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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Paper 2: Families and Households section only)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/32: Topics in Sociology to demonstrate what you need to do to get an A* grade in sociology A-level.

NB – this post only refers to section A: the families and households option, your option in section A might be different, and you will need to repeat this level of performance in section B in order to A* this paper!

According to the AQA’s 2017 A-level grade boundaries you need an average of about 60 raw marks out of a total of 80 get an A* in paper 2. 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 just sneak into the top mark bands for each of the questions. If you did this in section A, you would get:

  • Q04 – 8/10
  • Q05 – 8/10
  • Q06 – 17/20

= Total marks of 66/80, if you repeat this performance for the same question styles in section B, COMFORTABLY into the A* category!

The remainder of this post explains how to get top band marks in each of the 3 style of questions on paper 3, 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 web site.

Strategies to get an A* in A Level sociology (focusing on paper 7192/2, families and households option)

Question 04: the 10 mark, no item, question: outline two ways/ reasons/ criticisms, no item

The example below, from the 2017 paper 2 achieved 8/10.

Q05: 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: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/2.

Question 06: the 20 mark ‘evaluate’ something using the item 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 understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2016 specimen material which achieved 17/20 – so just into the top band!

Sources 

  • The AQA’s 2016 A level specimen paper and commentaries.
  • 2017: A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 2 7192/2
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Evaluate the view that the growth of family diversity has led to a decline in the nuclear family (20)

This is an example of a 17/20 top band answer to the above question, as marked by the AQA.

In the pictures below, I’ve highlighted all of the candidate’s evaluations in red to show you the balance of knowledge and evaluation required to get into the top mark band!

This is also a good example of a borderline Band 4-Band 5 answer… it just wants a little more evaluation to go up even higher.

The mark scheme (top two bands)

Sociology essay mark scheme

Student’s Response (concepts highlighted in blue, evaluation in burnt orange)

NB It’s the same response all the way through, I’ve just repeated the title on the two pages!

 

Family diversity essay 2018

A-level sociology essay full marks

 

KT’s commentary

This is a bit of a bizarre essay, but this is a good example of how to answer it.

Without the final paragraph it would be floundering down in the middle mark band!

 

Source 

AQA specimen material 2016

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Outline and explain two ways in which changing gender roles within the family may have affected children’s experience of childhood (10)

This is the 10 mark (no item) question which appeared on the 2017 Families and Households paper.

In this post I consider a ‘top band’ answer (provided by the AQA here) which achieved 8/10.

The Question

Outline and explain two ways in which changing gender roles within the family may have affected children’s experience of childhood (10)

The Mark Scheme:

10-mark-question-sociology-mark-scheme-families

Note: there are no marks for evaluation on the 10 mark no item questions (there are for the ‘analyse with the item’ 10 mark questions!)

Student Response:

Highlighted to show the different stages of development.

One way is with the changing roles of women in society, where women are more likely to want to pursue a career before starting a family, with less stigma attached to them, women have taken on more aspects of the instrumental role which Parsons had said traditionally rested with men. This has meant a decrease in family size since the 1970s from 3.2 children to 2, as women in full time employment have children later in life. It has also led to a mono-child society and a ‘fuller experience’ of childhood as parents have more money to spend on one child.

As second change is associated with Young and Wilmott’s symmetrical families – couples have moved from segregated to joint conjugal roles where they share leisure time and chores much more equally than before. This is also related to the rise of the new man who offers more emotional support. This means children are no longer socialised into traditional gender roles and will not experience canalisation like Oakley suggested – e.g. boys are less likely to be given typical boys toys sjuch as guns and socialised into typical traditional male traits such as aggression.

Examiner Commentary: (8/10 marks)

outline-explain-10-mark-question-sociology-families.png

 

Source:

Student responses with examiner
commentary
AS AND A-LEVEL
SOCIOLOGY
7193

Reproduced here for educational purposes!

 

 

 

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How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology of education exam, June 2018

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology education with theory and methods exam, June 2018… Just a few thoughts to put students out of their misery. (Ideas my own, not endorsed by the AQA).

Click here for a link to general advice for how to answer questions on paper 1: Education with theory and methods.

I won’t produce the exact questions below, just the gist…

Q01 – how marketization policies may affect social class differences in achievement (4 marks)

Difficulty – very easy

I would have gone with two aspects of marketization policy and then linked these to material and cultural factors which explain class differences

  • E.G. more parental choice – linked to skilled choosers
  • Formula funding – polarisation of schools – cream skimming/ selection by mortgage (bit of a mission but it would distinguish between the previous point!)

