I’m sure that you will understand the series by now, but if you haven’t read any of the other posts I’ll give you a brief overview. This is the 3rd out of 4 posts in a mini series that I am doing, all about each of my A levels and how I found them… including subject specific revision tips that a lot of people have been asking me for recently. I thought that breaking them down individually and sharing my thoughts would be useful for people who cannot decide what A levels to take, and these posts would swing them either way! I wish I had more in depth knowledge going into my A levels, as I feel that looking back I went into them pretty blind and with no idea what to expect.
So now onto sociology. I chose this subject because I went to my sixth form’s open evening and I really liked the idea of the course. I had never studied it before, but I have always been in interested in current affairs/politics and I thought that this linked well. Sociology is basically the study of society and how it links to different institutions today, such as education. Through looking at different perspectives (functionalism, Marxism, feminism etc) you are able to learn about how different people have different views on the world… and more importantly why that is the case.
My exam board is AQA and, like all of my other A levels, I have three papers that I need to sit. This post will be relatively broad as far as sociology A level is concerned but it may have some exam board specific details, so make sure to check before you take this post as completely correct!
In my course, we look at 4 different topics over the 2 years… families, education, crime and religion (although I think these vary depending on which sixth form you go to). Then on top of that there are theories and methods questions, which are looking at different types of research and strengths/limitations of them when applied to certain situations. I find the course relatively straightforward in terms of content, but I do think that it is wrongly undermined as an A level subject as being easy. I do think that it is relatively straightforward to get a C but not so easy to get an A*.
I think that case studies are definitely one of the hardest things about sociology and the revision that you have to do. There are SO. MANY. NAMES. The studies themselves are not difficult to get your head around (apart from a couple) but it’s the process of being able to remember them all and applying them under pressure that I find the hardest. It’s such a good course and really helps improve knowledge of both current affairs and just general society but I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t have a good memory or learning case studies isn’t your thing. I underestimated how hard learning case studies actually is, it takes a lot of revising and you need to put in a lot of time in order to get them right and in your long term memory.
I would make sure that during your revision you are always going back over the first year content. I made that mistake this year, barely looked over the AS content because I found it straightforward at the time then when I went back to revise it a few weeks ago I thought I had forgotten everything and panicked. Don’t do that! Every few weeks make sure you are reading over the first year topics and refreshing yourself on the content.
Due to the sheer amount of case studies and general information that we need to know, I do put in a fair amount of revision. All always, I am a visual learner so notes and mindmaps always agree with my brain and help to me to learn the content more easily. I think one of the things I do differently for sociology are topic based flashcards with acronyms on them to help me learn. Im obviously going to attach a photo to show you as it is so hard to explain but I write down the key phrases but only the first letter or few letters of them in order to test myself. That way I can work my way down each flashcard and test myself on the key terms without having to actually get someone to test me, its such a quick way to make sure you know the key topics to include in your essays.
I always do blurting, as with every subject, but it is just so good and most certainly my favourite method of revision. I will say to myself a broad topic such as ‘marxist perspective of the family’ and then try to write down everything I know. If its a big topic I also try to set myself a timer so I don’t spend too long, after all this is meant to be a quick exercise! Once I have done, I go back over in a different colour pen and write down anything from my notes that I have missed. Its so nice to see how much improvement you make even after only a few times of blurting… so useful, especially for visual learners!
As far as exam goes, it’s pretty much knowledge based. I would recommend doing as many essays as possible to make sure you know the exam structure but if you are short for time just making essay plans is also a good idea. I try and make a 8 point plan (including an introduction and conclusion) and closer to the exam season try to revise from these as much as possible.
Overall I really enjoy the course, and would definitely recommend it… especially alongside other social science subjects as it is very subject and essay based. Leading on from that point, I maybe wouldn’t recommend it so much if you are more of a maths and sciences person due to it being so broad and subjective. If you are into current affairs and learning more about how society works and general ideas of society I would definitely recommend it because it broadens your general knowledge in a way that none of my other A level subjects have.