AQA A-level sociology exam advice 2018: how to answer 4 and 6 mark ‘outline questions’ (crime and deviance, 2)

Two examples of marked exam scripts from the AQA: one candidate achieved 3/6, the other achieved 6/6.

Together these should give you a good example of the standards of marking on the short mark outline and explain questions which appear on the AQA’s A-level sociology papers 1 and 3

Below is an example of two actual marked response to a 6 mark ‘outline question’, marked by AQA examiners.

The example is taken from the 2017 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is:

Outline three functions that crime and deviance may perform (6)

While this example is taken from 4 mark outline question from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally both the 4 and 6 mark outline questions on both A level sociology papers 3 and 1.

For general advice on how to answer 4 and 6 mark outline questions please see this post here.

The mark scheme for this question is as below:

Two marks for each of three appropriate functions clearly outlined or one mark for each appropriate function partially outlined, such as:

  • boundary maintenance (1 mark); the social reaction to crime and deviance by media and courts reaffirms society’s shared values (+1 mark)
  • deviance brings about social change (1 mark); new ideas or institutions always initially appear as deviance from existing norms (+1 mark)
  •  minor deviance acts as a safety valve (1 mark); it diverts potentially dangerous motivations into less harmful channels (+1 mark)
  • it acts as a warning (1 mark); a high level of deviance indicates an institution is not functioning properly and needs reform (+1 mark)
  •  crime and deviance create employment (1 mark); their existence provides work for those in the media, the criminal justice system, moral entrepreneurs etc (+1 mark).

Other relevant material should be credited.
No marks for no relevant points.

Marked exemplar 1:

outline explain three functions crime.png

KT’s commentary

  • This candidate got 3/6
  • The second point and explanation is just barely enough!

Marked exemplar 2:

Sociology A-level marked examples

KT’s Commentary

  • This is a good example of HOW TO DO IT!
  • Three clear functions (highlighted in boxes) with three clear explanations, underlined.
  • It is also good practice as this candidate does to use examples…  the example works better to my mind in the last point and secures them with a guaranteed 6/6/
  • It must have take quite a while to find such a ‘classic’ example of ‘perfect form’ for a 6 mark outline question. Not many scripts are this clearly 6/6!

Sources:

  • A-level SOCIOLOGY Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 3 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
    (Published: Autumn 2017)
  • The AQA’s 2017 Paper 3 Sociology (7192/3) Mark Scheme.

NB – the first document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

AQA A-level sociology exam advice 2018: how to answer 4 and 6 mark ‘outline questions’ (crime and deviance)

Examples of actual student responses marked by the AQA, showing you the standards expected to get certain marks!

Below is an example of an actual marked response to a 4 mark ‘outline question’, marked by AQA examiners.

The example is taken from the 2017 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is:

Outline two reasons for ethnic differences in criminal conviction rates (4)

The mark scheme for this question is as below:

Two marks for each of two appropriate reasons clearly outlined or one mark for each appropriate reason partially outlined, such as:

  • The police are racist (1 mark); they are less likely to stop and search white people and so they are less likely to detect their offences (+1 mark).
  • Some minority ethnic groups are relatively deprived (1 mark); and so they commit more utilitarian crime (+1 mark).
  • Ethnic minorities have a younger average age profile (1 mark); and offenders in general are disproportionately young (+1 mark).
  • Some ethnic groups are more likely to commit crimes against the person (1 mark); and so they are more likely to be witnessed by victims, identified and caught (+1 mark).
    Other relevant material should be credited.
    No marks for no relevant points.

While this example is taken from 4 mark outline question from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally both the 4 and 6 mark outline questions on both A level sociology papers 3 and 1.

For general advice on how to answer 4 and 6 mark outline questions please see this post here.

Marked exemplar of a 4 mark question:

AQA Sociology marked question

KT’s commentary

  • The first candidate’s response above is an excellent example of a classic ‘1+1’ strategy…. give a reason and explain HOW this leads to differences.
  • Obviously the second response is a good example of ‘how not to do it!’. You need to get yer answers right!
  • The candidate could have selected any of the other ‘identifiers’ in the mark scheme above to pick up an additional two marks.

 

Sources:

  • A-level SOCIOLOGY Feedback on the Examinations Student responses and commentaries: Paper 3 7192/3 Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods
    (Published: Autumn 2017)
  • The AQA’s 2017 Paper 3 Sociology (7192/3) Mark Scheme.

NB – the first document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

 

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

NICE!

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 A-Level Sociology Exam Hints and Tips – Video on how to answer the 6 questions on the education with theory and methods paper (7191/2)

A video covering exam technique for the six types of question on the AQA’s A-level sociology Education with Theory and Methods Paper:

Further similar blogs offering advice on the Education with Theory and Methods can be found here:

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

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. The PowerPoint which I used to make the vodcast above.
  2. 34 pages of revision notes
  3. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  4. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  5. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education

 

Disclaimer:

Above is my own interpretation of the AQA’s mark schemes, please check on their web site for their advice in their own words. –

AQA A-Level Sociology: Guidance on 10 Mark with Item Questions – Education with Theory and Methods

Examples of actual student responses marked by the AQA, showing you the standards expected to get certain marks!

Below is an example of an actual marked response to a 10 mark ‘analyse with the item question’.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is as follows:

Read Item A below and answer the question that follows.

Item A

Since the 1980s, a major aim of government policy has been to increase parental choice in education. There is now a wider range of school types, and league tables on school performance are also publicly available.

Increased parental choice has had many effects on pupils’ experience of education.

Applying material from Item A, analyse two effects of increased parental choice on pupils’ experience of education (10)

While this example is taken from a 10 mark ‘applying material from the item’ question taken from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally to the same format of 10 mark questions that you will get in both sections A and B of paper 2, and on paper 3.

For general advice on how to answer 10 mark questions (covering both the two types of question) please see this post here.

Marked exemplar of a 10 mark ‘applying from the item’ question

NB the second picture is a continuation of the first, same response on both pictures!

10 mark question sociology AQA

aqa sociology 10 mark question marked exemplar

KT’s commentary

A great example in the first paragraph of ‘how not to do it’….

Despite the rather scathing final commentary from the examiners, the second paragraph still gest five marks, and it does make three development points – so it’s got breadth rather than depth.

Hint: go deeper, develop further!

If you can’t be bothered to think of how you might improve it for yourself, click here for an example of a 9/10 answer, but if the first bit of this sentence applies to you, I don’t rate yer chances of ever getting more than middle mark band!

Question: What would you do to get another 5 marks….Comments below please!

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

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

 

Source:

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

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

AQA A-level sociology exam advice 2018: how to answer 4 and 6 mark ‘outline questions’ (education with theory and methods

Examples of actual student responses marked by the AQA, showing you the standards expected to get certain marks!

Below is an example of an actual marked response to a 6 mark ‘outline question’, marked by AQA examiners.

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA website) and the specific question is ‘ outline three in-school factors which may affect gender differences in subject choice (6).

While this example is taken from 6 mark outline question from the education paper, the general advice below on how to answer such questions applies equally both the 4 and 6 mark outline questions on both A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

For general advice on how to answer 4 and 6 mark outline questions please see this post here.

Marked exemplar of a 6 mark question:

AQA sociology marked example outline question.png

KT’s commentary

The above is an excellent example of just how specific you need to be to get the marks:

  • For the first point, it may look like the candidate has got 1+1, but they haven’t because they haven’t really explained a specific effect of GIST… the explanation is too vague!
  • The second point, about the national curriculum clearly gets the marks because it has a very specific explaining sentence tagged on
  • the last point about labelling clearly has no explanation.

NB – this is a good example of how you should ‘present’ your answer… separate the three points clearly, and say ‘one way’, ‘another way’ – even better, add in three bullet points for the three points.

Question: What would you do to get the two ‘missing’ + 1s? Comments below please!

Source:

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

NB – this document is NOT available on the AQA website, but any teacher should have access to it via eaqa. I’m sharing it here in order to make the exam standards more accessible, and to support the AQA in their equality and meritocratic agendas, because there will be some poor students somewhere whose teachers aren’t organised enough to access this material for them. 

 

Outline and explain two criticisms other theories of development might make of dependency theory (10)

World Systems Theory (WST) criticises dependency theory (DT) because there is evidence that poorer, ex-colonies can develop within the modern world capitalist system.

Dependency theory tended to see the ‘root cause’ of underdevelopment as rich world governments (or nation states) – they believed poor countries remained poor following a history of colonialism where powerful countries such as Britain colonised other areas of the globe, for example India and many African countries and took control of these regions politically and economically, running them for their own benefit.

Dependency theory believed the unequal relationship between the coloniser and colonised (or core and satellite) disadvantaged poor countries to such an extent that they were still in a state of dependency when the colonial powers left in the 1950s and 1960s. The ex colonies were effectively turned into the exporters of low value primary products such as Tea, which kept them poor.

HOWEVER, WST points out that today nation states have lost their power to control poor countries, and that there are ex colonies which have developed by becoming semi-periphery countries, or manufacturing – India and Mexico are good examples.

Another criticism WST makes of DT is that rich ex coloniser countries can go down the development hierarchy because Nation States are no longer the most powerful actors in the modern global system controlled more by TNCs and the WTO.

A second criticism of Dependency Theory comes from People Centred Development.

DT still saw industrialisation as the root to development for poor countries, except that it should be controlled by nation states (socialism).

PCD criticises this as horrific things still happened through socialist development – as in Russia and China, and also point out that the nation state may be too large to take into account the diverse wishes of many local communities.

PCD would rather see much more diverse, localised forms of development, decided on by the people, rather than development imposed by nation states.

 

Methods in Context Questions: A Full Mark Answer from the AQA

An example of a full mark answer to a methods in context question from the AQA.

Methods in Context

Below I provide an example full mark answer to a methods in context question taken from the AQA’s 2016 Specimen A-level sociology paper 7192 (1) and provide some running commentary on this model answer.

NB – I also outline why the AQA has (IMO) miss-marked this exemplar… I don’t think it should get full marks, because IT DOES NOT do what the mark scheme says it should do to get 20/20.

However… it’s still a good answer…

Methods in Context Questions:

Methods in Context questions will ask students to evaluate the strengths and limitations of any of the six main research methods for researching a particular topic within the sociology of education, applying material from the item.

Students often struggle with these questions and so it is useful to have exemplars which demonstrate how to answer them.

Methods in Context

The Question:

Read Item C below and answer the question that follows.

Item C

Investigating the influence of the family on pupils’ education

Families have an important influence on pupils’ education. For example, the family’s income may be able to pay for educational materials and experiences as well as for comfortable conditions in which to study. Similarly, parents’ own education, their child-rearing and socialisation practices, and their speech codes and cultural background can influence children’s’ attitudes to school and their ability to succeed. In all these respects, there are significant class and ethnic differences in family life and they help to explain differences in the educational experiences of different pupils.

One way of studying the influence of the family on pupils’ education is to use structured interviews. These are a good way of gathering basic data quickly. Structured interviews also allow researchers to establish patterns and make comparisons. However, they may be less useful when dealing with sensitive or private issues.

Applying material from Item C and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to investigate the influence of the family on pupils’ education (20).

Mark Scheme (top band only: 17-20)

Answers in this band will show accurate, conceptually detailed knowledge and sound understanding of a range of relevant material on structured interviews.

Appropriate material will be applied accurately and with sensitivity to the investigation of the specific issue of the influence of the family on pupils’ education.

Students will apply knowledge of a range of relevant strengths and limitations of using structured interviews to research issues and characteristics relating to the influence of the family on pupils’ education. These may include some of the following and/or other relevant concerns, though answers do not need to include all of these, even for full marks:

  • the research characteristics of potential research subjects, eg individual pupils, parents, other relatives, teachers (eg class and ethnic differences among parents; teachers’ professionalism or attitudes towards pupils’ families)
  • the research contexts and settings, eg pupils’ homes, school premises, school gates
  • the sensitivity of researching influence of the family on pupils’ education, eg families’ material circumstances or child-rearing practices; eligibility for free school meals; stigmatisation; policy and resource implications for schools; parental consent).

Evaluation of the usefulness of structured interviews will be explicit and relevant. Analysis will show clear explanation. Appropriate conclusions will be drawn.

Indicative Content for the strengths and limitations of the method

Strengths and limitations of structured interviews, as applied to the particular issue in education, may include: time, cost, access, hypothesis-testing, quantitative data, factual data, correlation, reliability, sample size, representativeness, generalisability, inflexibility, superficiality, lack of validity, interviewer bias, social desirability effect, status differences, misunderstanding, ethical issues.

Student response

KT’s comments in bold and red beneath each paragraph…

Structured interviews are usually closed-ended interviews which produce reliable, quantitative data. They are relatively quick to carry out and require little training. If the school agrees to the research taking place the researcher would be able to get a large sample of pupils. However, these interviews, although preferred by positivists, are limiting because the questions are fixed. The quantitative nature of the interviews means they are ideal for examining cause and effect such as whether parent attending parents’ evening has an impact on the pupils’ education.

This is a good general introductory paragraph about structured interviews, but it’s really only a mark band level 3 response: because you could replace the phrases ‘school’ and ‘pupils’ with (for example) ‘hospitals’ and ‘patients’ and it would be saying the same thing. The same is true with the final sentence. You could say that about ‘eating 5 pieces of fruit a day’ has an impact on ‘patient recovery rates’.

This is a good example of a paragraph where the candidate may think they’ve said something at level 4 or 5, but really it’s down at level 3!

However, when asking parents about how they bring up their children there could be many problems. Most parents will not want to be thought of as bad parents who do not care about their child. These parents will want to show that they are supportive of their child. The formality of a structured interview will increase parents’ fear and this means that parents may give socially desirable answers, especially as they are face-to-face with the interviewer. They may see the interviewer as a teacher in disguise and this will further encourage choosing answers that may not reflect the true situation of their involvement in their child’s education.

This is a solid ‘mark band level 5’ paragraph – the method applied specifically to the topic under investigation.

Another problem with unstructured interviews is they are inflexible. Closed questions with limited responses will only give the options chosen by the researcher and so may miss vital aspects of home life that could have an impact on a child’s achievement such as temporary housing or domestic abuse. This is likely if the parents are working class and the sociologist is middle class and does not have experience of working class life or know the concerns or worries facing working-class families.

Not quite as solid as the first paragraph, but it does pick up on aspects of home life, so should be at least level 4.

Working-class parents may have lower levels of education and speak in restricted speech code. This means they may not understand a question or they may say something the sociologist does not understand. In a structured interview the sociologist cannot ask for clarification of what has been said. The same problem applies if the parent and the sociologist are of a different ethnic background, in this case there may also be a language barrier if the parent does not speak English or it is not their first language.

Seems like a solid level 5 paragraph again.

Many deprived pupils may have a sense of shame or stigma attached to them. Many do not claim free school meals for this reason and if they are asked about this they may not want to tell the truth. They may lie and they are more likely to lie when they do not feel relaxed or comfortable. This is much more likely in a structured interview as there is no chance to gain rapport. Since the interviewer is present there is an increased risk of social desirable answers. There may be an ethical issue of harm linked to the research due to the nature of the topic and the questions that the interviewer may ask about personal circumstances linked to the pupil’s home background.

The link to free school meals at the beginning should just about clarify this a level 5 response.

A problem with structured interviews with pupils is that most of them will be under 18. This means that they are unable to give their consent and this will cause some ethical concerns. Parents will be unlikely to give their consent because they will feel a sense of shame or they just may not want their child to be part of the research which asked them to give personal details about the parent-child relationship.

This should classify as a standard ‘level 4 response’, about pupils in general.

Structured interviews could be used with teachers to assess their views of the impact of home background. Teachers would be more likely to take part in a structured interview as they are less time consuming. As the questions would be related to children’s home backgrounds teachers may not be able to answer all the questions if they did not have all the details of a pupil’s home situation. Teachers may also give answers that suggest that achievement is linked to factors at home rather than in the school as this takes some of the pressure away from their responsibility.

A clear level 5 response… teachers not knowing about home background… one of the clearest level 5 responses in the whole essay.

Examiner commentary

The answer shows a wide range of application. Many of the points are linked explicitly to the issue of the influence of the family on pupils’ education. The answer covers a range of characteristics of research subjects; parents, pupils and teachers. There is some consideration of the school as a research setting. There are a number of points that consider the sensitivity of researching this subject and the problematic nature of the presence of the interviewer when carrying out this research.

20/20 marks awarded

KT’s commentary…

This is a solid answer, HOWEVER… I don’t see how it can get 20/20 because IT DOES NOT DRAW APPROPRIATE CONCLUSIONS. Hence as far as I can see the AQA should have awarded it a maximum of 16/20.

There’s another example of a methods in context essay here! And for more examples of model answers to exam questions, please see the links on my main page on exam advice!

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’.

How to Answer Methods in Context Questions: A Model Answer from the AQA

‘Methods in Context’ questions appear on A Level Sociology Paper 1 (Education with Theory and Methods) and AS Sociology Paper 1 (Education with Methods in Context).

Methods in Context questions will ask students to evaluate the strengths and limitations of any of the six main research methods for researching a particular topic within the sociology of education, applying material from the item.

Students often struggle with these questions and so it is useful to have exemplars which demonstrate how to answer them. Thankfully the AQA has recently released some of these, with examiner commentary, and below I’ve reproduced a top band 18/20 answer to one particular methods in context question!

NB – I’ve take this directly from the AQA’s feedback to the 2017 AS sociology exam series (specific source below), but I’ve repositioned the comments on each paragraph to make them more accessible (at the end of each paragraph, rather than at the end of the whole essay.

The specific question below appeared on the June 2017 AS Sociology Paper 1 – the whole paper is now publically available from the AQA’s web site.

Methods in Context

The Question:

Investigating working-class educational underachievement

Read Item B below and answer the question that follows.

ITEM B

On average, working-class pupils underachieve in education compared with those from middle-class backgrounds. Some sociologists believe that material deprivation is one factor that causes working-class underachievement. Other sociologists argue that values and attitudes in working-class homes may cause underachievement. School factors may also affect achievement.

Sociologists may use written questionnaires to study working-class educational underachievement. Using written questionnaires enables the researcher to reach a large number of pupils, parents and teachers. Also, those who complete the questionnaire can usually remain anonymous. However, not all those who receive a questionnaire will complete it.

Applying material from Item B and your knowledge of research methods, evaluate the strengths and limitations of using written questionnaires to investigate working-class educational underachievement.

The Mark Scheme (Top Band Only: 17-20)

Answers in this band will show accurate, conceptually detailed knowledge and good understanding of a range of relevant material on written questionnaires.

Appropriate material will be applied accurately to the investigation of the specific issue of working-class educational underachievement.

Students will apply knowledge of a range of relevant strengths and limitations of using written questionnaires to research issues and characteristics relating to working-class educational underachievement. These may include some of the following and/or other relevant concerns, though answers do not need to include all of these, even for full marks:

  • the research characteristics of potential research subjects, eg pupils, teachers, parents, (self-esteem; literacy skills; attitude to school)
  • the research contexts and settings (eg school; classroom; home environment).
  • the sensitivity of researching working-class underachievement (eg schools’ market position; negative publicity; vulnerability of participants; parental consent; teacher reluctance).

Evaluation of the usefulness of written questionnaires will be explicit and relevant. Analysis will show clear explanation and may draw appropriate conclusions

Student Answer – Awarded 18/20 (AS standard!)

Picture version:

Page 1

Page 2

Text Version:

Paragraphs as in actual student response, numbers added for clarity.

Examiner comments appear in red after each paragraph.

ONE – Written questionnaires are a type of survey where questions are standardised and distributed to large numbers of people. This is useful in an educational setting because it means they can be given to numerous students in numerous schools, something which is very important when investigating working class pupils as there are many regions which are predominantly working class.

First paragraph – general advantages of written questionnaires – standardised and large distribution. Attempt to link to topic

TWO – One major advantage of using questionnaires is that they pose relatively few practical issues. They are fairly cheap to create and distribute and they quick to fill out, especially if all questions are closed ended. This means that access is not usually an issue for the researcher as they will not disrupt lessons as much as other methods such as structured interviews, meaning that the researcher is more likely to received permission from the gatekeeper. Furhtermore, working class pupils are more likely to need to take on paid work and so the quick-nature of questinnaires which are not very time consuming means that they are useful for investigating working class underachievement.

Para 2 – advantage of Wc related to context of research in schools (gatekeepers).

THREE – However, when investigating working class pupils there may be the issue of cultural deprivation, particularly language issues. Berciler and Englemann argue that the language spoken by the working class is deficient, a particular issue when trying to interpret the questions on a written question questionnaire. When coupled with the fact that questionnaires are written in the elaborated code but working class pupils (and parents) tend to speak in the restricted code this can be a major problem in gaining accurate results; unlike with other methods, questions cannot be clarified

Para 3 – good link to topic and WQ re language and speech codes.

FOUR – As well as posing few practical issues, written questionnaires do not pose many ethical issues. This is because the respondent can remain anonymous if they so wish and they can also leave any intrusive or sensitive issues blank. When studying working class underachievement this is a particular advantage because some pupils may be embarrassed to discuss their home lives, particularly if they live in poverty.

Para 4 – ethical issues discussed – anonymity developed with reference to topic

FIVE – Even though there are relatively few ethical uses, the researcher must be aware of harm to respondents. For working class children there may be a stigma attached, and for sensitive issues such as home life, the use of questionnaires can still cause distress. Nevertheless, the fact that respondents are not obligated to respond means this ethical problem is easily overcome.

Para 5 – further developed with reference to topic

SIX – From the perspective of a positivist, written questionnaires are a useful way to investigate working class underachievement because the data produced when using standardised questions is quantitative and high in reliability. This makes questionnaires useful for investigating working class underachievement because it allows cause and effect relationships to be established, for example whether or the not the structure of the education system reproduces working class underachievement, or whether there is a correlation between family background and achievement. However, the nature of written questionnaires can be an issue if the researcher’s meaning is imposed onto the questionnaire so it is another  fact that must be taken into account

Para 6 – various positivist concepts – good on usefulness of WC – but not unique to topic

SEVEN – From the point of view of an interpretivist, written questionnaires are not useful when investigating working class underachievement because the data lacks validity. While questionnaires may be able to identify that factors such as material deprivation may influence the achievement of working class pupils, it does not get to the heart of the matter. Written questionnaires do not investigate the meanings that pupils may attach to the reasons they may underachieve, and do not let the respondent communicate their ideas freely. Because of this lack of validity interpretivists do not favour the use of written questionnaires to investigate working class underachievement.

Para 7 – interpretivism and validity – not related to topic specifically (generic)

EIGHT – Ultimately, written questionnaires can be useful to investigate working class underachievement because the data is easy to analyse and compare, which may be useful as the data could be used over time to look at whether government policies put in place to reduce working class underachievement really work. Not only that but they are representative, so generalisations about the wider population can be made in a way that methods favoured by interpretivists cannot.

Para 8 – attempt to relate strengths of WQs to topic

Overall COMMENT – very strong on method with some (2/3) clear links to topic

MARK: 18/20

For more examples of model answers to exam questions, please see the links on my main page on exam advice

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Sources:
AS
SOCIOLOGY
Paper 1 Education with Methods in Context
Tuesday 16 May 2017
AS
Sociology
7191/1 Education with Methods in Context
Final Mark scheme
7191
June 2017
Version/Stage: v1.0
AS
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the exam(s)
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 Education with Methods in Context
Published: Autumn 2017