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Exam advice from the AQA’s Examiner Reports from 2018

The AQA produces an examiner report after every exam, and it’s very good advice to look at these reports to see common mistakes students made last year, so you can avoid making the same mistakes this year!

AQA sociology examiner report 2018.png

Below I’ve selected FIVE choice pieces of advice based on the two most common errors from the 2018 Education with Theory and Methods paper.

  1. For the short answer questions, make sure you get your ID and Development the right way round – for example, last year’s 4 mark question was on ‘two reasons why marketisation policies may create social class differences in educational achievement’ – many students started with a policy rather than a reason, they should have started with a reason and then illustrated with a policy.
  2. The six marker was ‘outline three reasons for gender differences in educational achievement – the report says that many students did not get a second mark because they failed to be specific enough in their application to gender or educational achievement, so be specific!
  3. For question 5 – the methods in context question – the best answers used the hooks in the item, so use the item!
  4. At the other end of the paper – the final 10 mark theory and methods and question, a lot of students seemed to run out time to answer this, so make sure you get your timing right. Remember that it’s almost certainly going to be easier to get 4/10 for a 10 mark question than to go from 12/20 to 16/20 on a methods in context question – the bar’s lower after all!
  5. Focussing on the final 10 marker – if you get another ‘criticise a theory’ type question’ then the best answers simply used other perspectives to develop their criticisms.

It seems that the 10 marker with item and 30 mark essay question were OK!

Sources 

All information taken from the AQA’s 7192/1 examiner report.

You can read the full report here.

You can view the 2018 paper here.

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Outline three ways in which pupil identities may come into conflict within school

A possible 6 mark question in the sociology of education exam. Unlike many 6 markers, this one lends itself to research studies!

Paul Willis: Learning to Labour – found that the traditional working class male identity came into direct conflict with the norms of the school – for the ‘lads’ he studied being male for them meant being cool, and not caring about school work. For them ‘real boys didn’t try hard at school’ and they were more interested in dossing around.

Louise Archer –found that girls that didn’t conform to traditional gender identities (passive and submissive) came into conflict with the school. For most of the girls, constructing and performing a heterosexual, sexy feminine image was the most important thing to them. Each of the girls spent considerable money and time on their appearance, trying to look sexy and feminine which gave the girls a sense of power and status. The peer group policed this.

Mac an Ghail argued that the African Caribbean community experienced the world in very different ways to white people – namely because of institutional racism in the college and he argued that any anti-school attitudes were reactions against this racism. He mainly blamed the school rather than the students

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A level sociology exam dates 2019!

Just a reminder of the upcoming exam dates for the three A-level sociology exams!

  • 7192/1 Education with theory and methods 2h 22 May 2019 am
  • 7192/2 Topics in Sociology 2h 04 June 2019 pm
  • 7192/3 Crime and deviance with theory and methods 2h 12 June 2019 am

Do please make sure to check the dates for yourself!

Source – cut and paste directly from the AQA’s confirmed exam timetable!

Revision Webinars

I’m offering three revision webinars on the Sundays before each of the above exams.

For anyone signing up in the next week (before May 10th, I’ll also throw in access to eight pre-recorded revision Webinars covering the entire A-level sociology syllabus, available at this blog post (password protected: if you sign up for the three Webinars, I’ll email you the password!). NB six are currently available, 2 to be uploaded next week! 

Countdown to the first exam!

Just in case you weren’t panicked enough already…

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How important is it to using the Item in A-level sociology essay questions?

Many teachers I know give their students ‘model essay plans’ for the classic topics in sociology, which students can use and adapt if they get a question on that general topic area.

For example, an essay plan on the question ‘ assess the view that home based factors are more important than in-school factors in explaining class based differences in education achievement’ might have a model plan as below:

  1. Intro
  2. Home based factors – material
  3. Home based factors – cultural deprivation
  4. Home based factors – cultural capital
  5. In-school factors
  6. Conclusions.

(Obviously one could elaborate on this a lot further!)

Students can then change the order if the question is slightly different, such as on in-school factors, in which case in-school factors would be placed at no/2 after the intro and so on….

HOWEVER, I’m not convinced that such an approach will get students into the top mark band. If you check the 30 mark mark scheme carefully, it refers ‘appropriate material being carefully selected and sensitively applied to the question’. To my mind, carefully using the item and using that to structure the question might be a better way to go!

Take the example of the following question take from the 2016 AS sociology specimen paper. The item is clearly pointing you to address only certain aspects of home factors…..

 

 

An item-based structure for the above essay would look like this:

  1. Parenting practices encouraging intellectual development – links to cultural capital theory
  2. More involvement – links to cultural deprivation theory
  3. Evaluative paragraph dealing with material deprivation
  4. Evaluative paragraph dealing with policy
  5. Evaluate using in-school factors, explaining how they are interlinked with school factors!

