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

In the first year, you will study two units. Unit 1 (Education with Theory and Methods) involves studying issues such as the structure and functions of education, the relationship between social class, gender and educational achievement as well as the impact of educational reform on educational inequality. In addition, you will study the process of designing and implementing sociological research, the strengths and weaknesses of different methods of data collection and their relationship to sociological theory. In Unit 2 (Topics in Sociology: Health), you will examine issues such as sociological explanations of systematic variations in patterns of health by social class, gender, ethnicity and age. You will also study the structure of health care delivery, variations in health care and issues such as the social construction of health and the sociology of the body.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study two more units. The first is Unit 2 (Topics in Sociology: Global Development). It involves examining issues such as sociological explanations of global inequalities, variations in global patterns of wealth, health and education. In Unit 3 (Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods), you will look at issues such as different sociological explanations of the causes of crime, the social distribution of criminality by social class, sex, ethnicity and age and associated sociological explanations. In addition, you will examine methods of data collection when studying crime and will develop a more in depth understanding of the major sociological theories.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Sociology is a rigorous academic subject with a broad range of content. It will involve you thinking about the political and historical context of the issues you study but with the social scientist’s eye for statistical and quantitative analysis. It will develop your ability to think through abstract ideas and develop your essay-writing skills. It will provide you will a mature and sophisticated understanding of real issues that affect the society you live in. It works well with any subjects. The focus on health issues means it is a subject that will be of use to those applying to study medicine or related areas and the focus on crime and deviance will likewise be of use to those interested in the law or social work.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You need a good knowledge of and interest in contemporary British current affairs and social issues. You must have good analytical and evaluative skills that you can demonstrate on paper. It is an academic subject with a lot of content to learn (it is not all about airing your opinions!) and so you will need to have a mind able to organise and draw connections between a lot of complex information.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The AS is assessed by two exams on Units 1 and 2 respectively. The Unit 1 exam has short answer and extended writing questions on Education and a question on methods in context (on Education). The Unit 2 exam has short answer and extended writing questions on Health and a question on research methods. Both papers are worth 50% of the AS and last 1 hour 30 minutes each.

A level

The A level is assessed by three examinations on Units 1-3 respectively. The Unit 1 exam has short answer and extended writing questions on Education, a question on methods in context (on Education) and an extended written answer on Theory and Methods. The Unit 2 exam has two extended writing questions on Health and on Global Development. The Unit 3 exam has short answer and extended writing questions on Crime and Deviance and an extended written answer on Theory and Methods. Each paper is worth 33% of the A level and lasts 2 hours.

Reading

Sociology for AQA: Volume 1: AS and 1st-Year A Level (5th Edition)
By K. Browne
Published by Polity Press, ISBN 978-0745655512

AQA A-level Sociology - Student Book 1 (4th Edition)
By D. Aitken, S. Chapman, M. Holborn, S. Moore
Published by Collins Educational, ISBN 978-0007597475

AQA Sociology for A Level Book 1
By D. Bown, L. Pountney, T. Maric
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-1471839399

AQA A-level Sociology - Student Book 2 (4th Edition)
By D. Aitken, S. Chapman, M. Holborn, S. Moore
Published by Collins Educational, ISBN 978-0007597499

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7191, A level: AQA 7192 (reformed)

 

Oliver Milton
Head of Department