A Level Sociology

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

Sociology is the study of how society is organized and how we experience life. Many sociological ideas are now in everyday use, such as ‘moral panic’, ‘stigma’, and ‘social exclusion’. What fuels our apparent fixation with celebrity? Is it just gossip or something much more profound related to issues of class? You may think, ‘But class doesn’t mean anything anymore’. Are you sure? Why is the number of years you can expect to live still associated with your occupation? What about the way that gender, religion, and ethnic background open or close doors in life? What kinds of spiritual faith do people have in Britain today? How far do the media affect how personal lifestyle choices are viewed by wider society?

Sociology students discover how to think about these issues for themselves: what are the questions behind the questions? Generations of students have found that Sociology makes them look at the world in new ways.

Lower sixth

Two areas of Sociology are studied at AS. The first area is Culture and Identity where we study the way that our sense of self is developed from interactions with others, and how identity is created from a wide range of changing factors in society. This allows us to look at examples from our own experiences, locally and globally. The second area is Education. This gives us the opportunity to investigate important questions about differential educational achievement, role of gender, social class and ethnicity. We examine government policies and ask whether one type of school is any better than another. We examine how social research methods are employed in the sociological study of education. We use social theory throughout the year to enhance conceptual and analytical skills.

Upper sixth

There are three papers for the full A level. The first is on Education. The second on Culture and Identity in section A and Beliefs in Section B. This asks important questions about how we define and explain belief systems. We look at organised religions and New Age Movements, investigating the role of age, class, gender and ethnicity in people’s experience of beliefs. An important question is about how science and beliefs interact. 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 the 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 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?

Lower sixth

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 answer and extended writing responses. 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 Culture and Identity.

Upper sixth

The course 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 of extended writing questions and examines Culture and Identity in Section A and Beliefs in Society 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 33.3% of the A level.

Reading

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

Sociology for AQA Volume 1: AS and 1st-YearA Level (5th Edition)
By K. Browne
Published by Polity Press, ISBN 978-074-569-1305

Sociology for AQA Volume 2: 2nd-Year A Level (3rd Edition)
By K. Browne
Published by Polity Press, ISBN 978-0745696942

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7191, A level: AQA 7192

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.”

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.”

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.”

Cynthia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*A

Progressed to
University College London (Economics)

“My subject teachers and Personal Tutor have been very patient and helpful in supporting my studies and university application.”

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.”