Advice on examples of possible 10 mark (outline and explain or analyse applying the item) questions for the AQA’s A-level sociology.
There are two types of 10 mark question within the families and households section of the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2: An outline and explain (no item) question and an ‘applying material from an item, analyse question. Both questions will ask students to Outline or explain/ analyse using the item TWO ways/ reasons, consequences/ criticisms (the action words may vary)
In its ‘guidance on 10 mark questions’ (see link above), the AQA intimates that there is a strong possibility that both of these types of 10 mark question will ask students to link two areas from within the broader topic area.
For families and households, there are 5 main topic areas, as outlined below, and it is likely that any 10 mark question will ask to you show how one of these areas is related to another.
So typical example questions might ask you link perspectives on the family to birth rates, or social policies to childhood.
HOWEVER, according to the notes and guidance on 10 mark questions provided by the AQA does not say that a 10 mark question will necessarily ask students to link two topic areas: the guidance on ’10 mark ‘outline and explain’ questions says linking two areas is one way students may be asked to show analyse, but it isn’t the only way; and for the 10 mark analyse from the item type questions, the guidance explicitly says you may be asked to link two elements from the same or different areas within the topic.
So, for these reasons I’ve also included the ‘core themes’ in the diagram above, because to my mind, linking any of the above topic areas to any of the core themes might be another way the AQA might get you to analyse in an outline and explain type question.
Finally, you also need to be prepared for a more in depth question, where the 10 mark applying from the item questions are concerned, one which only asks you to discuss material from within one bullet point above.
The guidance above should apply equally as well to 10 mark questions on paper 1 (Education with Theory and Methods) and paper 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods), as well as, of course, section B, the other option on the topics paper 2.
For teachers, ‘teaching to a question’ is often the most efficient way of organizing a lesson, and it’s something I found especially useful when I first began my teaching career, 146 years ago.
In this post all I’m doing is re-visiting this basic strategy in preparation for teaching the next block of theories of crime and deviance, and simply asking myself what are the best ‘starting point’ questions to get students thinking along the line of Marxists, Interactionists and Realists….
Any of these questions can be used as useful starters… as kind of ‘what do you already know’ starter if you like. You could always add in a brief data response task to each block of questions to bring them to life a bit more.
Marxist theories of crime – four basic questions
Does Capitalism cause crime?
Do the police disproportionately target the working classes?
Are elites more likely to escape prosecution by the courts than the working classes?
Do Corporations cause more harm to people, society and the planet than ‘actual’ criminals?
Interactionist theories of crime – four basic questions
Do teachers/ the police label students/ people based on their class, gender and ethnicity?
Does this create a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Are teachers/ the police to blame for the deviance of their students/ the crimes of criminals?
Right Realist theories of crime – to tap into rational choice theory…..
Really simple..brainstorm anything the government might do to reduce crime in society (prize for the most solutions)
Any series of questions relating to ‘Rational Choice Theory’ (future post on this) – e.g. here’s a scenario, such as it being late at night, no guards, no ticket barrier, would you bunk the train…
All things being equal, do you think harsher punishments generally reduce crime?
All things being equal do you think more police on the streets is an effective way to reduce crime?
NB – the questions above aren’t supposed to be exhaustive, just the simpler ones to kick start the topics.
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
This is an example of a relatively straight forward 6 mark question which might appear on the AQA’s A level paper 1 (7192/1).
If you require a more detailed breakdown of paper 1 please click here.
The basic approach to answering 6 mark ‘outline’ questions is to think of them as 1+1 questions – in this case identify a function (for 1 mark) and then explain how education performs that function (for +1). Repeat this 3 times, and you have 3*(1+1) = 6/6 marks.
You should spend no more than 9 minutes on this question (a minute and a half per mark).
A ‘function’ of education is something education (mainly schools) does; a purpose it fulfills, or a goal it contributes towards achieving.
