AQA AS Level Sociology: Paper 2 – Research Methods and Topics (families): How I would’ve answered it…

Advice from an AQA examiner on how you should have answered the AQA AS Sociology paper 2: topics and (for most students) families and households

Just a few quick thoughts on what I thought about this paper and how I would have answered some of the questions. You might also like this post:  How I would’ve answered the AQA’s AS Sociology 2018 paper 1: Education and Methods in Context.

Section A: Research Methods

Q01: Outline two problems of using questionnaires with closed questions in sociological research

Looks like a simple start although you will need to think a bit (it is an exam, after all!) to get beyond the ‘imposition problem’. You’ll also need to be careful to talk about just ‘closed’ questions.

I would have gone with:

Both will need expanding on, this is just a quick look!

  • The imposition problem – means respondents can’t express what they really feel.
  • Ethical issues with sensitive topics – closed questions may not allow people to express their feelings.

Q02 – Evaluate the disadvantages of using qualitative methods in sociological research


Intro – outline what they are: primary = unstructured interviews, the two types of participant observation. Secondary = LOT – public and private documents. Also mention the sacred Interpretivism vs Positivism.

Then I would do the following with linked evaluations comparing different qualitative methods:

  • Lack of reliability
  • Lack of representativeness
  • Overall evs – good validity
  • A whole host of practical problems.
  • Evs – some are better than others.
  • Generally good ethics.
  • Conclude – they’re a real hassle, and have terrible problems with R and R, but Intp argue it’s all worth it because of the better validity!


Section B (Option): Families and Households

Q08 – Define the term primary socialisation

Possibly the easiest question in the history of AS Sociology! I won’t insult anyone by reproducing the answer here…. see this post on socialisation if you MUST double check the definition.

Q09: Using one example briefly explain how childhood might be a negative experience for some children in the UK today.

Also very easy – you could either pick up on something from toxic childhood or go via the increased control of girls/ poverty of the working classes, or just abuse?!?

Q06: Outline three reasons for the fall in the death rate in the United Kingdom since 1900

The AQA are being nice this year, aren’t they! Develop each of these points for an easy 6/6:

  • economic growth
  • medical advances
  • social policies

See this post on the decline in the death rates for how to develop each of the points. NB: you might want something more specific from within each general area!

Q11: Outline and explain two ways in which postmodernists argue that increased choice for individuals has affected patterns of family life (10)

OK so it’s about postmodernism, but it it’s quite general so you should be OK:

In terms of choice for individuals, there is more choice over:

  • whether or not we get married
  • when we leave home, IF we leave home (kidults)
  • whether or not we have children and when we have them
  • what the relationship looks like (pure relationship/ negotiated family)
  • sexuality and sexual identity

Any of the above, developed in terms of PATTERNS of family life – this might be family structures AND/ OR the life course…..

Actually well done the AQA, this is a good question, I likie!

Q12: Evaluate sociological views on the impact of government policies and laws on the role of the family.

The item refers to the functionalist perspective and how this suggests laws support the family, using welfare as an example.

Then it says the New Right believes policies such as the divorce act have undermined the traditional role of the family.

So…if you use the item, you’re basically being asked to focus on the extent to which welfare policies and the divorce act have undermined the ‘traditional role of the family’.

Personally I’d outline the Functionalist and New Right views, discuss the extent to which the policies mentioned in the item have undermined these functions, then focus on other social change factors and bring in postmodernism and feminism to evaluate.

I’d then generalise to other policies – civil partnerships/ maybe policies relating to childhood.

Hmm, you know what, in terms of a balanced and accessible exam paper…

I’m going to say…. 10/10 for this, spot on!







AQA AS Level Sociology: Education with Methods in Context 2018: How I Would’ve Answered It.

Just a few quick thoughts on what I thought about this paper and how I would have answered some of the questions…

Q01: Define the term social solidarity…

‘Nice simple start:

Social solidarity is…

‘instilling a sense of belonging to wider society, a sense of commitment to the importance of working towards society’s goals and a feeling that the society is more important than the individual’, as I’ve said in this post on ‘Durkheim’s Perspective on Education

Q02 – using one example briefly explain how boys’ behaviour in school may make it difficult to do well in the education system…

Also fairly easy… you simply need to contrast how ‘laddish subcultures’ conflict with elements of the formal curriculum…. e.g. status gained for bunking lessons, compared to the requirement to attend.

Q03 – Outline three examples of how the education system could be seen as fair to everyone.

Initially seems to be one of those ‘grimace’ type questions… but you could probably get there by drawing on mainly functionalist ideas such as

  • National Curriculum means all children do the same subjects
  • Meritocracy through standardised exams
  • School uniforms>?
  • Equality and diversity programmes.

Obviously you need to say a bit more to get the + 1s for all of the above.

Q04 Outline and explain two ways in which social class may affect subject choice

To start you off two lead points might be…

  • Cultural capital of middle class parents … higher career aspirations, more likely to do science subjects
  • Teacher labelling and stereotyping might mean lower class students are steered into easier BTEC type subjects (because, objectively, they are easier).

Your problem is…. how do you pad out the middle bit?!?

You basically just need to invert this essay plan I knocked up on ‘in-school factors’

Standard essay…. cultural differences, each evaluated then evaluating using the relative importance of in school factors.

