A Level – Sociology

‘In Sociology things are not what they seem’


Members of Department

Head of Sociology:  Mrs Maria Mc Elroy


Sociology is the study of society – how people interact in groups. Sociology explores social behaviour from a variety of perspectives: how it originates and then develops, and the ways people are organised into groups according to distinctions such as class, gender and race. A level Sociology looks at the institutions and forces which shape and are shaped by groups within a society, such as the media, religion and education.

The study of Sociology enables and empowers our students to think about society in a new and critical light, questioning the status quo and developing a sophisticated understanding of the real issues that affect the society we live in. It is an excellent subject as it informs students how society works, and it increases awareness of the range of conditions that individuals within society experience. Students often comment that they did not realise how varied the human experience can be and how powerfully group identity shapes a person’s future.

In Sociology our students become fascinated by the behaviour of others and why we act the way we do.  The Sociology journey enables our students to understand more about human motivation and behaviours through questioning commonly held assumptions, indeed our mission statement is ‘In Sociology things are not what they seem!’

The Sociology experience is a vibrant, energising, full of intellectual curiosity, awe and wonderment as we unpeel the layers of society. Students therefore gain valuable skills and subject knowledge that can be applied to University courses, future careers and life itself.

A-Level Subject Content

AS Level – Year 1

Paper 1(50% of AS marks)

Education (short answers and extended writing)

Methods in Context (extended writing)

Paper 2(50% of AS marks)

Section A: Research Methods (short answer and extended writing)

Section B: Families and Households (short answer and extended writing)

A-Level – Year 2

Paper 1(33.3% of A-level)

Education (short answer and extended writing)

Methods in Context (extended writing)

Theory and Methods (extended writing)

Paper 2(33.3% of A-level)

Section A:  Families and Households (extended writing)

Section B: Beliefs in Society (extended writing)

Paper 3(33.3% of A-level)

Crime and Deviance (short answer and extended writing)

Theory and Method (extended writing)

Method of Assessment

Students will be assessed externally through written examinations.  Students will be assessed on their extended responses to the taught options within each paper and to draw upon integral elements and core themes.  Students will be assessed on subject content and the skills of application, analysis and evaluation.

Recommended GCSE Subjects and Grades:

English at grade B or above

Humanities at Grade B or above (Geography or History)

Other Contributory Subjects:

Psychology, Health and Social Care, Political Studies, Religious Studies


Current Students

‘I thoroughly enjoy studying Sociology as it enables me to understand society and social occurrences better.  Sociology exposes me to new ideas and interpretations of the world we live in.  The skills of analysis developed will aid my development in a future Law course.’

Cara Year 14

‘Sociology is excellent for improving your written and oral communication skills.  It also makes you think more clearly and critically about the world you live in.  Knowledge and skills amassed where really helpful when I was completing my HPAT.’ 

Eimear Year 14

Sociology has allowed me to gain great insights into how society is organised and how we experience life.  It has developed a wide range of skills such as critical thinking.

Eva Year 14

‘Sociology is a subject I am very passionate about.  I have greatly enhanced my understanding of the functions of society.  It has developed my skills in critical reflection which I know will be invaluable for university and a wide range of careers.  There are no limits to the sociological imagination and as a subject it helps to reveal all that is hidden!’

Ellie Year 13

‘Sociology helps our understanding of real life issues and social problems.  I love learning in Sociology through the many diverse teaching methods.  Through research, I know that studying Sociology will help me progress within a wide range of careers.’

Shannon Year 13

‘Sociology is completely different from any other subject, it’s simply intriguing! Assessments, homework and classwork are never a chore as the topics are all relevant to everyday life.  I love studying Feminism and The Family’

