A-Level Religious Studies
Background information about studying Religious Studies
Religious Studies at GCE level often gives a broad spectrum of selectable modules which the class and/or teacher can decide where their interests best lie. Often dealing with the notion of "God" and the Philosophical problems arising from this rather than a study of the details of religions, R.S often includes modules on Ethics and Morality.
How will it differ from GCSE?
Despite the name, many exam boards deter from focusing on specific religions, in contrast to GCSE R.S/R.E. However there will normally be a particular religion which is studied in relation to the rest of the module. For instance in the Ethics module, one might study Christian approaches Ethics, but this does not form a major part of the syllabus.
R.S and Philosophy are often considered difficult subjects and as a result good grades in the subject at GCE level are respected by universities. It may be fair to say that relatively close minded people may find the subject quite a difficult mental exercise. One must be open to criticism and unafriad to get "shot down" when making a point. As a result, confidence and the ability to convey your thoughts accurately are vital to constructive class discussion. Usually OCR is much more difficult than AQA in this subject.
Essay-writing is a key skill and so written pieces will frequently form homework, but reading and researching are also key components. The workload is not on the scale of a coursework-heavy subject like History or English, but you will need to spend a fair amount of time grappling with some deep concepts, depending on how easy you pick them up. In comparison with GCSE, the step up is reasonably consistent with that seen in most A level subjects.
Required Individual Study
Individual research or reading is important, particularly in the most modern parts of the syllabus - medical ethics, for instance. All wider reading will prove very helpful in understanding the concepts studied on the syllabus, but you can get by without it. The wider reading side of the course is one of the major changes to the way you will work in comparison to GCSE. Most people also write many extra essays throughout the year to consolidate their learning.
How is it assessed?
For each module you do a 1 hour 30 minute exam for AS level, where you will answer two 25 mark (AO1) essays and two 10 mark (AO2) essays. For AQA AS RS you choose two different units, for example RSS01 and RSS02, which could be ethics 1 and ethics 2 or you could do philosophy or Judaism etc.... Then you do two exams which are 75 mins each. You answer 2 A01 questions which are 30 marks and 2 A02 questions which are 15 marks. The test is quite short for the amount you have to write and you are expected to spend 25mins on the A01 questions and 12.5 mins on the A02 questions. AQA put pretty much all possible questions within their specification.
Field trips and excursions
Nothing too exciting, maybe going to some conferences or something, but as there's not really a practical element to it there's no where you could go on a trip.
Where can I go with a Religious Studies A-Level
What I like about studying this subject: Religious studies is not just about religion - it's about testing your own ethics and mindset. Picking RS on a whim, I found it has been my best and most enjoyable subject I have taken which I enjoy revising. What I dislike about studying this subject: Mark schemes can be a bit of dick because of the variance with different views of different religions
What I like about studying this subject: Philosophy is particularly interesting, made even more so by my teacher. I enjoyed studying Plato and Aristotle.
What I dislike about studying this subject: Ethics is more repetitive, it kind of states the obvious sometimes.
What I like about studying this subject: I think that most of the topics studied are really interesting and I enjoy how the lessons are mainly just class discussions, it's a nice break from just working all lesson. I probably prefer ethics more at the moment, but apparently it gets a lot harder at A2 so maybe that will change. It's just really interesting to look at things from different perspectives and hear people's ideas on things. The concepts in themselves don't tend to be that difficult to understand, it's just the essays where it gets more difficult.
What I dislike about studying this subject: Essays and the exam. The essays can get a bit tedious because they are so specific about exactly how you should write them that there's barely any freedom. In AO1 essays you have to just write facts and you can't include any opinion at all and vice versa for AO2 essays. And sometimes the essay titles are just damn hard and it can be difficult to work out what they want from you. And the exam is a bit ridiculous. You have 1 hour 15 minutes to write two 30 mark essays and two 15 mark essays for ethics, and then the same again for philosophy. So you basically have to write 8 essays in 2 and a half hours. Learning the concepts is not too bad, but trying to learn all of the million quotes for the exam is hard. I wouldn't let this stop you from taking the subject, i think it's really interesting and worthwhile, just the assessment of it could be done better.
What I like about studying this subject: If you're coming into this subject with fresh eyes after having memorised half the Bible for GCSE, it's a very welcome change. It's quite academic and a very rewarding subject when you finally nail that Ontological Argument. There are a lot of theories arguing for and against the existence of God which are really very interesting, and make for good ammunition when your friends decide to challenge you in a debate. You also learn how to properly argue and deconstruct academic theories which will serve you well once you get to university and it will definitely help should you get an interview for university.
What I dislike about studying this subject: Although most of the topics are interesting, there are a couple, particularly at A2 which are quite tedious and also very difficult to completely grasp. Although the spec is actually a little smaller at A2, it makes up for it in difficultly. The type of questions also change drastically - at AS, you get an A part and a B part but at A2, both the questions are condensed into one big essay. And you can't just simply describe the theory then critique it in one big block of text - you have to alternate between the two. So you'll have to describe part of a theory, critique it, argue for and against it, then describe the next part, critique it, argue for and against and so on until you run out of steam. Exam technique is *crucial* at A2. You could write out every detail of a theory, word-for-word from the textbook, but still never get that A grade because those extra few marks depend upon the coherency and structure of your argument. At A2 it's also more difficult to ignore parts of the syllabus - at AS, if you're good at analysing patterns you could get away with completely ignoring one topic during revision because it's come up in the last five exams. However, at A2, quite often they'll combine topics just to make your life that little bit harder. So you really need to know every theory and it's critics inside out and upside down if you're hoping for an A/A*.
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