Exam tips: Transferable Concepts in Sociology

A transferable concept is one that can be applied across a wide range of Specification topics – a feature makes them very useful in an exam. If you’re ever stuck for something to say about a question, for example, a quick reflection on your bank of transferable concepts will always give you something useful and pertinent to write.

The trick, therefore, is to identify and build-up a bank of transferable concepts as part of the revision process – something you can do individually by going through your textbook / notes identifying concepts that come up time and again across different topics or collectively by creating Concept Cards that can be traded with your friends (you create Concept Cards by identifying a transferable concept and illustrating it with an evocative picture or icon).

Incorporating this idea into the revision process is also a way of making revision more active and less routinised – by thinking about whether a concept is transferable you are also reflecting on its possible uses. If you’re swapping transferable concepts it also means you may have to explain exactly how and why such a concept is transferable.

Are we just prisoners of social identities?

To get you started, common transferable concepts can be remembered using the mnemonic CAGED:

  • Class
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • District (or location).
  • For a wide range of exam questions you will always be able to say something about class differences, ethnic differences and so forth.

    Less common, but still helpful, transferable concepts include things like structure and action while more-obscure (but high-value in terms of potential marks) include ideas like:

  • relatively undifferentiated
  • reification
  • determinism
  • objectivity / subjectivity
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