Psychology Textbooks Recommended for Students

Psychology Textbooks recommended for students, from secondary school to university.

Psychology textbooks are an excellent resource for accessing a large amount of information in a clear, ordered way.

If you are studying psychology for your school exams or for a university degree, you will definitely want to arm yourself with a reliable textbook.

Even PhD students can benefit from some of the higher level textbooks as a jumping board when starting their literature review. Of course you’ll need to keep reading way beyond the pages of a text book but a psychology textbook is always a strong base from which to start.

Below is a list of psychology textbooks that I recommend for secondary school or university students and a few comments with specific details about each one.

Psychology Textbooks for Secondary School Students

General Psychology Textbooks

Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour

Author: Richard Gross

About the Book: This book is a staple textbook that has a longstanding reputation as one of the best psychology textbooks out there. It’s easy to follow and very thorough. Whether you’re studying for your A-Level, AP or undergraduate psychology exams you will find this book extremely helpful. Richard Gross has written a large number of accessible textbooks, so if you like this style you’ll have plenty more options to make use of as well. This psychology textbook is a chunky 1000 pages thick, so not only does it have all the information and helpful pointers you’ll need it also doubles as a doorstop!

Richard Gross was a teacher for many years before publishing the first edition of this textbook in 1987 and due to the extraordinary popularity of that book, he gave up teaching and focused on a career as a writer.

The latest (8th) edition is certainly worth getting because it has all the latest developments in various areas of psychology, with up-to-date criticisms as well. The students who perform best in exams are those who are able to demonstrate to the examiner that they know all of the basic course requirements plus they are aware of some latest developments, or considerations for future research. This book gives you the opportunity to shine through the crowd without have to read a hefty pile of original academic journal articles.

Who’s It For? Undergraduate students (and high achieving A-Level/AP students)

Click here for more information

Psychology with MyPsychLab

Authors: G. Neil Martin, Neil R. Carlson

About the Book: You can’t go wrong with this textbook and I regularly consult it. It is absolutely huge and very easy to read as well, so there is a lot of information about a lot of topics.

Another added bonus with this psychology textbook is the added MyPsychLab, which has additional online features. I have the third edition, which came with a MyPsychLab CD, though the more research editions will probably provide an online link/download instead.

There are lots of diagrams and separated-out boxes with extra information, so this book has lots of interesting little extras that make the subject so interesting to study.

Who’s It For? Undergraduate students (and high achieving A-Level/AP students)

Click here for more information

Course Specific A-Level Psychology Textbooks

AQA Psychology for AS and A Level – Student Books

Authors: Cara Flanagan, Dave Berry, Matt Jarvis & Rob Liddle

About the Books: These two psychology textbooks divide the A-Level syllabus into two easily manageable courses: AS-Level (year one) and A-Level (year two). As the title suggests, these books have been designed with students in mind, so they are particularly useful if you are studying for your secondary school exams as they know exactly what is required for your course. These textbooks have been approved by the AQA exam board, so if you are studying for the AQA Psychology qualification you would be wise to get your hands on a copy of these books.

Learn the contents of these books completely and, in theory, you’ve just walked out of the exam hall with 100%. And the bright, clearly designed pages make it very straightforward to learn the material. For example, topics are split across a double page spread with all the information you could possibly need for your exam: key studies, some context, major evaluations, something a little bit curve-ball to show variety, and (particularly in the second year book) overarching themes and approaches to help you understand how each individual research study or topic fits within the wider field of psychology.

These are certainly the books to get if you are struggling to get to grips with what to learn for your A-Level psychology exams and want to do well – think A and A* results. If you’re not looking for top grades in psychology then they also have a slightly lighter version of their textbooks, which have been branded as ‘revision books’. Personally, I would recommend using these Student Books rather than relying on the revision guides. Ideally you should be able to make your own revision notes using the information that is very clearly displayed in these two books. Best to see the revision guide as extra, rather than the basis.

