate with students, making the topic relatable and engaging. By studying sleep patterns, stages of sleep, and the functions of sleep, students gain insights into the physiological and psychological aspects of this essential human behaviour. Exploring dreaming allows students to delve into the complexities of the subconscious mind, fostering curiosity and critical thinking about the nature of consciousness and the role of dreams in cognitive processing and emotional regulation.

Issues and Debates elements are embedded across the previous topics but are now taught in more depth and helps students appreciate the dynamic and evolving nature of psychology as a discipline. By examining controversies, unresolved questions, and ongoing debates within psychology, students gain a deeper understanding of the complexities inherent in studying human behaviour and mental processes. This awareness prepares students to navigate the constantly evolving landscape of psychological research and practice, equipping them with the flexibility and adaptability needed to engage with new ideas and findings throughout their academic and professional careers.

Exam Board: Pearson Edexcel Level 1/Level 2 GCSE (9-1) in Psychology (1PS0)

Specification Link: https://qualifications.pearson.com/en/qualifications/edexcel-gcses/history-2016.html

There are three main parts to the GCSE course:

There are two main parts to the GCSE course:

Paper 1: Paper code: 1PS0/01

Written examination: 1 hour and 45 minutes

55% of the qualification

98 marks (16 for Section A, B, C, D, E and 18 for Section F)

Section A: Development – How did you develop?

Section B: Memory – How does your memory work?

Section C: Psychological problems – How would psychological problems affect you?

Section D: The brain and neuropsychology – How does your brain affect you?

Section E: Social influence – How do others affect you?

Section F: The sixth section will contain two extended open-response questions. These questions will focus on debates within psychology and the interrelationships between the core areas of psychology.

Paper 2: Paper code: 1PS0/02

Written examination: 1 hour and 20 minutes

45% of the qualification

79 marks (37 for Section A, 21 for Section B and E)

Section A: Research methods – How do you carry out psychological research?

Section B: Criminal psychology – Why do people become criminals?

Section E: Sleep and dreaming – Why do you need to sleep and dream?