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.

Evaluate the personal life perspective on the family(20)

This is a possible question which could come up in the AQA’s Paper 2, families and households topic. This post is just a few thoughts on how I’d go about answering it.

I think this would be a fair question given that this is quite a difficult topic for students, and quite limited in what you can say for 20 marks.

You might like to review the material on the Personal Life Perspective in more depth before reading what’s below, or before having a go at the question yourself, before looking at the suggestions below!

Item

The Personal Life Perspective argues that sociologists should study family life from the perspectives of individuals, and focus on what families mean to them. If people believe that pets and dead relatives are part of their family, the sociologists should accept this.

This is very different from traditional sociological perspectives such as Functionalism and Marxism, which tended to study the nuclear family and look at what functions this performed for the individual and society.

Using the item and your own knowledge, Evaluate the personal life perspective on the family 

Decode/ discussion

What you need to do here is firstly show your knowledge of the Personal Life Perspective, and contrast this to Functionalism and Marxism. You can gain evaluation marks by showing how the PLP perspective criticise these older perspectives. Further analysis marks can be picked up by discussing how the former perspectives may have been relevant to a modernist society, but the PLP perspective is probably a better way of analysing the family in a post-modern society.

Finally, to criticise the PLP perspective, you could use Gidden’s Late Modernist theory. Although this would be a stretch for many students, especially as many of the text books don’t even recognise that Giddens is a Late Modernist.

Suggested Points

  • The PLP perspective emerged in the 1990s and criticised the Functionalist and Marxist view that the nuclear family should be the primary unit of analysis.
  • PLP argues that people still form meaningful relationships, but their Identity or sense of belonging increasingly comes from other people NOT traditionally regarded as part of a ‘normal family’ – for example pets, friends and dead relatives may all be seen as important to individuals.
  • The PLP perspective makes sense today because the nuclear family has declined in significance as fewer people get married, fewer people have kids, and more and more people spend time living alone, yet people still form meaningful relationships with each other.
  • The PLP perspective suggests we look at the family from the individual’s point of view, taking their definition – which can be useful, because if we do so we find that many people regard ‘non-nuclear’ family members as more important to them than their immediate traditional family.
  • This is is useful because it means we should not over-estimate the stability of the traditional nuclear family, and not be surprised by high rates of family break-down.
  • PLP also seems to fit in with interactionism – looking at the family from the ground up, rather than the top down, a strength of this is that we see that there are still families in the UK, nearly everyone has one, but just not in the standard ‘nuclear family’ sense of the word.
  • The PLP perspective is thus useful in criticising the New Right – people may not be in nuclear families, or married, but they are capable of establishing their own alternative families.
  • PLP is also useful to criticise Functionalism and Marxism – if families are different to the nuclear family, theories which focus on the role of the nuclear family must be wrong.
  • This is also a useful way of exploring family diversity, revealing family diversity if you like, and it’s appropriate when life-courses are diverse and complex.
  • The PLP perspective did, however suggest that people are not entirely free to construct their own families, they are constrained in their ability to do so by society and their immediate culture.
  • Finally, a weakness of PLP is that it ends up being a bit wishy-washy, descriptive rather than analytical, one is kind of left shrugging one’s shoulders wondering what the point of it is!

A-level Sociology Revision Webinars 2020 (AQA focus)

Get ahead with your A-level sociology revision with these cheap online webinars covering the entire A-level sociology specification over a 12 week period.

Please note these have been cancelled due to Coronavirus!

But I will be running the same series in 2021, from March!

A Level Sociology Revision Webinars starting March 2020

The webinars are scheduled for 19.00 every Monday (with one on a Thursday) and will run from Monday 1st of April to Monday 20th June, 2 days before the last exam (crime and deviance with theory and methods). Webinars are scheduled early so that we can get through the entire specification BEFORE the first paper (on May 20th).

NB Registration will only be open during March and the first two weeks of April, then it will close!

Schedule (please see below for a more detailed version)

  1. Thursday 26th March – Education 1
  2. Thursday 2nd April – Education 2
  3. Thursday 9th April – Families and Households 1
  4. Thursday 16th April – Beliefs in Society
  5. Thursday 3rd April – Crime and Deviance 1
  6. Thursday 30th April – Crime and Deviance 2
  7. Thursday 7th May – Research Methods
  8. Thursday 14th May – Social Theories
  9. Saturday 16th May – Education and Theory and Methods 3 (exam on 20th May )
  10. Monday 25th May – Request webinar, content TBC
  11. Monday 3rd June – Families and Beliefs 2 (exam on 2nd June)
  12. Monday 10th June – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods 3 (Exam on 10th June).

