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how to get top marks OCR A Level Religious Studies

hi there,

I am not struggling too much (A in y13 mock exams) but would love some advice as to how to break into the top top marks - my highest mark (and i dont get rly any higher than this in class) in the mock exams was 33/40

so if anyone has taken this a level, gotten A to A star and has advice - maybe on formatting essay, AO2 marks/ evaluation, and generally what you think got you these top marks, please let me know!

extra info - the topics we will have in the exam are:
ancient philosophical influences
problem of evil
nature of god
arguments from observation

sexual ethics
meta ethics
conscience
euthanasia

christian moral action
knowledge of god's existence
jesus
gender and theology
so if you are an expert in any of these and have any specific tips, i would love to hear

sorry for the big ask, i would really appreciate any help!

other current students feel free to join this chat, maybe we can learn from each other?
Reply 1
I'm an examiner for OCR religious studies

Getting an A* is all about writing clearly and well - the spec says 'skillfully'

You have to show detailed understanding for AO1

for AO2 you need examine both sides of a debate or evaluation point and then come to your own reasoned judgement about which side is right.

It's also essential that you choose deep evaluation points to make. For example, just saying that Aquinas' natural law ethics is 'outdated', while perhaps true, really isn't a particularly impressive nor deep thing to say.

You can find essay structure advice as well as notes with suggested content to use on my website here: https://alevelphilosophyandreligion.com/ocr-religious-studies/ocr-religious-studies-a-level-essay-structure/
Note: I am still in the process of uploading a lot of the content.

If you want to post one of your 33 mark essays here I can tell you what sort of thing would improve it to full marks.
(edited 1 year ago)
Reply 2
Original post by Joe312
I'm an examiner for OCR religious studies

Getting an A* is all about writing clearly and well - the spec says 'skillfully'

You have to show detailed understanding for AO1

for AO2 you need examine both sides of a debate or evaluation point and then come to your own reasoned judgement about which side is right.

It's also essential that you choose deep evaluation points to make. For example, just saying that Aquinas' natural law ethics is 'outdated', while perhaps true, really isn't a particularly impressive nor deep thing to say.


If you want to post one of your 33 mark essays here I can tell you what sort of thing would improve it to full marks.

Hello there,

thank you so so much for your reply! the site looks super helpful, and your advice is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for!
:smile:

i will post an essay up here soon if it wouldn't be too much trouble for you to have a look (from my exam, so will need to type it up as it is a copy of a written paper)

thanks again!
Reply 3
Original post by lauratsr
Hello there,

thank you so so much for your reply! the site looks super helpful, and your advice is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for!
:smile:

i will post an essay up here soon if it wouldn't be too much trouble for you to have a look (from my exam, so will need to type it up as it is a copy of a written paper)

thanks again!


Original post by Joe312
I'm an examiner for OCR religious studies

Getting an A* is all about writing clearly and well - the spec says 'skillfully'

You have to show detailed understanding for AO1

for AO2 you need examine both sides of a debate or evaluation point and then come to your own reasoned judgement about which side is right.

It's also essential that you choose deep evaluation points to make. For example, just saying that Aquinas' natural law ethics is 'outdated', while perhaps true, really isn't a particularly impressive nor deep thing to say.

You can find essay structure advice as well as notes with suggested content to use on my website here: https://alevelphilosophyandreligion.com/ocr-religious-studies/ocr-religious-studies-a-level-essay-structure/
Note: I am still in the process of uploading a lot of the content.

If you want to post one of your 33 mark essays here I can tell you what sort of thing would improve it to full marks.

Hi, sorry for the biggest delay ever i hope this would still be possible!

this is my essay: Evaluate the view that God cannot be known from creation. (33/40) - it actually got 29 (please see note below essay)

Natural theology is the idea that one can gain knowledge of God through their experience of life and the universe, which for many Christians is considered God’s creation. Yet some theologians dispute whether natural theology really offers knowledge of God, with the implications of this view being that revealed theology is the only way to know God. The ways of evaluating whether their argument is compelling could be to consider the role of sensus divinitatus in faith, the role of the Fall in changing creation, and if conscience can indicate God. The line of argument will be tha God can be known from creation, although this is not the same as truly knowing God.

