How to get an A* in A-level Sociology

Drawing on marked exemplars from the AQA exam board this post unpicks what you need to do to get and A*

Last Updated on January 11, 2019 by Karl Thompson

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/1: Education with Theory and Methods to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – The later links below will only become operational later this week! (Everything by Friday!)

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 1. This means you can ‘drop’ 20 marks and still get into the A* category.

A grade sociology

However, let’s play it safe and say that the easiest way to ‘guarantee’ your A* is to max out the short answer (4-6) mark questions, and then sneak into the top mark bands for every other question. If you did that you’d end up with a total score of 67/80, made up of the marks as below

  • Q01 – 4/4 marks
  • Q02 – 6/6 marks
  • Q03 – 8/10 marks
  • Q04 – 25/30 marks
  • Q05 – 16/20 marks (because top-banding is HIGHLY unlikely
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 67/70, which is still COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get full marks in the first two short answer ‘outline and explain’ (4 and 6 mark) questions and then examines the ‘top band’s of the mark schemes for the other 10 mark and essay questions, drawing on specific examples from a the AQA’s specimen papers and some model marked scripts from last year’s 2017 A-level sociology examination series.

For more details on how these exams are assessed, please see the AQA’s we site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

I’ve covered this in this post: how to answer 4 and 6 mark questions in A-level sociology. This post outlines the ‘1+1’ technique to answering these questions as well as containing a few examples

You might also like the following post:

A 4/6 mark answer from June 2017Outline three ways in which factors within school may affect gender differences in subject choice (06) – link takes you to a 4/6 marked response, but includes the mark scheme which shows you how you could have got 6//6.

Q03: Applying material from item A ‘Analyse Something’

This is my summary of the the AQA’s guidance on the two types of 10 mark question (the second type is question 06 below).

To summarise the key points from the top band of the mark scheme for this type of question, you need:

  • Good knowledge and understanding of relevant material
  • Two reasons/ ways/ effects (whatever the action word is)
  • Two developed applications from the item
  • analysis and/ or evaluation of these effects.

So far, so abstract: this link will take you to a full mark answer modified from the AQA’s 2017 A-level education paper.

You might also like this post, which outlines a 5/10 marked response, with good indicators of how to do it, and how not to do it!

Question 04: the big, 30 mark, pure education essay question

This question will ask you to evaluate something using an item.

To get into the top mark band, you basically need to demonstrate excellent knowledge and understand, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Click here for example of a 28/30 mark answer from the June 2017 Paper…. the question is on ‘the role of education in transmitting values’.

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This is the question which asks you to evaluate the usefulness of using any method to research any topic within education.

The AQA marks these questions in band, let’s forget about bands 1 and 2, your’re way better than that:

  • Band 3 = good knowledge of methods
  • Band 4 = method applied to researching education in general
  • Band 5 = method applied to researching the topic in particular.

This is an example of a 20/20 methods in context answer, marked by the AQA (taken from an AS exemplar paper, but the format of question is the same for the A-level). The specific question is ‘Applying material from [the item], and your own knowledge, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to investigate the influence of the family on pupils’ education (20).

Q06: Outline and Explain Two…(10)

This final question will ask you to outline and explain two reasons, arguments, ways, criticisms etc…. there is no item, and unlike the other 10 mark question, there are no marks for evaluation!

Click here for an example of a full mark, 10/10 answer to to the question: ‘outline and explain two arguments against the view that sociology is a science (10). This is taken from the AQA’s 2015 Specimen material.

Remember that this exact question could appear on either paper 1, or paper 3!

Education Revision Bundle! 

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.


  • The AQA’s 2015 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017

2 thoughts on “How to get an A* in A-level Sociology”

  1. Hi Karl. I believe that the link for the 30 marks question is not taking me to the right place. Can you check it? Thanks!

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