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 and a few comments with specific details about each one. If you would like to recommend a further textbook to add to the list, please get in touch with the details.
Undergraduate Psychology Textbooks
Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour 7th Edition
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 (7th) 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)
Psychology with MyPsychLab, Fifth Edition
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)
A-Level Psychology Textbooks
AQA Psychology for AS and A Level – Student Books
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
OCR Psychology for A Level Book 1 & 2
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
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