Sarah Year 13

Past Students

I chose Sociology, within a combination of science and humanities subjects, for A-Level.  I moved on from Loreto in 2008, to study Medicine at Queen’s University, Belfast.  From there, Psychiatry appealed to me as a fascinating and fulfilling speciality to work in as a doctor.  I am now a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in NHS Glasgow, working with young people who have experienced mental illness. Choosing Sociology for A-Level has influenced and benefited my career journey to this point.  It has also given me useful insights of relevance to my day-to-day job.  In the journey into my career, psychosocial aspects of practice have been a key part of the curriculum.  This has been the case throughout medical school, all the way to the postgraduate membership exams in Psychiatry, many years later!  Studying Sociology at Loreto gave me an in-depth and thorough foundation for this, which I often reflected back upon. Sociology also enlightened me with insight and perspective, very relevant practically to what is now my career.  In my role within Psychiatry, the ‘institutions’ of society- family, education, the state and often, various religions, have such massive significance in patients’ experience of and recovery from mental illness.  Thinking about how these functions and work together is an integral part of my work with each young person.  Furthermore, early on in Sociology, I learned how the different, often opposing theories I studied, together provided the widest perspective on how complex society works.  This approach has been very relevant to me, within my career, in managing complex situations with patient care.  Listening to, and adopting alternative viewpoints, has been a necessary skill in gaining the most valuable perspective of problems encountered by patients, to provide the best care I can towards their recovery.
(Dr Fionnghuala Murphy, Specialist Registrar, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NHS Glasgow)

Sociology as a subject has enabled me to really succeed beyond Loreto to become a social science graduate and now a teacher.  Sociology as a subject empowers you with such valuable knowledge about different types of cultures, belief systems, family structures and so much more beyond the confines of our localities.  Sociology encompasses world knowledge taught so seamlessly within the classroom.  As a result, I left Loreto with open mindedness and a sense of intellectual curiosity.  Sociology as a subject was the only one relatable to my whole university experience, on many parts of my educational journey I was delighted to be reacquainted with Marx and Durkheim!  When completing my dissertation my sociology files on theory and methods more than stood the test of time.  Sociology is really the most complimentary subject for your future studies, and I could not recommend it more it terms of the subject content, style of teaching and the most amazing classroom experiences that will equip you to understand the complexities of contemporary living. I feel so fortunate to be able to continue to relay this subject knowledge today in my current position as a teacher of Sociology!
(Nadeen Doherty B.Sc. PGCE)

The study of Sociology provides a solid skill base for University such as insight into the social structures and knowledge of research methods.  Throughout my Law degree, I always had my A-Level notes at hand especially those relating to Crime and Deviance and Ethical Practice.  Knowledge gained from the study of Families, Education, Gender Roles and Beliefs in Society benefitted my professional practice as I had deeper insight into individual world views.  During my Law tutorials I could critically evaluate arguments with ease, and this came from studying Sociology.  During my MSc in Governance and Management, my prior knowledge of Theory and Methods was pivotal to my success.  Sociology helped me to grow intellectually.  Sociology was the most enjoyable and engaging subject that set the foundation for my educational and professional development.
(Aiofe Mc Sorley LLB MSc ACIS)

‘The Sociologist Weber argues that Sociology is a Science which attempts to understand and interpret social action to arrive at causal explanations.  In other words we need to understand why people act the way they do.  Within my role in The Probation Board for N Ireland, I engage with young offenders in order to produce positive changes in attitudes and behaviour to reduce reoffending by supporting the offender to commit to change.  To enable me to perform my job effectively, I follow Weber’s views.  Sociology inspired me at A-Level and influenced by choice in completing a Social Work degree.  Sociology has directed my career in a positive and meaningful way.’
(Oonagh McGurk, Social Worker)

Career Possibilities

Contemporary research shows that students entering the job market will change careers several times, which begs the question, ‘Why limit yourself to one type of job?’ Sociology trains you to answer the ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about human societies, giving you a competitive edge and a strong intellectual background for University courses and the professions. Students find Sociology steers them into Health and Welfare Services, Education and Teaching, Law, Journalism, Public and Human Relations, Government and Research agencies and Criminal Justice.

Other Information

The skills you learn in Sociology make you very marketable and highlight your intellectual curiosity and understanding of the world around you.  Sociological theory helps you become a critical thinker because it exposes you to many different ways of seeing the social world and this gives you an informed sense of social life to allow you to engage effectively in many courses and careers.  You will develop great communication, interpersonal, analytical and leadership skills and together with your insights into the workings of society, it is not surprising that Sociology students are seen as highly desirable.