How to revise for GCSE Religious Studies exams: AQA explains what to do

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Exam and revision advice to help you get your target grades in GCSE Religious Studies

When you're revising for your GCSE exams, you want to make the most of your study time.

So, we invited the Religious Studies experts at the AQA exam board to share their tips and advice on preparing for GCSE Religious Studies exams.

The article that follows has been written by an AQA Religious Studies curriculum expert, based on their years of experience in the assessment of their subject.  

You can find more articles in this series, covering a range of subjects at both GCSE and A-level, over on our revision section.

Also on The Student Room, you can find student discussion of 2024 GCSE exams.

1) Know which AO

Make sure you’re familiar with the Assessment Objectives for the exam – questions 1-4 in each section are AO1, and question 5 (the 12-marker) is AO2.

In Beliefs (Paper 1), the 4-mark question will ask you about ‘influences’ (AO1.2) and so, in order to get the full 4 marks, you need to explain how the belief influences religious believers. For example, does the belief inspire them to act a certain way, follow religious rules, feel comforted or hopeful etc?

In Practices (Paper 1), the 4-mark question will ask you for ‘contrasts’ (AO1.3). Paper 2 Themes will also ask for ‘contrasts’ or ‘similarities.’ Remember, if you’re asked for contrasts with the main religious tradition of Great Britain you need to use Christianity as part of your answer.

In the 12-mark question you’ll be asked to ‘evaluate this statement.’ This means you need to weigh up two sides of the argument and come to a conclusion. Make sure your conclusion includes your overall judgment on the statement – do you agree or not and why.

2) Relevant teachings

When you’re applying religious teachings (such as in the 5 and 12-mark questions), make sure they’re relevant to the topic in the question. For example, in Themes, “love your neighbour” isn’t relevant to every topic.

Also, a concept like ‘free will’ doesn’t mean people can do whatever they want, so this is a weak (and sometimes irrelevant or inaccurate) argument to use to justify nuclear weapons, committing crimes and so on.

So, make sure you learn a range of relevant beliefs and teachings that could be applied in different contexts.

3) Don't make it up!

This tip links to tip 2. When you’re using teachings, beliefs or examples of religious leaders, make sure they actually exist!

Examiners will know if you make up teachings and beliefs. It would be better to explain your point yourself than adding made up quotes.

Also, if you’re unsure about which of the religions you’ve studied teaches something, avoid using randomly selected religious groups. If you’re really stuck, it’d be better to say ‘some religious believers…’ than to write down a religion which might then be inaccurate.

4) 12-markers

The 12-mark AO2 questions (see tip 1) are worth 50% of the marks for the whole exam, so it’s important that you leave yourself time to answer them. You should spend about 12 minutes writing your answer.

Spend a minute or so thinking and planning. Do you agree or disagree? How much do you agree? In this type of question it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree - the important thing is to give reasons to back up your view.

Remember to include a conclusion. Your answer should be well-organised and structured, and written in paragraphs. You’ll be awarded marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) for most of the 12-mark questions. These are 3 extra marks so it’s worth checking your work for capital letters, spelling and punctuation.  

Finally, use the bullet points that are written under the question statement – they’re there to tell you what to include. You’ll notice there’s always a bullet point telling you to include religious arguments - this is vital if you want to get more than 6 marks. Also, they tell you that on Themes (Paper 2) you can include non-religious arguments as well if you wish.

5) Timing

The number of marks on each question is roughly equivalent to the number of minutes you should spend on it. So a 5-mark question should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete. Don’t spend too long on the short questions and run the risk of running out of time later.

6) Use subject vocab

Become familiar with the required terms and know how to define them. Build up a glossary of words for your two religions and four Themes topics.

You can find all the key terms you need in the specification (Spec A, Spec B and Short Course). There are also some useful definitions in our Spec A Subject Vocabulary and Spec B Subject Vocabulary lists.

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