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A Level Sociology Uncovered: An Analysis of The AQA Linear Results by Paper, Topic and Question Type

Joseph Sparks

18th August 2017

It’s been less than 24 hours since the publication of the first ever linear results, and teachers are already thinking ahead to September to look at how they can support their students in 2017/18. On this page, you will find our initial analysis to the AQA A Level Sociology results.

Please note: This analysis is intended to help you identify national patterns and trends and may not reflect your results. The tutor2u team will be hosting a series of webinars in September where we will delve into these results in more detail and look at practical ways that we can develop some of the ‘problem’ areas…Dare I say it, the dreaded 10 markers!

Did performance vary between the three papers?

While the average score in Papers 1, 2 and 3 was broadly similar, it was Paper 2 which yielded the lowest score at 55% compared to 59% in Paper 1 and 57% in Paper 2.

The most expensive questions in each paper, in terms of lost marks, were as follows:

  • Paper 1: Both 10 mark questions, and the Methods in Context essay.
  • Paper 2: 10 mark questions scored lowest for Families, Beliefs and five of the eight options in total.
  • Paper 3: The 10 mark questions in Crime and Theory & Methods, as well as the Crime 30 mark essay (unlike in Paper 1 where the education essay scored highly).

Which Paper 2 options performed well?

There was uniformity across seven of the eight options. The ever-popular Beliefs was the standout underperformer, with an average score of 49% as opposed to 56% for Families & Households.

The main contrast between these two was in the essays, with an average of 63% for Families and 51% (the lowest score of all the 20 mark questions) for Beliefs. The Beliefs essay was on the decidedly niche topic of ‘Science as a belief system’. Another factor may simply have been the order in which they appear in the exam paper. Since most centres teach this pair of options, and most candidates do not deviate from the standard order of questions, most would have answered the Beliefs essay last and risked running out of time.

Theory and Methods

Of the three new questions, candidates performed better in the essay than the 10 mark questions, which was true of the exam as a whole. ‘Practical disadvantages of documents’ (Paper 1; 10 marks) gained an average score of 48%; ‘Advantages of OPO data as opposed to CPO’ (Paper 3; 10 marks) gained an average score of 55%; and ‘Conflict Vs Consensus’ (Paper 3; 20 marks) gained an average score of 59% despite being the final question in the paper. There was nothing new about the ‘Methods in Context’ question, having been with us since 2009, but candidates continued to make hard work of this perennial foe (56%). Many demonstrated confusion as to whether or not field experiments were positivistic or an observational method.

10 mark questions

Clearly a stumbling block. There was no clear trend in terms of those that came with an item and those without, with similarly low average scores across the board. Introductions and conclusions were unnecessary, as was the skill of evaluation in the ‘Outline and Explain’ questions. In Paper 1 (Theory & Methods) students often found it hard to sustain an explanation of specifically practical disadvantages. In Paper 3 (Crime and Deviance) response material often came from all manner of sources except the only one worthy of marks – the item itself. The skill of application, as well as the ability to reference two ‘hooks’ in the item, should be on teachers’ to-do lists for 2017-18.

What the statistics don’t tell us..

Short questions in the two core papers scored very highly, but this masks the undue length to which many candidates answered them. ‘Short and sweet’ should have been the order of the day.

Reasons to be cheerful

Our fears about candidates forgetting everything they learned in Year 1 were unfounded. Also, they are evidently still pretty good at writing essays. Who knew! So it’s just the 10 mark questions, ‘Methods in Context’ and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation to perfect next term!

What’s Next?

  • For an overview of the AS and A Level Sociology headline figures, click here.
  • For a breakdown of the AS and A Level Sociology grade boundaries by exam board and paper, click here.

This entry will be followed-up with a series of entries unpicking the strengths/weaknesses of the new AS Level papers and what we can do to support our students in September. Make sure that you are signed up to ‘my tutor2u’ to receive an email notification when we publish more Sociology news. 

Joseph Sparks

Joseph is a Subject Advisor for Psychology at tutor2u. He is an experienced Psychology & Music Teacher, Writer, Examiner and Presenter. He is currently completing a Professional Doctorate in Education and is passionate about the impact of technology on teaching and learning.

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