Essay Questions

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You will find a 20 mark question on all three papers of the A-Level exam, however, Methods in context question will be dealt with separately.

20 mark questions are essay style questions and should be answered in continuous prose and paragraphs. You should take around 25 – 30 minutes to answer these questions and contain between 3 and 4 paragraphs as well as an introduction and conclusion.

30 Mark Questions only appear on paper 1 and 3 for both Education and Crime and Deviance. 30 Mark questions are to be approached in the same way as the 20 markers, however, you ware expected to show a deeper level of knowledge and understanding (4-5 points), analysis and evaluation.

Command Words 

All essay questions use the same command words: 

Applying material from = Use the item explicitly in your answer. The examiner needs to see "the item" to show you have taken material from the item. 

Evaluate = Look at multiple arguments and come to a reasoned and definitive conclusion

Evaluation Stems

There are two types of essay that you can be asked, Argument or relative importance. You will need to identify which type it is by looking at the question and identifying the evaluation stem. There are four stems for argument essays and two for relative importance: 


  • The view 
  • The claim
  • The contribution of 
  • The usefulness of 


  • Sociological explanations of 
  • The reasons / causes / factors of


Planning your answers is an important step in practicing essay questions. There is no point writing out a full essay answer if you have no idea or are unsure on what it is you are being asked to do or what to include. 

The for and against sides of the content section are essentially two different essays. They do not have to correspond. You then choose which you one you are going to turn into your essay [answer].



The introduction should give an overview to the examiner of what it is you are going to write about in the essay. It is also there to show the examiner that you understand the question and what it is asking you to do.

The introduction should contain three elements:


This is the background information on the question and can come in three forms:

  • Definition of key sociological terms.
  • Trends in statistical subjects.
  • Background of the theory or topic.


In this part of the introduction you show the examiner that you have interpreted the question correctly by explaining the key points that you are going to cover in the essay.

For an argument essay this will be both the arguments for and against the view in the question. Whereas for a relative importance question this will be the reasons, factors or explanations you are going to discuss.


This a a single sentence which either states that you are going to argue for or against the view in the question, or which reason, factor or explanation is the most important.

Main Body

The main body of the essay should be around 3 or 4 paragraphs for a 20 marker and 4 or 5 paragraphs in length for a 30 marker, meaning that there should be 4 or 5 points that come from both the item that you have been given as well as your own knowledge.

Answer the Question

The first sentence of your paragraph should directly answer the question. Use the terms of the question to help make sure you are answering the question set. 

Argument Essay - Why have you come to your overall answer. Give a reason not a concept. 

Relative Importance - Identify the explanation, reason, cause or factor. 

Reasons / Explanation 

Use your sociological knowledge to explain how and why this answers the question. This should be around 3-4 sentences where you teach the reader and convince them that your answer is the correct one. 


The evaluation section of the paragraph is where you show your understanding of the opposing argument to your answer. The evaluation should directly link to the point that you are making at the start of your paragraph. It must be shorter than your explanation. 


The application elements of your paragraph are floating and go where they fit. Application comes in a range of formats:

  • Integrated use of the item [Paraphrase don't quote]
  • Appropriately named sociologists
  • Appropriately used sociological studies
  • Contemporary real life examples
  • Illustrative Examples 


This is where you reiterate your answer. 

Argument Essay - What is your overall argument again. Not necessary for Assessment objectives but good literacy. 

Relative Importance - Why is this factor the most important / not the most important. This is ESSENTIAL to show you are answering the question and not just describing the topic. 


The conclusion should be about 2 or 3 sentences long and needs to answer the question directly, and explain why you have come to that answer. 

Do not evaluate or add anything you have not mentioned already.