All of these webinars will last 50 minutes during which I will provide a brief overview of some of the content within each topic, and a discussion of at least three specific exam practice questions. Students will be able to ask questions during the Webinar, via text, and there will also be time for students to ask questions at the end.

I will be conducting the Webinars via Click Meeting, which allows students to download support materials in advance of the seminars, ask questions during the seminars via ‘chat’, and which will also allow students to review the seminar afterwards as they will be recorded and stored on the site. Recordings will be available until the 16th of June (several days after the final A-level sociology exam).

Sample of Webinar 1 from 2019

Webinar Support materials

The first eight revision Webinars are supported by a PowerPoint, revision notes and exemplar exam questions, and the education, families and methods topics (basically the first year content) have gapped revision hand-outs too, so these really are being offered at a bargain price!

Detailed Schedule..

Please click below for the full schedule (PDF)

Revise Sociology Webinars ScheduleV2

How to access the Webinars and resources

Access to all 12 Webinars is only £49.99, which is less than £5 a Webinar. 

The link will take you to a registration page for my ‘Permanent Room’ on the ClickMeeting platform. This is the room from which I will be running all revision Webinars from, every Thursday from March 26th, switching to Mondays before the exam, and one on a Saturday.

Once registered you will receive an email from ClickMeeting which will provide you with an access link which will allow you access my permanent room for March-June 2019. (NB I will only be using this at the scheduled times, as outlined in the schedule.)

Following registration I will also send you an email containing all the relevant revision resources for the 12 Webinars. These will also be downloadable during and immediately after each revision session.

Reminder emails will be sent out the day in advance of each of the 12 Webinar Revision Sessions, and also watch out for a bonus ‘introducing revision Webinars’ session on the final Monday in March, to give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with how ClickMeeting works.

Payment is via PayPal only!

About your Tutor

I’ve taught sociology for 20 years, 16 of those in a successful sixth form college between 2002 and 2018 (10 years as Head of Department).

In 2014 I set up this blog, and managed to save enough off the back of it to quit working for the ‘man’ and now I work independently, developing non-corporate support materials to facilitate the teaching and learning of A-level sociology.

I also see myself as something of a trail-blazer in developing 16-19 online education: in 2019, we should be doing better than 20 teenagers all having to travel to a central location and then ‘sitting in a room’ for an hour or two. To my mind this all seems a bit 19th century. These Webinars are a move towards making A-level education more flexible and decentralised.

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 

Sociology tuition online! From April 2019…

Online sociology revision webinars April to June 2019, covering the AQA A-level sociology content : education to crime and deviance!

I will be running a series of A-level sociology revision webinars from April to mid-June 2019. The focus will be on maximising marks in the three AQA sociology exams, as well as reviewing basic content across the main sociology options: education, methods, families, beliefs, crime and theories.

These Webinars will be live events, with 30-40 minutes of structured lecture/ Q n A revision supported by a PowerPoint, followed by 20 mins to deal with student questions and popular requests. Webinars will be recorded and accessible if students wish to go back over them, or if they cannot make a particular session.

The online revision sessions will be fully supported with work packs containing revision notes and activities and plenty of practice exam questions and model answers covering all of the short answer questions, the two types of 10-mark questions and the 20- and 30-mark essay questions.

I’m going to be offering access to these via a subscription through Patreon, so there will be tiered access ranging from £20 a month to £40 a month. If you subscribe to the lower tier, you get access to the revision webinars  and resources (NB this is a bargain price!), if you subscribe to the higher level tiers, you get the webinars, resources AND I will provide you with feedback to any practice exam questions you do (basically I’ll mark more essays the higher up the tiers you go).

These Webinars will run on Tuesday evenings at 19.00 GMT, with the exception of the one before the families and beliefs exam, which will be on a Monday, because paper 2 is on a Tuesday!.

There will only be 20 places available* on these webinars. Subscriptions will open on March 1st 2019, but if you want to register your interest early just drop a comment below or email me and I can make sure you get a place.

(*There are more than 30 000 students who study A-level sociology , so these are actually ver rare!)

Quality Guaranteed!

