New specification!


So here we go… we’re all about to embark on teaching the new AQA specification. Which of these two statements best reflects your feelings?

A: I cannot wait to get started! A new specification is a wonderful way to throw out the old and design the new! What a wonderful opportunity to update my schemes of work, transform my lesson plans and use everything I have learnt so far in teaching to ensure that the learning in this new course is going to be amazing!


B: Arghhhh! I’d only just got my head round the old specification. I’m really happy with my lessons and the assessment criteria and now it is all changing again. I’m nervous about the new topics and anxious about the inevitable workload that a new specification entails.

Well, of course, that is a false and silly dichotomy. I suspect we’re all feeling a little bit of both BUT I would suggest feeling like statement A is a good way to approach it if you can!


For those migrating from AQA ‘A’ or AQA ‘B’, the content isn’t radically different and the specification appears to be an amalgamation of both. This document compares the new specification to the old specifications – I have found this to be an invaluable resource for planning because I can go back and look at the AQA ‘B’ past papers (I have taught AQA ‘A’) to get a good idea about the nature of the assessment. I therefore don’t feel quite as burdened by change and the unknown as I might have done.

An opportunity

I am genuinely looking forward to teaching the new specification. There were elements of my old schemes of work that I felt worked really well and other parts I used to dread teaching every year. What I have learnt most over the past few years is that teaching and encouraging the development of student skills is more important than wading through the content. For example:

  • encouraging psychology students to think like scientists (see next blog post)
  • helping students experiment with different ways to retain knowledge (even more important now that assessment is linear)
  • developing students’ abilities to write in a sophisticated way and to include key terminology
  • ensuring that students can elaborate their evaluations of studies (we discuss the ‘ladder technique’ in The Complete Companions: Year 1 and AS Teacher’s Companion)
  • making sure that students use research studies effectively to evaluate psychology theories/models/therapies, etc (we outline the ‘Burger Technique’ in the Teacher’s Companion)
  • finding a way to get students to effectively answer application examination questions (we outline ‘the two-sentence technique’ in The Complete Companions: Year 1 and AS Teacher’s Companion).

So, why am I oddly excited about planning for the new specification?

Well, I can map out the first year and think carefully about focusing on particular skills to ensure I prepare my students effectively. I can start from scratch and really think through ‘the big picture’ rather than simply wading through the next page of the textbook – instead I can design something based on my previous experience that I feel will produce ‘outstanding’ results for my students. I’m going to take my students on a skills-based learning journey….(vomit)….. and here is my rough plan for the year (feel free to steal, edit, delete, laugh at, criticise):

Year Plan table

The above plan, of course, is not as rigid as it looks – the students will be developing different skills throughout the year. It is also based on teaching on my own but I would encourage you to map out the year with your colleagues who you share classes with. However, the point is that throughout that topic there will be clear skills that I am aiming for them to develop, practise and hone.

Based on the plan above, I will spend a disproportionate amount of time teaching the first few topics, taking care to create opportunities to develop students’ skills. I’ll then whiz through the later topics under the (possibly misguided) assumption that the students can use those skills to success in these areas when tested.

Over the next weeks and months, Ros Geillis and I will be sharing our ideas, lessons plans, resources and musings on how to make all of this happen! We hope you’ll find it helpful and would really welcome feedback.

5 thoughts on “New specification!

  1. Youssef says:


    Mike Cardwell and Cara Flanagan i just wanted to ask, Has a new As Psychology textbook (The Complete Student Companion) or (The Exam Companion) been published this year after the third edition for AQA ‘A’, if not, great, if yes, then, ok.

    Plz reply to me ASAP

    Thank you for your time

    Take care

  2. Shelly Phillips says:

    Hi Youssef

    I’m Shelly and I work in the marketing department at OUP. A new edition of The Complete Companions: AQA Psychology Year 1 and AS Student Book for the new 2015 AQA specification is now available. The Year 2 book will be available early next year. More information on is on our website at

    We are also publishing a new Revision and Exam Companion. The A Level Year 1 and AS Revision and Exam Companion will be available Spring 2016. If you would like to be added to our email list to be kept up-to-date, simply email me at [email protected] and I’ll add you.

    If you have any further queries, please feel free to email me directly.

  3. Shelly Phillips says:

    Hi Youssef

    I’d also like to add that we’re also publishing a new edition of The Mini Companion. The A Level Year 1 and AS Mini Companion will be available in Spring 2016 as well. More information will be on our website at in due course.


  4. Debra says:

    Do you know where I can find answers/mark schemes to the questions that are in the new year 1 book

  5. otago says:

    Hi, have used the excellent complete companion series for a number of years now, am just embarking on prep for the Year 12 coming back to year 13 and starting with Research methods. Hate to say this but have found 2 errors in the worked examples for the parametric T tests.
    Firstly on P28, within the calculation there is a typo & 115 has been put in instead of 171 for the sum of the difference squared. On p29 the whole example is wrong ~ it’s used the same data for a previous example from the Research Methods companion (p120/121) but made the study into Piliavin’s helping behaviour and wrongly states that the results are in the wrong direction from the mean of the data, in fact the mean time for helping the man with the cane IS faster & therefore it IS in the direction of the hypothesis.
    I know we are all running to catch up on syllabus change but also know that this is the toughest area for students to be confident so it does need to not lead to more confusion!

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