Make sure you discuss all levels of education!

My thoughts are that this could well be an important strategy when dealing with especially 20 mark essay questions as your time is quite limited on these!

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Revising core themes in A-level sociology

There are six ‘core themes‘ in the AQA’ A-level sociology specification: 

  • Socialisation
  • culture
  • identity
  • Social differentiation
  • power
  • stratification

These six core themes cut across every compulsory topic and every optional topic (usually families and beliefs), and they can form the basis of any 10 mark or any essay question. Students should not be at all surprised if they see any of the words cropping up in one of the 30 mark essay questions.

NB – these themes should look familiar, as they are basically some of the core concerns of the perspectives: Functionalism and postmodernism tend to focus on the top three, Marxism and Feminism the bottom three, with interactionism sitting somewhere in between them.

Where 10 mark questions are concerned, I recommend trying to use these two sets of core themes to develop points you find in the item – ‘one way’ focussing on a Functionalist/ postmodern analysis, the other focusing on developing a marxist/ feminist/ postmodern analysis. To my mind, it’s easy to develop Postmodernism from Functionalism and Labelling theory from Marxism/ Feminism.

Where essays are concerned, the 4 boxes above might be used as a suitable structure for four paragraphs, again, in relation to the item.

Quite a useful revision task is to place different questions in the middle of the above slide and just talk through how you might relate the different core themes/ perspectives/ concepts to the question.

In future posts this month I’ll outline how I use this analysis structure in mainly 10 mark questions!

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Outline three ways in which surveillance may be used to control crime in modern societies (6)

This is a possible example of a 6 mark ‘outline’ question which may appear on A-level sociology paper 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods).

It struck me as a particularly likely possibility for a 4 or 6 mark question given the fact that most A-level sociology text books point towards three types of surveillance – the panopticon, the synopticon and categorial surveillance.

This means this is a suitably narrow question, given that you are pretty much required to use some ‘proper’ sociology concepts in each point.

Also, don’t forget that ‘outline’ really means ‘outline and explain a little bit’. Think make a point, and then explain how/ give an example.

Outline three ways in which surveillance may be used to control crime in modern societies (6)

  • The first way is through the Panopticon model, which is where a centralised authority watches a population, who cannot see whether they are being watched or not. The population does not engage in deviant behaviour for fear of being seen, caught and punished.
  • The second way is through the synopticon model – this is where everyone watches everyone else, as through social media. People do not engage in deviance for fear of being socially shamed.
  • The third way is through ‘categorical surveillance’ – often used in schools and is where students with certain characteristics known to be correlated with deviance are made to attend extra lessons for example – so they are physically prevented from being deviant by direct surveillance.

Related posts 

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Applying material from the item, analyse two reasons why younger people are generally less religious than older people

This is one possible example of a 10 mark ‘with item’ question which could come up in the AQA’s A level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology (section B: beliefs in society option). 

Read the item, and then answer the question below.

Item

Older people are more likely to both attend church and express religious beliefs than younger people.

Some sociologists have suggested that this is due to changes which occur during the life-course. Other sociologists believe this trend is more about social changes resulting in generational differences.

Applying material from the item, analyse two reasons why younger people are generally less religious than older people

The first reason why older people are more religious is that as they come to the end of their ‘life course’, they are simply biologically closer to death which means they start to think more about what happens after death. This is something which all religions deal with, and so it could simply be that older people become more religious because they find a suitable explanation to their questions about the afterlife in religion.

This could be especially the case today, as modern society is obsessed with ‘youth and life’ and so religion is one of the few places people close to death might find solace.

A related life course related factor is social isolation. As people enter retirement, they lose their work place connections, and are more likely to see their friends die. Attending church could be a way of making up for these lost connections.

The second possible reason is social changes – meaning that each successive generation is less religious than the previous generation.

The church has gradually become disengaged from society and so has less influence over social life: thus children today are much less likely to see religious authority being exercised in politics, and religion has also lost its influence in education: RE is now somewhat watered down compared to what it used to be: presenting religion as a choice rather than a necessity.

Also, now that society has become more postmodern, it emphasizes, fun, diversity and choice, all of which traditional religion at least doesn’t offer as much of: people would rather spend Sunday relaxing rather than in church, and this is very much normal today.

As a result of all the above, parents are much less likely to socialize their children into religious beliefs and practices, which explains the decline in religion across the generations and between younger and older people today.

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Applying material from the item, analyse two criticisms of the view that religion is merely a tool of oppression

This is one possible example of a 10 mark ‘with item’ question which could come up in the AQA’s A level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology (section B: beliefs in society option). 

