HexBugMaster
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Hey guys,

I am set on self-studying philosophy as an A-level(both AS and A2) and wanted to know what are the course and exams like(for Edexcel)?

Some particular questions like what topics do you go through, how are they presented(is it taught in a textbook or is it expected that you work it out from the originals), what are the exam papers like, and, of course, how hard the course is over-all, come to my mind. But I would really appreciate if someone would give me an "exhaustive" answer

Thank you in advance for the help
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kachu
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AQA is the only exam board that offers A-level Philosophy, Edexcel does a Philosophy and Ethics A-level.
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HexBugMaster
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(Original post by kachu)
AQA is the only exam board that offers A-level Philosophy, Edexcel does a Philosophy and Ethics A-level.
Thanks
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paulpscully
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(Original post by HexBugMaster)
Thanks

Also, does AQA require you to do anything other than the exams, like a coursework or something?
Philosophy is 100% coursework EXAMINATION
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kachu
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(Original post by paulpscully)
Philosophy is 100% coursework
AQA Philosophy has no coursework. The AS is two exams, and the A2 is two exams. Feel free to ask me any specific questions about AQA philosophy as I just finished the course.
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paulpscully
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(Original post by kachu)
AQA Philosophy has no coursework. The AS is two exams, and the A2 is two exams. Feel free to ask me any specific questions about AQA philosophy as I just finished the course.
Sorry! Meant 100% examination! Hahaha, what a typo that was
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Tim2341
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lol, so much for the exhaustive answers
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hannah60000
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(Original post by HexBugMaster)
Hey guys,

I am set on self-studying philosophy as an A-level(both AS and A2) and wanted to know what are the course and exams like(for Edexcel)?

Some particular questions like what topics do you go through, how are they presented(is it taught in a textbook or is it expected that you work it out from the originals), what are the exam papers like, and, of course, how hard the course is over-all, come to my mind. But I would really appreciate if someone would give me an "exhaustive" answer

Thank you in advance for the help
AQA A level Philosophy is HARD, but REWARDING.

It has been a long road, but I did enjoy it . Also it depends on what themes you choose.

However, even for the most independent and dedicated students a teachers guidance is always useful to clarify or explain some if the concepts you may not understand.

So it is possible to self teacher, over two years as it does take time and a lot of reading around the subject to grasp what is required of you in exams.

Just my thoughts

Good luck either way!!
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HexBugMaster
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Thanks guys! I've got a much bigger response than I've expected. xD
(Original post by kachu)
AQA Philosophy has no coursework. The AS is two exams, and the A2 is two exams. Feel free to ask me any specific questions about AQA philosophy as I just finished the course.
Could you tell me how difficult the exam questions are? As in, for example, are they easily prepared for or are they the ones where you have to have profound knowledge of the subject and use that to answer an unexpected question?

Also, a philosophy teacher has advised me that the mark scheme for AS is a bit unfair and picky, is that true?
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HexBugMaster
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And thank you guys, I've got a much bigger response than I've expected
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paulpscully
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(Original post by HexBugMaster)
Thanks guys! I've got a much bigger response than I've expected. xD


Could you tell me how difficult the exam questions are? As in, for example, are they easily prepared for or are they the ones where you have to have profound knowledge of the subject and use that to answer an unexpected question?

Also, a philosophy teacher has advised me that the mark scheme for AS is a bit unfair and picky, is that true?
Unfortunately, this is true. I don't do Philosophy myself, but the sixth formers (and the teacher) have advised me against doing the subject for this exact reason. Actually they're completely removing Philosophy as an A-Level from my school!

Apparently the mark scheme doesn't allow the students to show passion as it can be misinterpreted as pushy or something, which docks marks off. Also, the exam is all essay, which makes the mark schemes fairly vague and gives the examiner a lot of power!

In saying this, I really do think the subject could be enjoyable (I love reading some of the work the sixth formers do) and as long as you know the content and practice your essay writing skills you'll be fine

(Apologies for the short answer before with the typo )
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kachu
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(Original post by HexBugMaster)
Thanks guys! I've got a much bigger response than I've expected. xD


Could you tell me how difficult the exam questions are? As in, for example, are they easily prepared for or are they the ones where you have to have profound knowledge of the subject and use that to answer an unexpected question?