And then ideally explain how they differentially effect at least two ethnic groups. 

Q02 – Three reasons for gender differences in educational achievement(6 marks)

Same topic as last year’s 6 marker…difficulty level very easy.

I would have gone for something like….

  • Socialisation differences
  • subcultures
  • Teacher labelling

I would have discussed gender differences (between girls and boys) and then the different effects on educational achievements, clearly comparing males and females.

Then talk it through with ideally three example of different subjects, discussing both boys and girls.

Q03 – Analyse two ways in which education serves the needs of capitalism

Difficulty –  fairly easy

NB – there was a lot in the item you could have discussed. The ‘hooks’ were really as follows:

  • Capitalism being based on a wealthy minority owning the means of production
  • Capitalism requiring people working in low-paid menial jobs
  • Capitalism requiring workers to not rebel.

It follows that you want to develop using the following

Point one – Capitalism requiring people working in low-paid menial jobs – develop using correspondence principle, further develop with something about Private Schools and the elite class to contrast.

Point two – Capitalism requiring workers to not rebel – develop using ‘legitimation of class inequality, evaluate with Paul Willis.

Q04 Evaluate explanations of social class differences in educational achievement (30)

Difficulty – easy

Personally, I think you should have just ‘tweaked’ this essay plan accordingly, and made more of the links between out of school and in-school factors!

Q05 – the strengths and limitations of participant observation to investigate pupil exclusions

Difficulty – easy for a methods in context question!

As usual, get the method correct first – deal with the practical, ethical and theoretical problems of BOTH covert and overt. And as you go through, try to link to researching in school and the topic.

NB the item mentions poorer pupils and Gypsy Roma pupils, so plenty of specifics to pick up on with gaining access especially.

I will knock up a more thought out answer at some point soon, nice question this!

06 – Two problems with using Functionalism to understand society

Difficulty – easy

I actually covered this in this post – slightly different format, but enough material here for you to develop into a full mark answer to this question.

A-Level Sociology 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
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How to get an A* in A-level Sociology (Crime and Deviance)

This post draws on marked examples from the AQA exam board’s A-level sociology papers 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with 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 Weds!)

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 – 17/20 marks
  • Q06 – 8/10 marks

= Total marks of 68/70, 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 7192/3)

Questions 01 and 02: the four and six mark questions 

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: the question below is a full mark answer taken from the AQA’s 2017 A-level paper 7192/3.

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 understanding, analysis and evaluation, AND use the item, and conclude!

Below is a link to a response taken from the AQA’s 2015 specimen material which achieved 25/30 – so just into the top band!

Q05: The Methods in Context Question

This question can ask you about any method, or any theory (perspective) or any combination of both! Below is an example of a full mark response to the 2017 paper:

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!

Below are links to two marked exemplars, both of which achieved 10/10.

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

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’.

Crime and Deviance Revision Notes for Sale 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Crime and Deviance Revision Notes  – 31 pages of revision notes covering the following topics:

  1. Consensus based theories part 1 – Functionalism; Social control’ theory; Strain theory
  2. Consensus based theories part 2 – Sub cultural theories
  3. The Traditional Marxist and Neo-Marxist perspective on crime
  4. Labeling Theory
  5. Left- Realist and Right-Realist Criminology (including situational, environmental and community crime prevention)
  6. Post-Modernism, Late-Modernism and Crime (Social change and crime)
  7. Sociological Perspectives on  controlling crime – the role of the community and policing in preventing crime
  8. Sociological Perspectives on Surveillance
  9. Sociological Perspectives on Punishment
  10. Social Class and Crime
  11. Ethnicity and Crime
  12. Gender and crime  (including Girl gangs and Rape and domestic violence)
  13. Victimology – Why are some people more likely to be criminals than others
  14. Global crime, State crime and Environmental crime (Green crime)
  15. The Media and Crime, including moral panics

Sources 

  • 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
  • A-level SOCIOLOGY: Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. Published: Autumn 2017
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Applying material from Item C and your knowledge, evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches to our understanding of society (20)

Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to the 20 mark theory essay which came up in the 2017 A-level sociology paper.

