A Level Secondary Secondary Psychology

All A Level – AS to A2 essays

AS to A2… Making the leap

Around this time of year I am marking the first couple of A2 essays from my Year 13 students who have negotiated the first hurdle of AS level successfully. It is rare to find a student who produces an A2 mark on a par with their AS grade this early on into the year. This can make students demoralised.

To write longer essays in an AS style is insufficient, the evaluation needs to be more developed.

I try to address this issue by using the last 10 minutes of a lesson to do activities I’ve named as ‘The Perfect Paragraph’ and ‘Last Man Talking’

The Perfect Paragraph
All you need to do for this is present a series of paragraph stems and get them choose one from the list to develop further. Making the stems increasingly more difficult gives gifted students a chance to challenge themselves.

An example of a stem in A2 Psychology would be:
It can be argued that schizophrenia is at least partly due to genetics because…

You can then check the paragraphs and choose good examples to read out in class.

Last Man Talking
‘Last Man Talking’ can use the same stems but involves getting the students to work in pairs. I ask them, as a plenary, to take it in turns in developing the stem, so they compile a good in depth evaluation point between them. The point of the activity is for students to be the last person to speak before they finish on that particular point.

Using the previous stem as an example, the conversation might go:

Arthur:…research by Gottesman showed that identical twins had a higher level of concordance, indicating a genetic influence…
Betty:…however the rate was not 100% which suggests that environment also plays a part…
Arthur:…using twin studies to support the argument is seen by some to be a problem as it is thought that identical twins are treated more similarly than non identical, so the difference in concordance rates could be due to treatment rather than genetics.’
Betty:… I give up!

(Note – I’ve edited all the ‘Umm’s and ‘Ahh’s from this, also many students wouldn’t remember Gottesman’s name! Arthur has the memory of an elephant.)

You’ll know which activity will work better with your students. It should build their confidence and raise their marks.

Bring on the January exams…

Eleanor Hills
Subject Leader Psychology and Sociology
Roundhay School


  • This would adapt brilliantly to A Level Law. I have a slightly similar activity called “So What?”.This challenges students to develop a thread of comment out of a single statement about a legal case from the general to the very specific.Until they have exhausted the “so what” stimulus. It works really well in developing deep learning skills.

  • It sounds as though it fosters similar skills to the ones I outlined, yes. ‘So what?’ could be useful in other areas too, definitely. The depth of analysis or commentary is an issue in the first term of year 13 in Psychology. Presumably it’s something many subjects find a problem?

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