Below are some (1+1) suggestions as to how you might successfully answer this question.
Outline three functions which the education might perform for society (6)
Getting students ready for work – school does this by starting off teaching basic reading and writing, which most jobs require, and later on by giving students specific job related skills – such as biology gets you ready for a career in medicine.
Education creates social solidarity which is where we all feel as if we are part of something bigger, working towards the collective good – school does this by teaching everyone the same history and literature, which helps to forge a sense of national identity.
Education maintains social order, performing a social control function – it does this through requiring that all students attend and through surveillance, any student who does not conform is subject to disciplinary procedures, thus learning to stick to the rules in later life.
My weekly ‘Monday teaching and learning’ post: I’ve been thinking about questioning in A-level Sociology recently,* in particular I’ve been asking myself ‘what are the best quick-fire questions to ask students about theories and concepts’ and ‘what’s the best way to present these questions’?
By ‘best’ I mean what kinds of questioning style will most effectively develop knowledge recall, understanding and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation? And how can this be done quickly!
I’m only really interested here in questioning as a review activity (not the kinds of question you ask during a regular lesson), so this is meant for recapping previous lessons work, as part of a plenary, or as part of a revision lesson.
As I see it, the most effective way to ask questions is to do so in a hierarchical order, starting with basic recall, and moving up through application, analysis, and evaluation, and you could even tag on a conclusion type question at the end.
I tend to ask eight questions to recap any theory or concept… In the example below, I used these questions on a PPT with the headings as titles and the prompts in the main body of each slide. This was a simple, verbal pair-work recap task (with the usual further development questions tagged on). There’s also nothing from stopping you dumping these questions onto Socrative.
I also use prompts to speed things up, and you could of course make these prompts as cards and for each slide get students to do ranking/ sorting exercises.
Eight Questions About Dependency Theory
(which could be asked about any other theory or concept)
(AO1) Explain why poor countries are poor according to Dependency Theory
HINT: Use the following concepts…
(A01) Give some examples which best illustrates Dependency Theory
Try to think of one ‘developed’ and one ‘less developed’ nation
(AO2) Apply Dependency Theory to something else…
Use Dependency Theory to evaluate Modernisation Theory
What do you think the function of education in poor countries might be according to Dependency Theory?
(A03) Analyse Dependency Theory: How does the theory/ concept relate to the following concepts below:
Marxist theory more generally
(A03) Analyse Dependency Theory
Who developed it (where did it come from)?
If you could convince everyone it’s true, then whose interests does it serve?
(AO3) Evaluate Dependency Theory using evidence
Identify as many pieces of supporting evidence as you can
Identify as many pieces of counter-evidence as you can…
(A03) Evaluate using other theories
HINT: What would Modernization Theory say about this theory?
(AO2) Interim Conclusion – How useful is Dependency Theory?
HINT: Where ’10’ is explains everything and 0 is explains nothing, what score would you give Dependency Theory out of 10 in explaining why rich countries and rich and poor countries poor?
Asking these eight questions in relation to other theories and concepts…
Other topics I’ve used this template with recently include (with different prompts) The Functionalist View of Education, The Correspondence Principle (focusing in more deeply on just one Marxist concept of education), The Neoliberal Theory of Economic Development and the concept of Gross National Income as an indicator of development (the kind of concepts this 8 question hierarchy works well for might actually surprise you).
Of course this won’t work for everything and will need tweeking, but to my mind, this is a nice general questioning structure that ticks my 20-80 rule – spend 20 mins prepping to get 80 mins of students doing – NOT the inverse!
*I’m fairly sure this is a big contributor to mental illness among teachers, it’s exhausting.
The issue of why differences in life chances by class, gender and ethnic differences exist forms a major part of any A level sociology syllabus, and I would say the analysis of the reasons behind these social differences is fundamental to sociology’s very self-identity.