The specific question under investigation in this case is: ‘Applying material from Item C and your knowledge, evaluate the view that conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches to our understanding of society’ (20).

For general advice about how to answer the whole of paper three please see this post on ‘the 2017 crime and deviance with theory and methods’ paper.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website).

The Question with Item 

AQA Sociology 20 mark essay mark Scheme

The Mark Scheme (top band only)

AQA Sociology 20 mark essay mark Scheme 2

Student Response:

Sociology is divided between conflict and consensus approaches. The former believe there is harmony in society because of shared values (Functionalists), the later believe society is not harmonious but based on a division between a dominant and subordinate group (Marxists/ Feminists)

Some sociologists argue conflict approaches are more useful than consensus approaches for understanding society – Marxists view society as a conflict between the Bourgeosie (ruling class) and proletariat. They argue there is no harmony because the former exploit the later to create profit and keep their businesses running. The proletariat feel frustrated and alienated because they don’t control the means of production and technological advancement means many are losing their jobs and being made redundant. This all serves the interests of the ruling class who look for new, innovative ways to increase their profits. Marxists argue that certain aspects of society which appear functional are simply a false consciousness – making it appear the Bourgeoisie care about their workers but in reality they don’t for example health and safety laws exist so the proletariat are fit to keep working. However, Marxism only looks at the economic contribution of society and argues that all other institutions are influenced by the economy. Yet many would disagree, arguing that the purpose of the family or religion is to provide comfort, not profit for the Bourgeoisie.

Moreover, labelling theory also argue that conflict approaches act as a better understanding to society than consensus approaches. As an action theory, it argues that if we believe that an event is real, then it will have real consequences. Therefor they look at labelling in society and how there is link between conflict and power (item C) – an individual is given a label in society which influences their behaviour. Becker found that if a student is labelled as deviant then they are more likely to underachieve in school because they accepted that label as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When labels are given from those in higher authority, then they become a master status and become a dominant feature of the individual, which can lead to a deviant career. This also happens with certain crimes – e.g. those with the drug label are more likely to have the crime and the label enforced. However, LT is criticized for not taking into account wider structural features of society such as how capitalism influences people’s behaviour.

However consensus theories are critical (repeats question)… they argue societies are based on shared values and value consensus which allows institutions to harmoniously work together (item C). Parsons argues that this is because of functional prerequisites. Firstly there is economic adaptation to society to meet the economic needs of members, there is goal attainment where society create goals and allocates resources to these goals – the role of government. Then there is integration so the different institutions can meet share goals – the media, education, religion. Finally there is latency where the family socialises individuals into shared norms that society needs: instrumental and expressive role. Thus society hasn’t collapsed because it has a shared value system.

However, functionalism is criticised by postmodernists because it has an absolutist view of society as being functional for all. It neglects the fact that society is fragmented and diverse and the rise of different social movements like black lives matter or Feminism contradict the view that individuals form cohesive communities.

In conclusion it seems Functionalism as a consensus theory has relatively good ideas… for example that social change in society is a result of increasing complexity of society and to ensure that society doesn’t move into a state of anomie so equilibrium occur, different bits of society adapting to compensate.

However conflict theory seems more useful in understanding our society where there is complexity and no longer individuals who follow the same norms and values but rather join different groups which enhance their individual personal beliefs.

Examiner Commentary:

Well, at least one student’s been paying attention for the last couple of years!

Mark: 20/20

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

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Evaluate the usefulness of functionalist approaches in understanding crime and deviance (30)

This is an example of a 25/30 answer to the above question, as marked by the AQA.

In the pictures below, I’ve highlighted all of the candidate’s evaluations in red to show you the balance of knowledge and evaluation required to get into the top mark band!

This is also a good example of a borderline Band 4-Band 5 answer… it just wants a little more evaluation to go up even higher.

The mark scheme (top two bands)

crime-deviance-essay-full-mark-answer.png

Student’s Response (evaluation highlighted in red)

NB It’s the same response all the way through, I’ve just repeated the title on the two pages!

Evaluate functionalist views crime essay (30).png

Evaluate consensus theories crime (30).png

 

Examiner’s commentary

This is a thorough account of a range of functionalist studies. There is sophisticated understanding of the material presented.

Analysis is clear and the material is well explained using appropriate concepts. This conceptual detail in some evaluation is shown, although this is limited to internal evaluation between the various functionalist perspectives.

