Cambridge AS Level Psychology Tips

Hi there,

I have just completed my CIE AS Level Psychology exam and received an A. I am self-studying my A levels so at first it was a struggle for me to learn the syllabus and answer essay questions but in the end, I figured it out. I am writing this because I really do want to help anyone out there who is in my position and is in need of information.

This is by far the most important part when starting any A levels subject in general. It doesn’t matter if you’re self-studying, taking online classes or doing sixth form in school. Click here for the link.

You need to be responsible for your own education and ensure that you know exactly what you’re supposed to learn and be able to do for that subject. You can refer to the syllabus to check if there is anything you need to learn that you have not covered.

For example, in the new syllabus, you are required to learn about data analysis such as measures of central tendency, standard deviation and even includes ethics for animals. This was not in the previous syllabus so certain reference books may not include this in.

If your basics aren’t strong, you will struggle and you’re not going to be able to answer a lot of the evaluative questions asked, especially those in paper 2.

You need to learn the basics such as the types of experiments, their advantages and disadvantages, what is validity, ethics, the assumptions of each approach, issues and debates etc.

You can find all of this under 3.1.2 Research Methods in the syllabus.

Yes, they’re super long and a lot of times incredibly boring. But here’s the thing, they will help you SO MUCH. And, you only need to read 12 of them once.

Instead of using your A levels textbook, make notes from the original study instead. They will provide you with a lot of information, and you will know for sure that you are getting the facts. Some textbooks will provide some minor wrong information.

There are questions asked in the exams that have not been included in the reference books because the people who write these questions for your exams assume your knowledge of the original study itself and not merely what is written in a specific book.

After you have completed a study, do questions based on that study. It will help you understand what information you need to know for the exam and become familiar with the type of questions you may be asked.

Something I have done that has helped me tremendously is to use active recall for each study. I do this by first making a list of all the things I need to know about a study in order. For example, study name, researcher, aim, participants, independent variable, dependent variable etc.

And then, I choose a study, and fill in the information of that study without looking at my notes. Once I am done, I refer back to my notes to see if I have missed anything out. This way I am able to test what I remember about a study and recognize what information I have not retained.

I know that there aren’t that many past year questions available for us to practice on so you have to be creative with what you have. You can create your own questions for each study using the questions that are already in the past years.

For example, if there is a question that goes “State the aim of the study by Pepperberg. [2]” then you can simply use the same question but apply to other studies like Yamamoto. For the answers, you can just use the original study to check if the aim you had written down in correct.

This is specifically for the “Evaluate the X study in terms of two strengths and two weaknesses.[10]” that is at the end of Paper 1. There are 12 studies in total.

You can prepare a sample essay plan for each study by choosing two strengths and two weaknesses you would write about if you were to come across that question. That way, in the exam, you won’t waste your time thinking about the study and evaluating it. You will already have answers to write.

Here’s how your write it.

Point: A strength of the study by Can li et al is that it is a laboratory experiment.

Explanation: This is advantageous as this means the study has high levels of standardization.

Example: This can be seen in its standardized procedure. Each participant saw each scene for exactly 2.88 seconds and then viewed a fixation cross on the screen for 12.96 seconds. (Continue to provide more proof of standardized procedure)

Link: High levels of standardization in the procedure allows the study to be replicated exactly by other researchers. This increases the reliability of the study and so is an advantage.

This is for the question at the end of Paper 2 that requires your to design a study. Most of the time, this will be based on a study from the list of 12 you have learned about, except they would change one detail about it. For example, maybe it was a laboratory experiment and now you are asked to design one that is a field experiment.

A lot of student seem to struggle with this question but the truth is, you just have to ensure that you include the necessary details into it.

  1. Aim. Location. Participants. Sampling Technique. Length of study.
  2. Independent variable. How it is operationalized. Dependent Variable. How it is measured. Controlled Variable.
  3. Type of study (exp, case study etc). Experimental design.
  4. The procedure of the study.
  5. How the data is collected and analysed.

That is basically all you have to include in order to gain top marks in this part.

Those are all of the tips that I have for you guys. I really hope it helps you and if you do have any questions, you can always comment it below.

Much Love,


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