Also, a philosophy teacher has advised me that the mark scheme for AS is a bit unfair and picky, is that true?
It is quite an easy exam to prepare for, generally there are about 3 or 4 essays that come up for each section, and you answer two sections, so if you can prepare about 6 to 8 essays and be able to work out how to link your essay to the wording of the question you should be fine. You do three exams like this and one where you pick a text and study some of it and then answer questions on just that one text, so for that exam there are even less essays.

If you are a good essayist, then philosophy is an easy subject as for most topics there is not a lot of content to be covered. The issue is not really with the mark scheme as that is only supposed to act as a guide for the markers, the problem is that some of the markers simply aren't very good and so good essays that don't simply stick to textbook arguments and examples end up being under marked.

If you want to get a guaranteed A* then I wouldn't recommend Philosophy but if you enjoy the subject then it is worth doing. There is a lot of variation depending on which topics you choose. For AS in each exam there are 5 options from which you pick two, and within each option you answer two essays, a long and a short essay. In A2 you simply pick two options and write one longer essay for each. In the text based exam you answer one short essay and one long essay from one section.

Have a look at some past papers and the specification to see whether it interests you, both are available on the AQA website. If you want information on specific topics then I can only talk about the ones I did. In the first module I did reason and experience, and why should I be governed. Module two I did knowledge of the external world, and free will and determinism. Module three I did epistemology and metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. Module four I did the Hume text.
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HexBugMaster
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(Original post by kachu)
It is quite an easy exam to prepare for, generally there are about 3 or 4 essays that come up for each section, and you answer two sections, so if you can prepare about 6 to 8 essays and be able to work out how to link your essay to the wording of the question you should be fine. You do three exams like this and one where you pick a text and study some of it and then answer questions on just that one text, so for that exam there are even less essays.

If you are a good essayist, then philosophy is an easy subject as for most topics there is not a lot of content to be covered. The issue is not really with the mark scheme as that is only supposed to act as a guide for the markers, the problem is that some of the markers simply aren't very good and so good essays that don't simply stick to textbook arguments and examples end up being under marked.

If you want to get a guaranteed A* then I wouldn't recommend Philosophy but if you enjoy the subject then it is worth doing. There is a lot of variation depending on which topics you choose. For AS in each exam there are 5 options from which you pick two, and within each option you answer two essays, a long and a short essay. In A2 you simply pick two options and write one longer essay for each. In the text based exam you answer one short essay and one long essay from one section.

Have a look at some past papers and the specification to see whether it interests you, both are available on the AQA website. If you want information on specific topics then I can only talk about the ones I did. In the first module I did reason and experience, and why should I be governed. Module two I did knowledge of the external world, and free will and determinism. Module three I did epistemology and metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. Module four I did the Hume text.
Wow, that is pretty much everything I needed to know! I'll definitely have a look and seeing that you have done the topics that I have interest in, it's likely that I will come back to you with tonnes of questions, if you don't mind of course :P

Also, how feasible do you think it is to get an A* while self-studying, despite the uncertainty of whether your answers will get marked? And perhaps you could advise me on the best strategies to bring arguments that will most likely score marks? Something like not deviating from the textbook maybe?
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HexBugMaster
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Also, could someone advise the best sources for studying AQA Philosophy? I've found a couple of well-rated textbooks on Amazon, but I'd like to have some more opinions, since I want to avoid buying a book and then finding out that it isn't that good and having to get another one.
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kachu
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The Lacewing textbooks are the best overall. Other good sources are the IEP and SEP however a lot of the material on the SEP is too advanced for A-level so use the IEP if possible.

