Exam Support

Second Year A Level Sociology Students: Listen Up! (3)

Sarah Best

3rd October 2017

In the third of a series of posts aimed at Year 2 Sociology students, recent A Level Sociology 'graduate' Ewan Somerville explores how to bring the subject alive to achieve the higher grades in the subject.

As your teachers will have told you many a time, you are not at GCSE level any more. At A Level, you will not achieve the highest grades by confining your sociology studies to a textbook. It won't happen. No, you need to be 'triangulating', to coin a research methods term, by using a vast array of sources in your studies; there's no limit. Go to your college library and trawl the sociology section. For the A or A*, you should:

  • Use multiple textbooks 

Preferably, these should be old and new to ensure adequate coverage of a particular unit, but remember to focus on the correct specification for the exam skills and questions.

  • Read books by academics

For example I read works by Naomi Klein, Susan George and Dambisa Moyo to enhance my understanding of the Global Development module.

  • Utilise the many interactive resources provided by Tutor2u Sociology

Particularly the blog posts and live webinars (there are also recorded webinars on a variety of sociology modules on the Tutor2u YouTube channel).

  • Keep in touch with current affairs every day

This doesn't mean simply watching BBC News bulletins (which often, it must be said, sugar-coat the real issues). No, get onto The Guardian website and delve into the articles about society, education, crime, development, the media - there's so much here and it will provide invaluable contemporary examples to use in your exam answers.

  • Use YouTube 

There's so much sociology-related content on here. Avoid watching the 'revision videos' as these often simplify the issues to the point where they are meaningless, and they will likely be based on previous specifications. Instead, find interactive case studies, for example I watched numerous panel debates and media interviews on YouTube to do with the London Riots for the Crime and Deviance module, as well as debates about gay marriage and single parents for the Families and Households module, debates/discussions about the education system over the years such as BBC Question Time clips, and speeches by politicians (eg the 'Broken Britain' hug-a-hoodie speech by David Cameron for the Crime and Deviance module).

  • Engage locally

Three nights before my A Level Sociology Paper 1 (Education and Theory and Methods) in June, I went along to a debate at my old school organised by the local Save our Schools campaign. This is bringing your subject to to life by placing the theoretical debates and case studies in their real life context. It will deepen your understanding of the subject immensely.

  • And finally have your own view

Configure your own arguments... This will further increase the passion you have for exploring the arguments of others and enhance your analytical skills.

More next week about the importance of discussion and argument when studying Sociology!

Sarah Best

Sarah is a passionate full-time Head of Sociology and Psychology and has worked in a variety in schools in the UK, and she is currently working in a British international school. She is keen to develop and boost the profile of both subjects.

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