Read the item, and then answer the question below.

Item

Karl Marx famously argued that religion was the ‘opium of the masses’ and Simone de Beauvoir argued that religion compensated women for their second class status. Both theorists believed that religion was an ideological tool which pacified the oppressed.

These views have, however, been criticized:

Applying material from the item, analyse two criticisms of the view that religion is merely a tool of oppression (10)

Firstly, Marxist and Feminist views tend to downplay the positive functions of religion.

As Functionalists have pointed out, it is quite likely that some form of religious belief and organisation is functional (i.e. beneficial for the individual and society) given that religion is practically universal (i.e found in nearly all societies).

Functionalists have pointed to many positive functions of religion – such as helping people deal with death and societies deal with transition and times of uncertainty. Rather than this being about simply keeping inequality in place, it could be that religion benefits everyone by keeping society stable.

Furthermore, people still practiced religion in secret in communist countries when religion was banned, suggesting that they actively wanted religion for their own comfort, rather than it simply being something forced on them by elites.

You could argue that a similar thing is found with religion today in the form of ‘civil religion’ – where people find comfort in quasi-religious ceremonies such as Football matches and Royal Weddings… again this seems to be a matter of choice, and because attendance is optional, it’s hard to argue that these ‘shallower’ forms of religion have a  sinister social control function like Marxists and Feminists suggest!

Secondly, The above theories assume that people simply passively accept an elitist interpretation of religious doctrines. There is plenty of evidence that this is not always the case.

Liberation theology is a good example of this: where Catholic Church leaders in Latin America took the side of the landless peasants, and argued against the elitist interpretation that inequality was God’s will: instead helping the poor fight back against inequality and elite institutions and attempting to bring about a more equal society.

This is supporting evidence for the Neo-Marxist view that religion is not simply controlled by elites, but is relatively autonomous, thus meaning it can be a tool for social change.

From an Islamic Feminist point of view, Nawal el Sadawi argued that Islam was not inherently patriarchal, but rather that it had been interpreted in a patriarchal way in patriarchal societies (patriarchy comes first, if you like!). She further argued that it was perfectly possible for women to challenge Patriarchal interpretations of Islam, as she herself did, thus meaning it doesn’t have to be a tool of social control and pacification.

A postmodern analysis of religion further supports the ‘active intepretation’ criticisms of Marxism and Feminism – today people are much more likely to pick and mix their religious beliefs, and reject anything they don’t like, and use religion at selected times when they find it useful. This is hardly religion controlling and pacifying the population!

 

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Applying material from the item, analyse two reasons for gender differences in the membership of religious organisations.

This is one possible example of a 10 mark ‘with item’ question which could come up in the AQA’s A level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology (section B: beliefs in society option). 

Read the item, and then answer the question below.

Item

Feminists have criticized many traditional religions such as Christianity and Islam for being patriarchal: positions of power within the traditional institutions of both religions are largely controlled by men, an both tend to support traditional roles for men and women.

Feminists have also suggested that the New Age Movement appeals much more to women because it celebrates many aspects of femininity that traditional institutions seek to repress.

Applying material from the item, analyse two reasons for gender differences in the membership of religious organisations (10)

Suggested answer

Simone de Beauvoir suggested that Christianity offered women spiritual compensation for accepting their inferior roles in society  as housewives and mothers.

However, now that more women are in work, and they place less emphasis on the importance of such traditional gender roles, there is less need for such spiritual compensation, hence why the numbers of women attending church may be declining.

Middle class women especially may find the New Age Movement appealing because it allows them to ‘shop’ for their particular therapy, and demands very low levels of commitment.

the NAM is also less focused on social roles, and allows women (and men) a much greater degree of freedom to express their feminine sides – it celebrates nurturing and caring and emotion in a much more ‘fun’ way than traditional churches tend to, which again might appeal to postmodern women more.

It is also more accepting of diversity and thus much less likely to look down on women who are divorced.

Secondly, traditional religious organisations tend to encourage the repression of female sexuality: Catholicism for example is anti-abortion and anti-contraception.

This does not fit in age of female sexual liberation and greater sexual promiscuity. Since the  contraception and the pill (what Giddens calls ‘plastic sexuality’), which may explain why women are turning away from the church.

In contrast, the New Age Movement actually celebrates female sexuality. This may also explain why men don’t feel that attracted the the NAM, maybe they are threatened by empowered women, reflecting a crisis of masculinity.

Finally, the New Age Movement, in its pick and mix approach and celebration of diversity, is more likely to appeal to gender diverse individuals, as it is not against homosexuality like more traditional religions tend to be.