Here are the books I used for AS:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-A...vel+philosophy
http://www.amazon.co.uk/AQA-Introduc...vel+philosophy

I did some modules self taught when I didn't like the ones that we decided to do as a class, it is certainly doable. However you do need to be in contact with a teacher who you can get to mark essays and discuss the topics with as otherwise you will likely neglect critical material, and will not be able to get started with writing the essays in a style that is appropriate for the exam. The best strategy is to make it painfully clear exactly what you are doing, unlike in other subjects where you can take it for granted that you can do certain things in your work without explicitly stating that it is what you are doing, you have to do it in philosophy. Clearly defining any technical terms and clearly explaining the structure of your argument so that a different approach to that in the textbook cannot be marked down as a misunderstanding is basically what will allow you to get good marks in essays. It is also important to realise that making 3 or 4 points that link coherently into a narrative that allows the essay to reach a justified conclusion is always better than making 8 or 9 unrelated points followed by an arbitrary conclusion. Each part of your essay should naturally lead you on to the next.
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HexBugMaster
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(Original post by kachu)
The Lacewing textbooks are the best overall. Other good sources are the IEP and SEP however a lot of the material on the SEP is too advanced for A-level so use the IEP if possible.

Here are the books I used for AS:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-A...vel+philosophy
http://www.amazon.co.uk/AQA-Introduc...vel+philosophy

I did some modules self taught when I didn't like the ones that we decided to do as a class, it is certainly doable. However you do need to be in contact with a teacher who you can get to mark essays and discuss the topics with as otherwise you will likely neglect critical material, and will not be able to get started with writing the essays in a style that is appropriate for the exam. The best strategy is to make it painfully clear exactly what you are doing, unlike in other subjects where you can take it for granted that you can do certain things in your work without explicitly stating that it is what you are doing, you have to do it in philosophy. Clearly defining any technical terms and clearly explaining the structure of your argument so that a different approach to that in the textbook cannot be marked down as a misunderstanding is basically what will allow you to get good marks in essays. It is also important to realise that making 3 or 4 points that link coherently into a narrative that allows the essay to reach a justified conclusion is always better than making 8 or 9 unrelated points followed by an arbitrary conclusion. Each part of your essay should naturally lead you on to the next.
Unfortunately, it is not likely that I will be able to have regular contact with a philosophy teacher, since it will definitely be impossible for me to enrol on something like an A-level philosophy course and I doubt I'll be able afford a private tutor on a regular basis. However, do you think if I got a good teacher to put my essays on the right path every now and then that would suffice?
Alternatively, do you think that trying to post my essays to TSR and thereby subjecting it to peer-review could also help me?

I am prepared to do both, but do you think it will be enough to really get the right idea on the expected writing style?(I am aware that this is a silly question :P)
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HexBugMaster
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(Original post by kachu)
The Lacewing textbooks are the best overall. Other good sources are the IEP and SEP however a lot of the material on the SEP is too advanced for A-level so use the IEP if possible.

Here are the books I used for AS:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-A...vel+philosophy
http://www.amazon.co.uk/AQA-Introduc...vel+philosophy

I did some modules self taught when I didn't like the ones that we decided to do as a class, it is certainly doable. However you do need to be in contact with a teacher who you can get to mark essays and discuss the topics with as otherwise you will likely neglect critical material, and will not be able to get started with writing the essays in a style that is appropriate for the exam. The best strategy is to make it painfully clear exactly what you are doing, unlike in other subjects where you can take it for granted that you can do certain things in your work without explicitly stating that it is what you are doing, you have to do it in philosophy. Clearly defining any technical terms and clearly explaining the structure of your argument so that a different approach to that in the textbook cannot be marked down as a misunderstanding is basically what will allow you to get good marks in essays. It is also important to realise that making 3 or 4 points that link coherently into a narrative that allows the essay to reach a justified conclusion is always better than making 8 or 9 unrelated points followed by an arbitrary conclusion. Each part of your essay should naturally lead you on to the next.
And thanks for all the help and advice - this is really helping me
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kachu
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I would not advise relying on peer assessment. Philosophy essays are quite different in style to essays in other subjects so I do think that getting used to writing them is very important. If you want I can PM you some essays I did recently to give you an idea of what is required in the A2.
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HexBugMaster
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(Original post by kachu)
I would not advise relying on peer assessment. Philosophy essays are quite different in style to essays in other subjects so I do think that getting used to writing them is very important. If you want I can PM you some essays I did recently to give you an idea of what is required in the A2.
That would be great, thank you
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Karlogden
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For Edexcel its called Religious Studies, but it's mostly pure philosophy.

Its great.
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