This article aims at presenting to its readers holistic information on Cambridge international AS and A level sociology. The write-up delves into the simplification of its vast syllabus and caters to the different skills that one shall develop, if planning to take admission in Cambridge International AS & A Level courses. Besides this, the article also helps in locating different parameters in these courses, which becomes instrumental in assessing an individual’s performance and also assists in understanding the systematic way of answer writing, planning one’s revision programme, the preferred set of preparatory book lists etc., thereby abridging the entire complex process of making one’s way through the Cambridge International AS and A level courses.
Introduction: The University of Cambridge, since 1863, offers the standardized educational testing services across the world. The University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) is the world’s largest provider of the international qualifications for 14-19 years old. It offers multiple set of subject curriculums ranging from social sciences, languages, arts, history, psychology, sociology to the technical disciplines like computer science applications etc. Its mechanism subsumes within itself the Advanced Subsidiary (AS) and the advanced (A) level qualifications. For easy referencing, one can say that these qualifications is in sync with the Plus One and Plus Two programs of the Indian curriculum. Some schools may offer Cambridge International AS Level as a separate qualification however A level is accepted by all the universities and is considered as a standard parameter. The A level qualification is a 2 year program, also known as A2 whereas As or A1 level is the first half of the A level course. The exams are generally conducted in the twice in a year- firstly in the month of June and then in November. Broadly, three approaches can be followed to obtain these qualifications. Firstly, for AS level only, exams of Paper 1 and Paper 2 needs to be taken up by the candidate at the end of the first year. Secondly, for A level staged over two years works as follows: a candidate has to appear for exams of Paper 1 and Paper 3 at the end of the first year and Paper 3 & 4, at the end of the second year; thereby completing the course. Thirdly, for A level without phased formatting, one can appear for exams in the same series of paper allotment. The point to be noted here is that AS level offers 2 papers and A level has 4. Now, let’s delve particularly in the domain of sociology and see how these standard parameters work in this realm.
Difference between Edexcel, AQA and Cambridge Board-
Cambridge International Examinations (CIA), Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), and Education and Excellence (Edexcel) are highly regarded international academic qualifications that open doors to both admissions to institutions of higher learning around the world as well as provide employment opportunities. Cambridge International Examinations offers GCSEs, A-levels etc. while Edexcel is a subsidiary of the publisher Pearson which offers IGCSEs alongside the full range of UK qualifications. AQA compiles specifications and holds examinations in various subjects at GCSE, AS and A Level and offers vocational qualifications. However, all the three examinations are structured differently.
CIE exams are divided into two tiers — Foundation and Extended. The level is based on the age group of the student and decided when he or she registers for the exam. The AS and A-level exams evaluate skills in subjects English, Sociology, Science subjects etc. It is conducted in the month of June and November. AQA offers qualifications in around 60 subjects and within these subject areas there are a variety of specifications and qualification levels. The core subjects of Maths, English and science are covered, as well as numerous languages, humanities, ICT-related areas, PE and creative subjects. It also offers Applied General and Level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications in a variety of skills-based subject areas such as business, science, catering, and general skills, as well as independent extended projects. AQA exams are conducted in the months of November, January and March and follows a modular form of assessment. Edexcel International AS and A level are available in 21 subjects and exams are held thrice in a year- January, June and October. They follow the modular structure for their assessment.
AS and A Level Sociology Syllabus:
The Cambridge International Curriculum provide a separate set of syllabus for the As and A level sociology. The course code for Sociology is 9699. One important aspect to be noted here is that it revises its syllabus periodically. The latest syllabus of 2021-23 has too been revised and the newer syllabus for the year 2024-26 has been released on its official website. For the students, who shall be appearing for exams in 2024, 2025 and 2026; shall stick to this revised latest syllabus of 2024. However, there are no significant changes which affects the preparation pattern of students. Certain newer subtopics within each topics has been added under each sections. This has been basically the reshuffling of the previous order of topics. More Details
Starting with the syllabus of As level Sociology, which is divided into two papers. Paper 1 incorporates Unit 1 which discusses majorly on socialization and methods of research. It focusses on the subtopics like the process of learning and socialization; social control, conformity and resistance; social identity and change; types of data, methods and research design; approaches to sociological research and research issues. Paper 2 majorly discusses about ‘Theories of the family and social change’ and ‘Family roles and changing relationships. The subtopics being studied in this paper are- Perspectives on the role of the family, Diversity and social change, Gender Equality and experiences of family life and Age and family life.
The syllabus of A level sociology besides including the syllabus of both the papers of AS level, also has a lot more to offer. It has two more papers, so in summation, an individual has to take exams of 4 papers. Paper 3 basically deals with Education and society and Education and Inequality. It includes topics like Theories about the role of education, education and social mobility, Influences on the curriculum, Intelligence and educational attainment, social class and educational attainment, ethnicity and educational attainment and Gender and Educational attainment. Paper 4 encompasses the topics of Globalization, Media and Religion and covers the diverse range of sub-topics like key debates, concepts and perspectives on globalization and the contemporary issues; ownership and control of the media and Media representation and effects and religion and social order and the influence of religion. The sub-topics within each of the different sections of Paper 4 caters to the meticulous study of their respective topics.
