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Course Guide: Psychology

24th May 2019

Thinking about studying Psychology at university? Not sure what it entails, or how to get there?

Many students attend the Summer School to study Psychology for 2 weeks in Oxford to learn more about this fascinating subject.

Read our Psychology course guide to get a better understanding of studying Psychology at university, and see whether it sounds like it is for you!

Discover what you would be studying, where your degree could take you, and how you can start to prepare. 

Psychology: the study of the human mind

What will you study?

Psychology can be defined as the study of the human mind and behaviour. As you can imagine then, it’s a broad discipline which covers lots of different topics.

Psychologists think differently about what causes us to think and behave in certain ways. Some think it is mainly our genes and biology (what we’re born with) which determines how we behave – others think this is more to do with the environment we live in and who we socialise with.

So often a Psychology course will start with an introduction to these different ways of thinking, or ‘approaches’. You’ll often study:  

  • The Biological Approach
  • The Environmental Approach 
  • The Cognitive Approach
  • The Developmental Approach, and; 
  • The Psychodynamic Approach

Another core part of Psychology is running experiments to test out these different approaches. So a university course may include compulsory modules on designing experiments, and analysing results using statistics.

Once you’ve got these basics sorted, you’ll choose optional modules to study. These could include: Language and Psychology, Memory and Neuropsychology, Social Psychology, and the Psychology of Individual Differences.

It is important to look at the individual degrees you are thinking of applying for and see which have compulsory and optional modules that will interest you most.

For example, if are applying for Psychology at Cambridge University, you will have to do a compulsory module on Psychological methods in your first year – which includes practical demonstrations and exercises! 


A tutor teaching in small group psychology tutorials

Psychology is a diverse degree – and you’ll learn lots of different skills and attributes that you can apply to a wide range of jobs.

Some people study Psychology simply for the intellectual pursuit, and decide after graduating to stay at the university in academia. These academics carry out research of their own, and tutor the next generation of students.

Others have a career path in mind that is directly related to Psychology – like becoming a counselling psychologist, or a health psychologist. In this case, they’ll need to be accredited by The British Psychological Society (which gives them permission to practice as a psychologist).  

Many more go on to do a wide array of degrees not directly related to Psychology – like working for the government, in banking and finance, in journalism, or in teaching. 

Many employers accept applications from graduates from any degree subject, as they’re looking for you to demonstrate key skills rather than knowledge of a particular subject.  

Doing a degree in Psychology at university helps you gain many skills relevant to work, such as: 

  • Analytical thinking 
  • Handling data and statistics
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication


For most Psychology courses, there are no required subjects that you will need to have studied beforehand.

Some students have studied Psychology as part of their school curriculum, but if you haven’t you won’t be at a disadvantage. Psychology is a subject that requires no previous subject knowledge, and universities are well aware of the fact that most students will be covering the topics for the first time!

Some universities recommend that students study one or two science/ mathematics subjects, so they are used to handling research and statistics. However this is not always the case, so check the requirements of the universities you’re applying to. 

If you do want to start thinking a bit more about Psychology now, so you’re ready to put in an application, it might be worth having a look over the following:

  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by D. Kahneman (2011) 
  • YouTube series called ‘Crash Course Psychology #1'
  • Madness Explained, by R. Bentall and A.T. Back (2004) 

These are recommendations, but ultimately we advise you to read books, watch videos, and listen to podcasts which most interest you!

Thinking, fast and slow - a book on the reading list for students on our Psychology course at our summer school in Oxford


Summer school students learn from expert Oxford and Cambridge graduate tutors

Attending a short summer school is a great way of trying out a subject in a university environment to see whether you think studying it would be something you would enjoy for three years or more.

At the Oxbridge International Summer School you can study Psychology for two weeks while living in central Oxford university accommodation and meeting other like-minded students from across the world.

Our classes are small, with just six students per subject and 1-1 tutorials mean our tutors can get to know you quickly and adapt the level and focus of work to each student, meaning you get the highest quality educational experience.

You would leave with two marked pieces of work, a tutor report and advice on next steps in your legal education. 


We aim to students give an introduction to the study of Psychology. You can read more about our Psychology course here.

It covers questions like:  

  • How do different people's brains and cognition work? 
  • Why do young boys and girls often choose ‘male’ action figures or ‘female’ pink barbies? 
  • How is mental illness treated in society?

If questions like these interest you, you may be suited to our Psychology summer school course.

Students on our Psychology course not only learn different theories and approaches in Psychology, but how to apply these to real life situations, and evaluate and criticise the world around them.

If this appeals to you and you want to delve into the world of Psychology and the human mind, the Psychology summer school course sounds like it would be a great use of your summer!