Within A level sociology, students need to be able to a very general ‘macro’ analysis the ‘general reasons’ behind differences in life-chances by class gender and ethnicity, and they need to be able to focus in and analyse more specifically the reasons why there are specific variations. For example, across the A level syllabus you might reasonably ask students to do any of the following:
Analyse the reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
Analyse the reasons for differences in educational achievement by social class(education)
Analyse two reasons for differences in conviction rates between ethnic minorities (crime and deviance, AND this was an actual question in the AQA’s 2017 paper 3.
The point of this post is to provide a general framework to help students analyse why there are variations in class, gender and ethnicity in so many areas of social life.
A framework for analysing in A level sociology
To analyse the any social difference by class, gender or ethnicity I’d recommend simply looking at the following:
(Functionalism) Socialisation (@home) differences – material versus cultural
(Labelling Theory) Micro processes, especially labelling.
(Postmodernism) – Individual Freedom….
The picture below shows the prompts I use to get students to analyse the reasons for gender differences in child care….
The above is a ‘BIG VERSION’ so it shows up here, I actually provide my students with the following blank A3 grid (prompts are the same as on the big version)
And I Include the following instructions either on the back of the A3 ‘grid’ or on a PPT…
Developing Analysis Skills in Sociology—Instructions
Write in/ place the cards/ discuss the concepts and research evidence you could include in each bubble.
Try to be logical— demonstrate how each ’broken down’ concept forms a ’causal chain’ to answer the question.
You COULD add in evaluation outside each bubble.
If you like ‘subvert the bubbles’ by analysing differently (see below)
Alternative ways of doing it!
Analysing this question from four broad perspectives is only one way of doing it—you could adopt a purely Marxist/ Feminist analysis and analyse using Marxist. Liberal, Radical and Difference Feminism.
You could also analyse this by using different institutions… focus on the family, education, work and the media.
And you could even analyse by research methods—simply macro versus micro….
The idea is that students can develop analysis within each bubble, but also across each bubble, the bubbles on the left and right (as you go down the template) should be especially easy to link together.
Essentially, students need to be able to analyse the reasons for any difference (within education/ families/ crime/ religion/ work, depending on options chose) by any of class/gender/ ethnicity (or two or three of these). This means there are a lot of possible combinations – in other words, there is a limitless amount of fun to be had with developing analysis skills.
Analysis questions in the A level sociology exams
All three of the A level sociology exam papers will have one 10 mark ‘analyse two reasons why’ questions. For example:
Analyse two reasons for gender differences in the division of labour (families and households)
Analyse two reasons for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity (education and research methods
These questions will have an item which will fundamentally limit what reasons students can choose. I’d recommend a different template for specific exam preparation.
More of that later, personally I think it’s better to encourage ‘open analysis’ early on, as this also helps with the ‘outline and explain’ questions as well as any of the essay questions.
Ironically (not surprising for the AQA) the above template is probably better preparation for the 10 mark ‘outline and explain questions’, because good explanation also requires analysis!
As far as I see it, the above structure works for any combination of class/ gender/ ethnicity for any topic within A level sociology, although it doesn’t apply as well to Global Development.
Of course you might disagree, if so, do lemme know, and keep analysing!
There are three main types of ‘question’ in A-level sociology exams:
Outline and explain questions
This (hopefully) raises the question (is that a pun?) about what you’re likely to be asked to outline and explain/ analyse or evaluate….
If you read to the AQA’s specification carefully, which I’ve done (I couldn’t sleep the other night, it did the trick nicely), then you’ll find that there are 7 ‘core themes’ in A level sociology that examiners are likely to wrap these three basic question types around.
Seven basic types of outline (and explain) questions
Outline simply means give a reason and explain how….
Outline and explain three ways in which a concept ‘manifests itself in society.