The curriculum of the Cambridge International Sociology, thus, beautifully caters to the knowledge and understanding of sociological concepts, theories, methods, research findings, and the sociological perspectives. It also assists in framing different sets of relationship between sociological findings and the on-going activities in everyday life; encompassing the contemporary socio-cultural and political issues. Besides these, it helps in honing one’s sense of inquisitiveness, criticality and reflexivity within an individual and holds a lot of importance in the sociological realm.
Exam pattern of AS and A level sociology
The question pattern of the AS and A level sociology are designed to test very different set of skills in individuals. Paper 1 of the AS level is divided into two sections. Section A has three compulsory questions and Section B contains two essay type questions out of which a candidate has to attempt one worth 26 marks. Paper 2 of the AS level follows the similar trajectory as Paper 1. However, Paper 3 of the A level asks a candidate to answer four compulsory questions in which question no. 4 is an essay worth 26 marks. In Paper 4 of the A level, one has to attempt two essay questions of 35 marks from two of the following sections:- Section A for Globalization, Section B for Media and Section C for Religion. One has to choose two questions from two different sections.
Assessment of AS and A level
For As level, a candidate has to take exams of two papers, Paper 1 and Paper 2, in the same examination series. Time allotted for taking up the exams for each paper is one and a half hour and total marks is 60 in this case . The weightage given to each paper is 50% of the total marks at the AS level. Thereby, cumulative percentage of both the papers forms the actual percentage of an individual in the AS level. A candidate is generally assessed on three parameters in each paper. These are- Knowledge and Understanding (AO1), Interpretation and Application (A02) and Analysis and Evaluation(A03). For AS level Paper 1 and Paper 2, the marks allotted for AO1, AO2 and AO3 are 40, 30 and 30 respectively.
In the A level sociology, an individual has to take up exams for four papers. Paper 1 and Paper 2 for AS and A level sociology are same and time allotted for both of them is one and a half hour each. The weightage of each paper here is 25% of the total marks of the A level , therefore summing it to 50%. Paper 3 of the A level is allotted one hour and fifteen minutes to complete four questions and total marks allotted is 50. The weightage of this particular paper is 20% of the total marks of the A level. Paper 4 is given one hour and forty- five minutes and total marks is 70. It caters to 30% of the A level. Connecting the dots with the AO1, AO2 and AO3 assessment, the marks allotted for Paper 3 are 36, 28 and 36 and for Paper 4 are 26,31 and 43.
Cambridge International follows a different route of marking from the normal gradation patterns. It hierarchized the gradation scale into 6. Level 0 consists of 0 marks, Level 1 points to the range of 1-5 marks, Level 2 encompasses 6-10 marks, Level 3 caters to 11-16 marks, Level 4 notes the domain of 17-21 marks and highest grading of Level 6 includes 22-26 marks.
Preferred set of book lists and websites
For preparation of the AS and A level sociology, certain books are prescribed by Cambridge International Curriculum. These include textbooks listing-
• ‘ Cambridge International AS and A level Sociology’ published under Collins and authored by Michael Haralambos, Martin Holborn, Steve Chapman, Davies, P W Wilson and Laura Pountney.
• Michael Mann’s book on ‘The Sources of Social Power’
•Ken Browne’s Sociology for AQA Volume One
• Robb Webb et al AQA A Level Sociology Book One Including AS Level
• Charles Tilly’s book on ‘Durable Inequality’ and ‘Social Movements’
•Chapman, Holborn, Moore and Aiken’s book on Sociology AQA A-Level Year 1
• AS, Bryman, Alan’s book on Social Research Methods and Gilbert
•Nigel’s works on Researching Social Life.
Besides these, there are multifarious other books which an individual may refer to especially from the site https://www.cambridge.org/core/browse-subjects/sociology , in order to broaden their horizon and for the robust understanding of this subject. Previous year question papers act as the most powerful weapon to crack any exam, and this qualification is no exception to it. Thereby, in order to get an access of these PYQs, one may refer firstly to the official website of Cambridge International i.e. www.cambridgeinternational.org . Besides that, one can have a look at the websites labelled as GCE Guide, Papa Cambridge Past Papers, Past Papers.co, issuu etc. for analyzing the previous year papers. All these enmeshed collective action plan will help a candidate to ace through these exams in a smoother manner.
It is rightly said that it’s revision that gives an individual an edge over one’s competitors. So, in this article, we shall delve into the most important ones. Firstly, one shall keep an eye on learning sociological concepts and names correctly and then substantiate it with examples for strong argument-building. Use sociological language in the answers and highlight it. For Paper 1, out of 1 hour and 30 minutes, one shall only spend 50 minutes on Section A worth 34 marks and 40 minutes for the essay 9f 26 marks. Similar time-trend needs to be followed for Paper 2 as well. In paper 3, one should spend only 35 minutes on the short-type questions and 40 minutes on the essay-style questions and paper 4 demands 50 minutes for answering two questions from a choice of six. Besides these, try incorporating relevant contemporary issues, avoid showing generalizations or one’s own assumptions and delve into the cross-cultural examples to show the better linkage and a good understanding of the topic.
Also Read: How to write Sociological Assignment: Explained with Examples
It can be concluded that Cambridge International AS and A level Sociology caters to a bird’s eye view understanding of the subject. Tracing the coherent set of ideas and executing the plan of action in sync with the curriculum, can very well help in successfully navigating through these exams. Consistency and hard work is required thoroughly in these exams as Cambridge offers the highest set of standard parameters to its students, and thereby aims to achieve magis in its every domain.
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