Assessment Objectives and Key Skills in A Level Sociology

knowledge, understanding, application, analysis and evaluation!

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Karl Thompson

There are three key skills you need to demonstrate in A level Sociology:

  • AO1: Knowledge and Understanding
  • AO2: Application
  • AO3: Analysis and Evaluation

AO‘ stands for ‘Assessment Objective’.

Knowledge and Understanding

This means knowledge and understanding of sociological theories, concepts and evidence


This means applying sociological theories, concepts, evidence and research methods to a range of issues. It also means being able to apply material from the items that are attached to some questions!

Analyse and evaluate

You need to be able to analyse and evaluate concepts, evidence and research methods in order to:

  • present arguments
  • make judgements
  • draw conclusions.

Analysis means being able to pick apart arguments and evidence in a nuanced way and showing that you know the logic behind arguments, and how all the pieces of a theory fit together.

Evaluation means showing the strengths and limitation of research studies and theories.

Developing Skills in A-level Sociology

Below are eight specific ways you can demonstrate these skills in relation to sociological concepts, theories and evidence. They get progressively harder, sort of.

Knowledge and Understanding

AO1 – Define/ explain the theory or Concept
AO1 – Give examples to illustrate this theory or concept


AO2 – Apply the theory or concept – How far does the theory/ concept help you understand different aspects of social life?
AO2 – Analyse – What are the key foundational ideas of the theory or the concept?
AO2 – Analyse – How does the theory/ concept relate to other theories/ concepts – which are the most closely related, which the opposite?

Analysis and Evaluation

AO3 – Evaluate from other PERSPECTIVES – What would other perspectives say about the theory/ concept? (obviously this overlaps with no/.5 above
AO3 – Evaluate – HISTORICAL CRITICISM – Is the theory/ concept dated? When was the concept developed? Is it still relevant today, or has society changed so much that it is no longer relevant? Has society changed in such a way that some aspects of the theory are now more relevant?
AO3 – Evalaute – POWER/ BIAS/ VALUE FREEDOM? Who developed the concept/ theory – whose interests does it serve?

You also need to be able to evaluate research methods – but more of that later!

Signposting and Related Posts.

For more information on A-level sociology exam skills and exam advice please see my page on exams, essays and exam advice.

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