I taught sociology for 16 years between 2001-2018 until I quit recently (because I live frugally I’ve retired from full-time work early) and I’m still an AQA examiner, so I know the content of A-level sociology and the exam rules intimately. I now spend most of my ‘working time’ maintaining this blog and keeping up to date with all things sociology, A-level and exams.

Provisional Timetable

Month/ Week Content
1 April Education
08 April 2 Methods and Methods in Context
15 April 3 Theories (the theories part of theories and methods)
22 April 4 Families
29 April 1 Beliefs
6 May 2 Crime
13 May 3 Education and Theory and Methods (exam on 22nd May)
20 May 4 Education and Theory and Methods
27 May Families and Beliefs
3 June 2 Families and Beliefs (exam on 4th June)
10 June Crime and Deviance and Theory and methods (exam on 12th June)

A reminder of this years exam dates!

A level sociology exam dates 2019.png

NB the above timetable is from the AQA exam board, other boards may have different times! Click here for the AQA’s A-level timetable.

Influence the content of these webinars – Requests!

What do you want covered in these Webinars? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll use the feedback to make sure certain topics are covered…. I know what the real bogeymen of A-level sociology are (selection, the fully social theory of deviance, green crime etc.), but I also know different students struggle with different things, so if you’re thinking of ‘attending’ and want something specific covered let me know and I’ll make sure I go over it!

 

 

A-level sociology of education summary grids

I’ve been designing some sociology of education summary grids to try and summarise the AQA’s A-level sociology of education specification as briefly as possible. I’ve managed to narrow it down to 7 grids in total covering…..

  • Perspectives on education (Functionalism etc)
  • In-school processes (labelling etc.)
  • social class and differential achievement
  • gender: achievement and subject choice
  • Ethnicity
  • Policies
  • Globalisation and education (I couldn’t fit it in anywhere else!)

Here’s a couple of them… I figure these should be useful for quick card sorts during revision lessons. And let’s face it, there is only ONE thing students love more than filling in grids, and that’s a card sort!

Perspectives on education summary grid:

sociological perspectives education.png

Education policies summary grid:

education policies.png

Of course I couldn’t resist doing fuller versions of these grids too, but more of that laters!

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.

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!

 

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.

How I would’ve answered the AQA A level sociology crime and deviance with theory and methods exam, June 2018

A few hints and tips on how I would have answered the crime and deviance with theory and methods exam, June 2018

Answers to the AQA’s A-level sociology crime 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).

Please scroll down for links to other papers!

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

Q01 – Outline two ways in which gender may influence the risk of being a victim of crime (4)

Difficulty – easy

  • Men and masculinity – aggressiveness, linked to higher levels male victims of street crime.
  • Women and domestic violence – linked to patriarchal norms, gender roles.

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

Q02 – Three criticisms of the labelling theory of crime (6)

Difficulty – anywhere from easy to difficult…

If you’ve realised this is a ‘stock question’ that’s been waiting to happen for a while, easy, but if you’re not prepared…. it’s tricky to get beyond the ‘deterministic’ criticism.

If you scroll down to the bottom of my 2016 post on the labelling theory of crime, you’ll find five criticisms at the end of it!

Q03 – Analyse two reasons for social class differences in official crime statistics (10)

Difficulty – easy

The item clearly directs you to one application of labelling theory and one application of ‘underlying differences’.

  • Police and courts more likely to label wc/ Underclass behaviour as criminal – apply Cicourel. Contrast to white collar crime going unnoticed.
  • Greater motivation due to poverty (risk) and opportunity… link to left realism, opportunity structures.

Q04 Evaluate sociological contributions to our understanding of the relationship between the media and crime (30)

Difficulty – medium

Fair question, difficult/ niche topic.

The item directs you to relative deprivation and moral panics so you can apply strain theory, Marxism, and interactionism – quite easy.

Then New Media – so cyber crime maybe linked to postmodernism.

Of course, anyone whose done the media option will have an unfair advantage here. This is something of a problem, then again I can say the same about any of my students getting a question on globalisation and crime, given that they do the global development option.

Difficulty – easy

Q05 – Outline and explain two disadvantages of using laboratory experiments in sociological research (10)

Difficulty – easy

Just take any two disadvantages from this post.

06 – Evaluate the advantages of using structured interviews in sociological research (20)

Difficulty – medium

This is basically a ‘social surveys’ essay inflected with an interview twist…

Use the TPEN plan and just let it flow…!

All in all a perfectly reasonable paper 3!

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