Other perspectives are only briefly mentioned in the final paragraph. This could be developed further to show a clear debate between perspectives. The answer shows application of material from the item and also from the student’s knowledge. This is accurately applied to the question.

The final concluding paragraph could be more developed. The brief points on Marxism and feminism could be developed throughout the answer rather then simply stated at the end.

Analysis is explicit and relevant.

Source 

AQA specimen material 2015

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Analyse two ways in which deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals (10)

Below is an example of an abbreviated (by me) marked response to a 10 mark ‘analyse with the item question’ which achieved a top band-mark, 10/10 in fact!

For general hints and tips on how to answer all questions across paper three please click here.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website).

The Question with Item 

crime deviance 10 mark question.png

The Mark Scheme (top band only)

sociology-crime-deviance-10-mark-question-mark-scheme.png

Student Response:

One way deviant subcultures may respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals is by offering alternative ways of attaining success. Cohen found that working class boys often felt a strain to achieve in the middle class education system. This is because the education system did not offer them equal chance of attaining mainstream goals (item A) because it not have the same norms as them and the boys experienced a culture clash. As a result the boys responded by creating a subculture which revolved around an alternative status hierarchy, valuing hostility and spite, rewarding behavior mainstream society condemned. They wanted the same goals as the middle class: status and success but their inability to attain so led them to achieving status from their peers through truanting and vandalism. This means that deviant subcultures look for different ways to attain mainstream goals when the opportunities to do so are taken from them. However, Cohen is criticized for assuming that the working class boys all had the same shared goals: not all of them considered themselves a failure.

Cloward and Ohlin argue that not all deviant subcultures respond to the difficulties of achieving mainstream goals in the same way. They argue that the neighbourhood a person lives in creates different types of subculture in response to attaining goals. Unstable neighebourhoods (item A) can reproduce criminal subcultures, creating an apprenticeship for crime and allowing people to socialise with adult criminals, meaning that children turn to utilitarian crime such as theft to achieve consumerist goals. On the other hand, deprived neighborhoods create conflict subcultures where high rates of unemployment and social disintigration mean people turn towards non utilitarian crime due to frustration. This means people turn to crime out of frustration, not to gain status. However, this is deterministic, as not all people from deprived neighourhoods turn to crime.

 

Examiner Commentary:

Mark: 10/10

crime deviance 10 mark question comments

 

KT’s commentary:

  • This looks like overkill to me, I would have thought this is easily 10/10!
  • Note that you can still achieve full marks while referring to dated sociology!

 

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

 

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Outline and explain two advantages of choosing overt participant observation as a source of data compared with covert participant observation (10)

This 10 mark (no item) question could appear at the end of either paper 1, or paper 3.

In this post I consider a ‘top band’ answer (provided by the AQA here) which achieved 10/10.

The Question

Outline and explain two advantages of choosing overt participant observation as a source of data compared with covert participant observation (10)

The Mark Scheme:

outline-explain-10-mark-question-mark-scheme-top-band.png

Note: there are no marks for evaluation on the 10 mark no item questions (there are for the ‘analyse with the item’ 10 mark questions!)

Student Response:

Highlighted to show the different stages of development.

One advantage is that participants are aware you are researching them and so you’re able to write down notes about what you are observing and record it. However, with covert PO you are unable to do so because it would be suspicious, especially if you are observing dangerous ways of life. For example, Venkatesh’s required covert PO as he was unable to write down all the information and relied on retrospective data – from his memory. This means the data could lack validity because he could have forgotten less important aspects from the observation. This issue doesn’t arise with overt observation and so the data is more likely to be valid. 

Overt PO is more objective and can be ethical. The participants are aware that the data is for a study and publication and they are less likely to withdraw. Whereas with covert PO, informed consent has not been collected and participants, after realising they have been deceived may choose to withdraw and not allow the researchers to use the data collected. This means that the data from covert PO may go unpublished and the researcher may have to reconduct another research method, wasting time and energy. 

Examiner Commentary: (10/10 marks)

outline-explain-10-mark-question-full-mark-commentary-2017

KT’s Commentary

  • It seems that the examiners just want you to explicitly compare overt with covert… simple really, punishingly simple.
  • And what was that your teacher told you about case studies?! Obviously here, they matter not at all!

 

 

Source:

Student responses with examiner
commentary
AS AND A-LEVEL
SOCIOLOGY
7193

Reproduced here for educational purposes!