Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion, Uncategorized

A2: Last minute exam tips

I have marked a few practice essays today and there are a few things that I think are worth focusing upon:

  • Introduction – try to give an overall picture of the debate; don’t just present the view of one side, very briefly outline what the range of views are.
  • Always plan your 18 and 33 mark responses – 2 mins plan for the 18 and 5 mins for 33 – this will allow you to link the arguments rather than listing information (which is what so many students do).
  • Try to link your paragraphs – the first sentence of the paragraph should link to the last and ideally, the title too.
  • When you are supporting a point with evidence, list a range of examples and then choose one or two to analyse in more detail. For example, if you were writing about fundamentalism you might write: The relatively new phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism has occurred in a number of countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. Within these societies there has been a significant movement to a strictly literal interpretation of Islam, one that is a closed belief system and punishes transgressions with often extreme punishment. In Iran, for example, since the 1979 revolution, the Shia regime has been seemingly intent on forcing its citizens to abide by their version of sharia law – anyone who fails to do so is at risk of arrest by the religious police. Moreover, the recent rise of Isis in some Middle Eastern countries signals that secularisation is not necessarily going to conquer the world instead Anthony Giddens and Steve Bruce argue that fundamentalism is a reaction to Westernization and perhaps this trend is likely to continue…
  • Remember that unlike other parts of the world, Europe underwent the age of enlightenment (which Sociology was part of) and this is often considered to be a primary reason why many European countries have experienced secularisation:
  • You can refer to events in the past such as the medieval ages but do not dwell on these – focus on contemporary examples
  • Utilise a range of sociologists – if you are referring to postmodernism during A02 evaluation make sure you mention at least a couple of postmodernists and give an overview of their particular theory/research
  • Always try and give a balanced argument – cover all sides of the debate and then you can draw a conclusion based on your findings
  • Don’t write about ‘society’ always identify which specific society you are referring to.
  • Whilst it is good practice not to go into huge A01 detail, some of you are not giving enough of an explanation – make sure you explain the key ideas before moving onto A02a and A02b
  • Secularisation usually refers to a decline in religious influence and/or religiosity – it is very hard to argue that the UK has not experienced a decline even if you take Davie’s argument that the only change is that there is believing without belonging now (privatization) – census statistics from 2001 and 2011 and mori polls ( for example do not support this.
  • However, Berger does make a strong case for secularisation being a myth in many places:


Posted in A2 Sociology: Religion, Uncategorized

A2: revision thoughts

Hi all,

I have met with Fran, Aman and Owen now and I think that the sessions have been really useful.

Please send me essays to mark and I hope that lots more of you come in and see – email the day before and then I can arrange to be taken off cover.

A few thoughts:

  • Revise fundamentalism – it can be applied to almost every topic in some way
  • Timings: 9 mark (13 mins max); 18 marks (27 mins); 33 (50 mins) – question one should easily take less than 10 minutes because you are only bullet pointing 3 points and explanations, so this will hopefully allow you a few more minutes for the 18 and/or 33 mark question.
  • Revise functionalism and write a practice essay (L1_2_Functionalism_&_Religion_Nov_15)
  • Revise age, ethnicity and participation (L1_L2_L3_groups_beliefs_1) and write a practice essay
  • Remember, for the 9 mark question, if you think that two of your points or explanations are too similar or that one is perhaps incorrect, you can write a fourth and the examiner will score the best three.
  • You should write at least 2 sides for the 18 mark question and 4 sides for the 33 mark question (depending on writing size)
  • Don’t forget to plan – give yourself 2-3 minutes for the 18 mark answer and 5 minutes for the 33 mark answer)
  • Question advice – Writing a 33 mark answerWriting 18 mark answers
  • When writing essays, try to follow this paragraph structure:

A02 Statement – make a clear point that relates directly to the question and try to make a judgement about the information you are going to present. For example:

Whilst functionalism can easily be critiqued by perspectives such as Marxism, postmodernism and feminism, there are many elements of functionalism that can be applied to many societies today.

A01 and A02 Explanation/application– explain what you mean by the statement. For example:

In particular, Malinowski’s contention that religion is particularly pertinent during ‘life crises’  is very much relevant. Many people (not just those who already practise religion) turn to religion during tragedies or challenging times  indeed the cliche, “there is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole” seems to often be the case for so many people.

A02 Supporting evidence – try to support this with a few pieces of evidence and/or sociologists:

For example, Voas and Crockett contend that people are much more likely to be religious when they reach an age where they are faced with their own mortality. For Parsons, most people require a sense of meaning and purpose in their life and religion helps us understand our place in the world. Moreover,  Norris and Ingleheart posit that when faced with difficulties religion can provide a sense of security, thus this is why religiosity is much higher among societies with greater conflict and economic problems. 

A02 Contrasting evidence – now contrast this with a few pieces of evidence:

Yet, whilst it appears there is significant evidence to suggest people do turn to religion in times of insecurity, there is still is overwhelming evidence in Western societies such as the UK that religion is being replaced by other methods. For example, humanism one of a number of alternative movements  that provide many of the functions of religion without the belief in God. The first humanist UK hospital chaplain has recently been installed and therefore signals not only a slight shift towards humanism but also a movement towards secularisation. Yet it must be noted that whilst a  significant number of British people are seemingly looking for alternatives to religion (such as NAMs), according to the 2001 and 2011 census, millions seem to be content to class themselves as atheists and therefore seemingly do not ever require the functions of religion.

  • Here is a model exam answer I wrote last year after the mock:

A2 Beliefs in Society Mock Paper Model

  • Here are some marked essays with feedback:


18 mark model_science