Outline and explain the effects of various social policies/ social changes
Outline and explain the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
Outline and explain the reasons for various social changes
Outline and explain all of the five perspectives on education/ families
Outline and explain a positivist/ interpretetivst approach to social research
Outline and explain the strengths and limitations of any research method
Seven basic types of analyse question
Analyse means picking something apart into its component parts…. basically it involves outlining and explaining and then ‘digging deeper’ to explain even further…
Analyse how a concept relates to other concepts/ perspectives
Analyse the reasons for social changes
Analyse the impact of social policies/ social changes
Analyse the reasons for social class/ ethnic and gender differences in society
Analyse the functions which institutions perform in society, using any of the perspectives
Analyse how globalisation has affected social life.
Analyse any social problem quantitatively or qualitatively…
Seven basic types of evaluate question
Evaluate means to demonstrate the strengths and limitations of something….you typically do this by considering a claim from another perspective, or by using evidence to support or refute it.
Evaluate the usefuleness/ relevance of a concept in explaining social phenomena today.
Evaluate how significant a certain factor is in explaining changes in society
Evaluate the view that a particular social policy/ social change has had a negative or positive impact on society.
Evaluate the view that a particular reason is the most significant reason for class/ gender or ethnic differences in society.
Evaluate the usefulness of any perspective for helping us to understand the role of institutions in society.
Evaluate the view that globalisation has had a positive/ negative effect on any aspect of social life.
Evaluate the usefulness of quantitative/ qualitative approaches to social research (possibly applied to a particular topic)
Thoughts on using these question types to teach A-level sociology
It’s relatively easy to differentiate teaching according to whether you’re asking students to ‘outline’ (easy) or analyse/ evaluate (more difficult), but I also think teachers need to be VERY AWARE of the which of the seven types of question they are getting students to think about, as each has a different kind of ‘flavour’ which influences the way it should be approached.
NB – the question types above are not meant as an exhaustive account of all the possible question types students might be asked about in the exam, but if you focus on getting students to think about these questions you’re covering most of the bases.
Two other types of basic sociology question…
There are other ‘action words’ for sociology questions, such as define and apply, which students also need to be able to answer, but I really wanted to keep the above focused on the three main types of exam style question…
Define any sociological concepts (and give example to illustrate)
Apply a perspective in order to explain any social phenomena/ media event/ social trend.
The trick here is to pick two broad (rather than very specific) reasons, which will give you the most scope to develop
The first reason is gendered differences in early socialisation
Fiona Norman (1988) found that most parents socialise boys and girls in different ways – they tend to be more gentle with girls, protect them more, and encourage them in more passive activities, such as reading with them, whereas ‘typical boys’ are encouraged to run around and ‘let of steam’ more.
Later on in school, this might explain why more boys do active subjects such as P.E. and why more girls do reflective, academic subjects such as English and sociology.
A further gender difference in socialisation is the toys boys and girls play with – dolls for girls and cars and tool sets for boys, which could explain differences in vocational subjects – health and social care subjects (working with children) are very female dominated, engineering (making and fixing) are very much male dominated.
However, Postmodernists would say that these stereotypes are breaking down, and that gender stereotypes in socialisation are much less common than in the past, hence why we are seeing more gender diversity in subject choice today.
Peer group pressure might also encourage boys to do ‘typically boys subjects’ and girls to do typically girls subjects.
This linked to hegemonic (dominant ideas about) masculinity – stereotypically, ‘real men’ are good at sport, and so boys are under pressure play sport to fit into their male peer group, this doesn’t apply to girls and could explain why more boys do PE later in their school careers.
Similarly hegemonic femininity also requires that girls ‘look good’ (as Louise Archer found) which could explain why it is mostly girls who do hair and beauty courses.
Verbal abuse is one way these peer groups reinforce dominant gender identities. Boys choosing girls’ subjects can be accused of being ‘gay’, and vice versa for girls, and this may steer them away from subjects which don’t fit in with their gender domains.
To analyse this even further all of this is especially true of working class girls and boys, and for younger children, less so for middle class and older children (doing A level for example).