Who’s It For? A-Level students following the AQA syllabus

AS-Level: Click here for more information

A-Level: Click here for more information

OCR Psychology for A Level Book 1 & 2

Authors: Louise Ellerby-Jones, Sandra Latham & Nigel Wooldridge

About the Books: To me, the stand out benefit of choosing a course-specific text book is that they usually include practice questions and tips specific to your exams. This is certainly the case with these two psychology textbooks, which include exam advice and practice questions for each topic. This comes in extremely handy when it gets to revision season and you need to practice writing essay answers without your teacher’s direct leadership.

As with the AQA choice above, these textbooks are very well presented and perfectly cover the course content, with students in mind. The books aren’t too wordy, but still manage to cram in lots of interesting and useful information.

Even if you are using a different book at school, this one could add to your end of year results with its additional comments and points throughout. If you’ve studied memory yet, you’ll be aware of the benefits of rehearsal and multiple encoding formats when maintaining information for long term memory – using more than one textbook easy a really straightforward way of experiencing the information in different formats and this aids learning.

You can use this approach in your revision too – don’t just write notes, also draw out mind maps, read books, write essays, use flash cards, listen to revision podcasts, discuss with friends… The more inputs, the more chance it’ll be accessible to you when you’re sitting in that exam hall.

Who’s It For? A-Level students following the OCR syllabus

AS-Level: Click here for more information

A-Level: Click here for more information

A-Level Psychology: AQA Complete Revision & Practice (CGP)

Author: CGP Books

About the Books: I don’t tend to recommend revision books because they are already slimming down the amount of information that they include, but if you want to make use of a professionally constructed revision workbook as one element of your overall learning then the CGP ones are good psychology textbooks to consider.

CGP are famous for their terrible jokes and easy to use worksheets – club together with some friends and (with the aid of a photocopier, ssshhhh) you can all benefit from these worksheets at a very reasonable price. But remember, worksheets are only helpful if you actually do them! I’ve seen many a CGP revision workbook left incomplete from page 11. Make worksheets a part of your active revision programme and these books will serve you well.

My best advice is to use these at two points in your revision process: first, complete a worksheet fairly early on so that you can see what you remember well from when you initially learned it, and what needs a significant refresher. Then go back to you full textbook to refresh the areas that need it most, and once you have done that you can return to the worksheets to test your progress.

Who’s It For? A-Level students seeking revision guidance

AS-Level: Click here for more information

A-Level: Click here for more information

Psychology Textbooks for University Students

General Psychology Textbooks for University

A general textbook gives you an introductory overview on a wide range of topics. These books are great for a first exposure to a topic, and often offer suggestions of recommended reading to learn more about each topic.

by G Neil Martin

This is an absolutely fantastic textbook. It’s super-heavy too, so makes a great door stop when not being read! The book covers every major area in Psychology, and the latest edition has been updated with over 1000 recent studies. Being able to cite recent studies is a surefire way to impress examiners!

Click to buy on Amazon

by Richard Gross

With it’s 2020 release, the 8th edition of this comprehensive undergraduate textbook is the most up-to-date textbook at the time of writing. Richard Gross’ textbooks have been the go-to textbooks for Psychology students since the 1980s! Unlike some other general textbooks, this one is more “book”, less “magazine”. So don’t expect it to be colourful with pretty pictures. It gets to the point, and is clear and concise.

Click to buy on Amazon

by Graham C Davey

This textbook is the “official” general psychology textbook issued by the British Psychological Society. The benefit of getting this book is that you will be sure to cover everything expected in order to achieve BPS accredited status. There’s also an accompanying website where you can take a look at lecture recordings and other useful resources to supplement the textbook.

Click to buy on Amazon

Specialist Psychology Textbooks for University

Specialist textbooks are extremely useful for gaining that deeper understanding of a topic that is required as you progress through your degree.

