What is Psychology?
Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, both as individual and group characteristics. As often wrongly perceived, it is not primarily about the study of mental illness, nor does it involve ‘reading people’s minds.’ Courses in Psychology generally revolve around a number of approaches such as biological, developmental, cognitive, evolutionary, or clinical, and it is multi-disciplinary, and a sort of meeting point around a number of disciplines, in that it combines linguistics, sociology, biology, artificial intelligence, anthropology, statistics and medicine when assessing the nature of the human mind. Once you start to specialise, how you approach the human mind is up to you, and this may affect whether you obtain a BSc or BA. It is equivalent to a science in that it uses experiments and the scientific method to confirm or disprove theories or expectations, and build a bigger picture around these findings.
Psychology was a good option for me because, with its focus on research methods, it brought together both mathematical and writing skills. If you are interested in the ideas of Psychology, but are not confident in maths I would suggest Psychology is not for you; we had to pass statistics exams every year, which to mathematicians were not hard, but a number of people did consistently fail them and this set them back. If you are not good at maths, but are interested in the ideas of Psychology, Behavioural Studies might be a better option.
One element I felt was lacking was that there was no overarching explanation of what Psychology was, the fundamental processes and lines of enquiry used. Instead we were dropped into biological bases, psychology of memory, thinking and language, and other modules. I undertook Psychology A Level, but for those without the A Level it took a much longer time to grasp the subject fully and understand its place. However, by the final years (I attended a Scottish university with a 4 year undergraduate degree programme), everyone had gotten into their stride and you were given the opportunity to specialise. If you didn't study Psychology at A Level, I would recommend reading a number of introductions to Psychology in the summer before you attend.
Overall, Psychology tutorials and lectures are interesting, and there was lots of room for debate and discussion both inside and outside the classroom. I also believe that if you are unsure of what to read at university, but are a 'university person', and want to obtain a grounding in questioning theories and applying logic, rational, and the scientific method to ideas, Psychology is a good bet. Furthermore, the skills you will gain such as understanding statistics as well as using statistics packages, report writing, and evaluating evidence are often highly valuable to employers.
Coursework through essays and academic papers throughout the year, and exams at the end of term. Generally each module approximated to about 7% of the mark for the year, and of that 75% was based on a final exam and 25% on an coursework. In our penultimate year we undertook a literature review which counted for 7% of our final degree mark, and in our final year we undertook a dissertation which counted for 15% of our final degree mark.
Entry Requirements & Suitability
You do not need an A Level in Psychology when applying for a Psychology degree, but many universities state that you need two subjects from Biology, Chemistry Maths or Physics, or at least a science or Maths.
Knowledge and Understanding
Students who successfully complete the degree will:
- have knowledge and understanding of multiple perspectives on psychological issues, including a range of research methods, theories, evidence and applications reflecting contemporary developments, historical context and applications;
- understand the role of brain functioning in human behaviour and experience;
- have knowledge and understanding of a variety of psychological tools, including specialist software, laboratory equipment and psychometric instruments.
Common joint degree subjects
- A Modern Language
Top 20 Universities*
Furthermore, The Telegraph provides its own top 10.
* Source: The Complete University Guide
This Guide Was Written By:
Terri Tuson - who studied Psychology at Edinburgh University from 2004-2008