How to study high school Psychology
Have you selected Psychology as one of your subjects for Year 11 and 12? Chances are you’re curious about how the brain works – but let’s talk about getting your brain working first, so you can ace this subject.
Whether you want Psych to be your top subject or you’re just looking to pass, these tips will help you approach each class, assessment and exam with a little more confidence. And here’s a psychology tip for free: believing you can succeed is a good step towards actually succeeding.*
*Not a guarantee.
Here’s how to study psychology effectively in high school.
How hard is it to study Psychology in Year 11 and 12?
The content in high school Psychology isn’t a walk in the park, but it’s also not as challenging as some other subjects you might be taking. What’s more likely to trip you up is just how much content there is to cover. You’ll be looking at principles of genetics, states of consciousness, theories of emotion, and everything in between.
Lots of the topics are fascinating, but there are indeed lots of topics. And so, just like most ATAR subjects, the best recipe for success in Psychology is to set a routine and revise regularly. This is a subject that takes hard work to do well in – but it rewards hard work with good marks.
Do revision your way
Finding the most effective revision techniques for you personally will help in all your subjects, but this is particularly relevant for a high-density subject like Psych.
Do you learn best from taking organised – maybe even colour-coordinated – notes? Or does reciting flashcards aloud make things stick in your memory better? You may want to try sticking diagrams and key concepts around your bedroom and bathroom, or perhaps you’ll learn best by re-teaching the content from your last class to a friend or family member.
This isn’t about finding your favourite revision style and using it exclusively. Chances are you’ll do your best by trying a combination of several approaches.
While you’re finding your revision style, work out a schedule that suits you as well. Some people find it easier to revise in small blocks, such as doing an hour each weeknight, while others might absorb more content by packing it into a longer study session over the weekend.
You won’t know what works for you until you try a few different approaches. But once you’ve found that sweet spot, you’ll be in a better place to schedule your revision effectively.
Observe examples in the world around you
One of the best ways to understand and remember the things you learn in Psychology is to associate them with situations in your life or even characters from movies, shows and books (even better if you can apply Psychology concepts to the texts you’re studying in English!).
Finding relatable examples will be easier for some Psychology topics than others. Learning about stress and coping, for instance, seems kind of ironic given how stressful Year 11 and 12 can feel at times – but you may get better at identifying the early signs of stress in yourself and taking steps to remain calm.
Psychology also features a chapter on memory, which could come in handy if you’re still figuring out the best way to mentally lock in your revision notes.
For less common topics covered in Psychology, you might want to actively seek out examples in films and other media. Just keep in mind that fiction is, well, fiction – depictions of mental and personality disorders often exaggerate and sometime misrepresent the reality.
Answer practice questions
You don’t need to wait for Year 12 Psychology to start reviewing past exams. Even if you’re only picking out questions about the topics you’ve covered so far, it’s great to get an early start on this revision technique in Year 11. The sooner you get a good sense of what a full-marks answer looks like, the sooner you can start applying that approach to all your answers.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to put yourself under exam conditions each time you have a crack at a past paper. While simulating that pressure can help you prepare when you’ve got enough time available, it’s just as valid to pick out a single question and tackle it between classes or when you’ve got 10 minutes free at home.
Also, the review questions in your textbook are there for a reason. Use these to identify anything that you don’t confidently remember or comprehend.
If something isn’t clicking with you in Psychology, ask your teacher. The sooner you can fix any gaps in your knowledge, the sooner you can move onto the next topic – without any lingering question marks weighing on your mind.
We know it can feel embarrassing sometimes to admit you’ve missed something or to ask a question that seems obvious. But high school Psychology literally includes a chapter about memory (including how unreliable it can be). So, in theory, your Psych teacher should be the most understanding when it comes to needing a gentle reminder.
Should you study Psychology in high school?
If you’re interested in a psychology career or just curious about how the mind works, this subject can be incredibly rewarding. Just be prepared to put in the work if you want to see the best possible results.
However, if your school doesn’t offer Psych or you can’t fit it into your schedule, don’t stress. ATAR Psychology isn’t typically a perquisite for studying psychology at university. At UQ, for example, it’s not a prerequisite for studying the Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) or a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology.
For advice on doing your best in all your subjects, read How to get a high ATAR. Alternatively, you can explore study guides for your other subjects.