Whilst I recommend buying a good general psychology textbook for university, you’ll probably find that your university library has a good selection of specialist textbooks, so you definitely won’t need to buy all of these to do well in your degree.

A quick look through your course information on the university website will highlight any particularly useful specialist textbooks that you might want to take a look at.

Below are some textbooks that I have found particularly useful.

Social Psychology Textbooks for University

Introducing Social Psychology

I had the pleasure of being taught by Brendan Burchell, and this textbook continues to be very useful.
It’s a little on the old side now (published in 2001), but this book will give you a solid foundation in the development and debates in social psychology.

Click to buy on Amazon

An Introduction to Social Psychology

If you want a bang-up-to-date book on Social Psychology, then the latest edition of this BPS Textbook is the textbook for you.
Released in September 2020, this book has all the background and history of social psychology that Brendan Burchell’s book has, with the added benefit of updated references.

Click to buy on Amazon

Social Psychology

I still use the very first edition of this textbook! The latest edition (8th) looks fantastic – now printed in colour (mine’s all black and white!) and with updated references, this is a reliable textbook to carry you through the social psychology section of your degree. My edition has a foreword by Willem Doise (one of my favourite psychologists).

Click to buy on Amazon.

Developmental Psychology Textbooks for University

An Introduction to Developmental Psychology

This BPS Official Textbook covers conception to adolescence in great detail. However, I feel that by not discussing adulthood or old age this textbook gives a slightly lopsided impression of developmental psychology.
Given that your course is likely to focus on infancy through to adolescence this book will still be useful, just don’t forget that development doesn’t stop when you turn 20!

Click to buy on Amazon

Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology

I think this textbook is great because it’s succinct. Unlike other great tomes that weigh as much as the table they’re placed on, this book is slim and easy to read. The focus is entirely on childhood. The book’s handling of cogntive development, such as language learning is very clear and unintimidating.

Click to buy on Amazon

The Wiley Handbook of Developmental Psychology in Practice

This is the most advanced of my three recommendations for developmental psychology textbooks for university. The thing that distinguishes this textbook from the others is its focus on practicalities as well as theory.
I would suggest taking a look at this textbook if you’re interested to complete your dissertation research on an area of developmental psychology.

Click to buy on Amazon

Cognitive Psychology Textbooks for University

Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook

Released in 2020, this edition of the student’s handbook will equip you with up to date references and real-life applications on a wide range of cognitive research areas, including cognitive neuroscience. There’s also a companion website with experiment simulations and a 3D interactive atlas of the brain.

Click to buy on Amazon

An Introduction to Cognitive Psychology

Something that distinguishes this textbook from others is how it juxtaposes typical functioning cognitive psychology with abnormal cognitive disorders. By combining these two angles, students are able to develop a greater understanding of the role and process of different cognitive functions.

Click to buy on Amazon

Cognitive Neuroscience

If you’ve got an older textbook on cognitive psychology, it’s unlikely to include much (if anything) about cognitive neurosciene as this is a relatively recent development.
This textbook specialises in the field of cognitive neuroscience so is a great resource for students looking to gain a deeper understanding of this specialism.

Click to buy on Amazon

Research Methods and Statistics Textbooks for University

Research Methods and Statistics in Psychology

I think it’s unlikely that you’ll find a psychology student who says their favourite thing about the subject is statistics… but it’s certainly a very important element of the discipline, so well-worth taking a look at a solid textbook like this one to get it right.

Click to buy on Amazon

An Adventure in Statistics: The Reality Enigma

Andy Field is a very humourous writer, and if anyone is going to make statistics fun he’s the man to do it!
This book is for complete beginners in statistics, so if you’ve never come across stats before, this is a great place to start.

Click to buy on Amazon

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About Daniel Edward 65 Articles
Daniel set up Psychology Unlocked in 2016 to support Psychology students in higher and further education. Daniel has a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Psychology, Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge.