A Level Sociology

 

What is it about at sixth-form level?

Why does the average man living in Blackpool live 12 years less than a man living in the City of London? Why are there more young black men in prison in the USA than in college? Why do the richest 80 people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population? These are the kinds of questions that a sociologist seeks to answer.

Sociology is extremely diverse in its content and at A level students will get a real taste of the range of different topic areas. You will study topics as varied as terrorism, educational inequality, mental illness and crimes committed by the state. The key to success at A level, however lies in developing a ‘sociological imagination’; that is, to develop an appreciation of the unique perspective sociologists adopt when attempting to explain human behaviour and human societies. This will involve delving beyond common sense and through adopting a rigorous methodological and theoretical analysis of social issues. As a sociologist you need to be able to appreciate the limits of your own experiences and to construct explanations which are appreciative of the strengths and weaknesses of different viewpoints.

Lower sixth

Two areas of Sociology are studied in the first year. The first is Families and Household. This topic incorporates and draws on a range of sociological theories to explain the family in pre-industrial and modern society, raising questions on family diversity, power relationships and childhood. The second is Education. In this, you will investigate important questions about educational achievement, the roles of gender, social class and ethnicity. Looking at government policies, we as whether one type of school is better than another. We examine how research methods are employed and we use social theory to enhance your conceptual and analytical skills.

Upper sixth

Three papers make up the full A level and are examined at the end of the upper sixth: Education, Families and Households in Section A; and Beliefs in Section B. The latter asks how we define and explain belief systems. You will look at organised religions and New Age Movements, again investigating the roles of age, class, gender and ethnicity in people’s experience of beliefs. The third paper focuses on Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. We investigate definitions and contrasting explanations of crime and deviance. We also try to determine whether crime statistics are reliable and why gender and ethnicity seem so important in official statistics. Social theory is used throughout and builds on the first year. The application of social research methods is studied specifically in relation to crime and deviance.

Why study it and what Why study it and what skills does it develop

Sociology develops skills valued by both universities and employers, including critical analysis, independent thinking and research. Students gain a critical understanding of contemporary social processes and social changes, and develop skills that focus on their personal identity, roles and responsibilities within society. Successful students appreciate the significance of theoretical and conceptual issues in sociological debates, and are able to evaluate sociological methodology and a range of research methods through active research.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

The course assumes no prior knowledge of Sociology. As a social science, we would consider other relevant subjects at GCSE as good indicators of your ability to succeed on this course. Where GCSE Sociology has been studied, a B grade is required to continue to A level.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The course is assessed by two examinations, each lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes. The first paper is divided into two sections: for Section A, on Education, students produce both short and extended answers; for Section B, on Methods in Context, students respond via extended writing only. The second paper on Research Methods and Topics in Sociology also has two sections, which both contain short answers and extended writing: the first section is on Research Methods, while the second focuses on Families and Households.

A level

The A level is assessed by three papers, each lasting 2 hours. The first paper contains both short answer questions and extended writing responses. It assesses the topics of Education with Methods in Context and Theory and Methods. The second paper comprises extended writing questions and examines Families and Households in Section A and Beliefs in Section B. The third paper contains both short answer questions and extended writing responses. Its focus is Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods. Each exam paper is worth 80 marks and a third of the overall A level.

Reading

Introducing Social Theory (2nd Edition)
By P. Jones, L. Bradbury, S. LeBoutillier
Published by Polity Press, ISBN 978-074-563-5231

AQA A level Sociology Book 1
By R. Webb, H. Westergaard
Published by Napier Press, ISBN 978-0954007911

AQA A level Sociology Book 2
By R. Webb & H. Westergaard
Published by Napier Press, ISBN 978-0954007928

 

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7191, A level: AQA 7192

 

Matthew

Grades achieved at MPW
AAA

Progressed to
Warwick University (Chemistry)

“I have definitely made the right decision to come to MPW - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at MPW is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice.”

Gabriel

Grades achieved at MPW
AAA

Progressed to
Nottingham University (Philosophy)

As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at MPW proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at MPW I can emphatically say that going to MPW was the best decision I ever made. 

Andrew

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AA

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”

Anastasia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”

Akmaral

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”

Julia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AABB

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”