Q06: A methods in context question on the strengths and limitations of using official statistics to investigate how successful a school is…

Actually well done the AQA, this is a good Methods in Context question

Q05: Applying material from item A and your knowledge, evaluate the view that ethnic differences in educational achievement are a result of factors outside the education system (20)

Simply use practical, theoretical ethical as a base… just some of the points you might make…

  • Practical – every school required to collect them, in the same way, good for comparisons, HOWEVER, different schools might be failing because of different reasons, stats may not tell you this.
  • Practical – don’t have to go into schools
  • Theoretical – validity problems – as mentioned in the item…. there is no depth of insight.
  • The item mentions how stats can’t measure things such as pupil happiness, or a sense of community, you might discuss why these can’t be measured
  • Theoretical – good representativeness.
  • Ethical – you could discuss how much harm league tables have done.

All in all, quite a good exam paper!







AS Sociology Education with Methods in Context Last Minute Exam Advice

Good luck to all students sitting tomorrow’s AS level sociology exam (AQA 7191/1 Education with Methods in Context)…

Remember it’s in the morning, not to panic because it is only an exam, and to try and answer all the questions.

For a more detailed overview of the structure of the exam paper and how to answer the questions please see this post here!

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AS Sociology Education Short Answer Question and Answers

Some examples of possible short answer question and answers for the education section of AS Sociology Paper 7191 (1)

Examples of ‘define’ questions (2 marks)

Question: Define the Term ‘meritocracy’ (2)

Answer: where an individual is rewarded on the basis of ability and effort – a fair system of reward

Question: Define the ‘the reproduction of class inequality’ (2)

Where social class based differences in income, education and wealth are carried on from one generation to the next

E.g. – Where working class children fail in education and go on to get working class jobs, and vice versa for middle class children.

Question: Define the term ‘neoliberalism’ (2)

Answer: A theory that believes in societies being run according to market principles. The idea that the government should be as small as possible and keep out of the affairs of private enterprise (businesses)

Examples of ‘using one example, explain what is meant by’

Question: Using one example identify and briefly explain what is meant by the term ‘Role Allocation’ (2)

Where individuals are sifted and sorted into appropriate jobs based on the qualifications they achieve – E.G. someone passes a law degree to get a job as a lawyer.

Question: Using one example identify and briefly explain what is meant by the term ‘correspondence principle’ (2)

Where what pupils learn at school prepares them for future exploitation at work – E.G.  accepting authority of teachers at school then accepting the authority of managers at work,.

Question: Using one example identify and briefly explain one way in which neoliberal ideas have influenced education policy (2)

Answer: The idea that businesses should play more of a role in running the education system – E.G. The setting up of academies

AQA Exam Paper 7191 (2): Research Methods with Families and Households

An overview of the AS Sociology paper 7191 (2), and a few quick hints and tips on how to answer each of the questions…

NB – Technically this paper is research methods with topics in sociology, but nearly everyone does the families and households topic. If you don’t do that topic, choose the topic you have studied!

You will be given a total of 90 minutes to answer this paper and is out of a total of 60 marks (this means 1.5 minutes per mark). There are a total of 6 questions, 5 on ‘pure education’ and 1 on ‘methods in context’.

For paper 2, you get a booklet with the questions, and then a separate booklet in which to write your answers. There are two sections – section A on research methods has 2 questions – one four mark outline question and one 16 mark essay question. Section B2 will be on families and households –

The general structure of the paper is as follows:

Section A

  • QO1: Outline two advantages/ limitations/ problems of using a research methods (4 marks )*
  • Q02:  Evaluate the strengths/ limitations of a research method (16 marks)*

Section B (Families and Households Option)

  • Question 08: Define the term… (2 marks)
  • Question 09: Using one example, briefly explain something (2 marks)
  • Question 10: Outline three ways/ factors/ criticisms (6 marks)
  • Question 11: Outline and explain two ways/ reasons/ criticisms (10 marks)
  • Question 12:  Applying material from Item B and your knowledge evaluate something to do with the family (20 marks)

General hints and tips

Question 1 and Question 10: Outline 2/3 reasons –  these are 2/3 lots of ‘1+1’ – make sure you explain HOW each point has an effect, or is affected by something. For example, if the question asks you to outline two practical problems with doing participant observation – state a problem and explain why it’s a problem!

Question 16: For any pure methods essay – follow the TPEN plan – evaluate using practical, ethical, theoretical factors, and do nature of topic. Top and tail with positivism vs interpretivism. Use examples to illustrate where you can!

Question 08: Define the concept and give an example. Even though it says define, it’s good practice to do this and then back it up with an example to show you understand it. NB – this could be any concept within families and households – sometimes they’re obscure, sometimes they’re easier – if it looks unfamiliar, don’t worry about it and just move onto the next questions.

Question 09: Explain something using an example – you need to do two things here – think of it as a ‘1+1’ mark question.

Question 11: It’s good practice to try and pick 2 very different answers – from different parts of the education module. Explain and develop using perspectives/ research evidence.

Question 12: You should be familiar with the essay structure – Intro – then PEEC – Overall evaluations, then conclusion. 4 points all internally evaluated. If in doubt, chuck the perspectives at it.

Finally, if it all goes really pear-shaped, have a look at my alternative careers guidance – you don’t even need A levels to pursue these options!

*these are typical questions which focus on a method, you might be asked about other things, such as sample, or practical, ethical, or theoretical problems in general, for example!

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