A first approach to counter-arguments to the view involves the human experience. Aquinas argues that humanity could never have an experience that was truly satisfying, and that this was due to an ever-present (if subconscious_ desire to be united with God (/ experience the beautific vision), something not possible on Earth. Whilst this could be seen as a possible indication of God, it rests on accepting that nothing can be truly satisfying. This is an idea some will be reluctant to accept, with other people even feeling that they have had experiences to prove that this is untrue, or at least not universal.
Another aspect of creation of humanity that can be argued demonstrates the existence of God is the conscience. Aquinas also supported this argument, with the idea of an innate instinct for good/ moral sense being the basis of his ethical theory of natural law. Yet his theory is often criticised as being too reliant on this universal feature of humanity, which seems contradicted by human evil in the world. However Kant supported it, due to his belief in God-given reason being gifted deliberately so that humans could follow their openness to goodness. Again, this is undermined by the argument questioning the universality of equal capacities for reasoning, as proposed by Alastair MacIntyre.

Yet even if these proposals are considered to fail, the argument that knowledge of God being accessible in the world can still be made. Paley is one scholar who supported this claim, feeling that the evidence of order (through orbits, seasons, etc.) showed that God existed, as the laws that controlled these occurrences must have been created by a lawmaker. However this ‘argument on regularity’ is typically disregarded due to alternative explanations found in physics.
But he also made another argument about purpose, in which he implied that the specialised nature of things such as eyes or wings are evidence of design, and therefore a designer. Yet once again this arguments may be discredited due to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which has far more weight as it is backed by empirical evidence.

A further approach to the natural created world allowing God to be know is Otto’s (I actually wrote ___’s because I forgot who said it) suggestion that nature’s power to evoke ‘numinous’ feelings of awe and wonder is evidence of how we are drawn naturally to God, as God is beauty and nature is God’s beautiful creation. This proposal may be considered strong in that it arguably is a universal experience, which is even evidenced through the popularity and frequency of nature programmes.

Another strong point in favour of natural theology is John Calvin’s attempt to prove sensus divinitatus by referring to the historical tradition of religion regardless of culture and time. This has weight as it is backed by empirical evidence, and also the teaching of St Paul in Acts 17 which shows the sensus divinitatus is present despite the culture and views being different.
This being said, Calvin criticised natural theology as being limited. This view was inspired by Augustine’s teaching of the Fall, which suggested that God’s creation, as well as humanity’s capacity to recognise God, were critically damaged. He used the analogy of a now-broken mirror to argue that there is a great distortion to what we could learn from the natural world/ creation, and so we must focus on revealed theology.
Luther supported this, claiming that natural theology only gave vague knowledge which if undirected (by the Church and Bible) would lead to idolatry. He used the Biblical quotation ‘do not lean on your own understanding’ to strengthen this point.
However it is crucial to note that these claims, if accepted, do not necessarily mean that God cannot be known from creation at all.

Thus we can conclude to disagree with this statement, although this does not mean that natural theology is enough on its own to truly know God, but rather know of God.


- by the way, I have been using your website a lot, and have recommended it to my class - they have found it to be super helpful too! thanks a bunch!

EDIT! When I was typing up the essay I was thinking about how it didn't seem like it should have been awarded 33 marks - when I got to the end (after I had submitted the post, so I have had to wait for the review) I looked at the mark and it was 29 instead
I don't know why but for some reason I have had it in my head that it got 33? I think I got mixed up with one of my other results, although the essays I did best at were taken out in the advanced information
Maybe I could upload another essay instead that did get a better score, as I think it is more clear to see that this essay isn't that great
if that is too much to ask then no worries! thanks anyway
(edited 1 year ago)

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