What Is Sociology?

Have you ever wondered what causes outbreaks of public violence such as the London riots? Have you ever asked yourself why children from wealthier backgrounds significantly outperform those from poorer backgrounds in the education system, or why girls outperform boys? Have you ever wondered why there is a higher proportion of black males in prison?  Is this due to police racism or poverty?   All three of these issues are topics covered in A Level Sociology and as you might imagine, they are issues that provoke much debate and disagreement! If you are interested in the wider debates and arguments that the above issues raise, then Sociology may be the course for you.

Sociology is the study of society and the behaviour of individuals within society.  It is an extremely broad subject as it covers every area of social life; sociologists make insights into a wide area of social life including; crime, family, education, religion, health and politics.

Why Study Sociology?

Because Sociology is such a broad subject it is an extremely useful subject for a wide range of degrees.  Many students who do not continue with Sociology at degree level are surprised to find that they take Sociology units at degree level as part of their course.  For example, the sociology of sport or the sociology of medicine to name, but a few!

The nature of Sociology also means that it goes very well with many subjects.  There are some interesting links that can be made with Psychology, RE, Media, Law, History and English.  As sociologists and psychologists both use research methods to study behaviour these two subjects often combine well with each other. 

How Is Sociology Taught?

Sociology lends itself to some interesting discussions and debates, but you must also be prepared to complete reading for homework and write essays as the exam will require some extended answers.  Teaching will involve a range of styles from presentations, group work and discussions to teacher led explanations and individual work.  Lessons will be as student led as possible, you will be expected to play an active role in your learning.

Will I Enjoy Sociology?

If you have an open mind and an interest in learning about the world around you then you will enjoy Sociology.  You should prepared to have your views challenged and to have your eyes opened; Sociology is likely to change your views of the world. 

Where next?

Sociology is an accepted A Level on the vast majority of degree courses, it is particularly useful for: Teaching, Social Work, Criminology, Psychology, Journalism, Management and Nursing.  Many Sociology A Level students take degrees in subjects such as Psychology, Criminology, English, Journalism, Politics and History, and of course Sociology!  Some Sociology students have even gone on to study Medicine and Pharmacy.  

A  Level

Paper 1: Education with Theory and Methods

                2 hour written exam

                33.3% of A-level


Paper 2: Family and Beliefs

2 hour written exam

33.3% of A level


Paper 3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods

                2 hour written exam  

                33.3% of A-level

Topics at AS Level

Families and Households

Theories and functions of the family

Changing patterns of marriage, divorce and childbearing and family diversity.

Gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships within the family.

The nature of childhood, and changes in childhood over time


The role and functions of the education system, including how the world of work shapes education.

Reasons for differences in achievement according to social class, gender and ethnicity.

The effects of teacher/pupil relationships, the hidden curriculum and pupil identities and subcultures on achievement. 

Theory and methods

•             The methods of research that sociologists use to study individuals and society.

•             The debate as to whether sociological research can be ‘value free’ and scientific.

•             Key sociological theories: functionalism, Marxism, feminism, postmodernism and interactionism

Beliefs in Society

•             Science versus religion

•             Theories of religion; including religion as a force for change and a cause of conflict

•             Religious organisations, including cults, sects and new age movements

•             The significance of religion in the world, including secularisation and the spread of religions globally

Crime and Deviance

•             Sociological explanations of crime and deviance

•             Patterns of crime and deviance according to ethnicity, gender and social class.

•             The media and crime; green crime; human rights and state crimes

•             Crime control, surveillance, prevention and punishment, victims, and the criminal justice system