On 7th February 2022, Eduqas released the AI for exams this summer. This has raised a number of questions for most teachers of A level Religious Studies as we have tried to decide how to use this information to best help our students. Eduqas have stated that the purpose of this AI is to communicate to us, ahead of the examinations, the focus of content we should expect students to face. They have avoided giving so much detail that students could guess the question and memorise a model answer in advance, but enough to support student progression and revision. The grades students come away with should reflect their capacity to cope with undergraduate study if they choose.
Whilst the AI states which sub themes, we can expect to see on the 2022 examination paper, it has also been stated that student responses should draw on any area of the specification that is relevant to the question. So, a student should be prepared to write an AO2 response that draws on material not mentioned in this AI. If that material is relevant, it will be awarded. You can see this stated in the documents below.
In all papers on the Religious Studies AI, there is one entire theme A – F that has been listed for revision. This means that in Section A of the paper, there are six subthemes that should be revised, but of course only two questions from this area will appear and only one question can be chosen. Just as in an ordinary year, it is necessary to revise everything from the areas that the board have identified since we do not know exactly which questions will be asked.
In the AI, it states that in Section B there are six subthemes from which the board will draw their questions. The summary guidance says that only some of these will be assessed in Section B. This makes sense because, of course, we usually see three choices of question on Section B of an examination paper. Thus, we cannot be certain that all these areas will be represented on the question paper. Students should avoid selective revision because there is no certainty about which of these six areas will be asked for.
In the Philosophy of Religion and Religious Ethics A level papers, Religious Language and Ethical Thought have been identified as whole themes that must be completely tackled and revised. However, many have expressed anxiety about Section B because sometimes the selection of suggested sub themes implies students will need to know material for AO2 questions from areas that have not been listed. For example, in the philosophy paper, subthemes 1D and E have been listed. These are the origins and developments of Ontological Arguments. However, 1F is not present which covers the challenges. Of course, students still need to know this material for an AO2 question and so it must be taught, but they will not be given an AO1 question that asks them to explain or examine the full range of argument and reasoning from Gaunilo and Kant. Instead, they must prepare to draw on these and/or any other counter arguments so they can evaluate the Ontological Argument effectively. This is important because the AI is not intended to push us to remove chunks of the specification from our teaching but is supposed to help students streamline their revision.
How can I use this information?
So, what now? How are we supposed to use this information to support our students and give them the best chance of success? I have seen some amazing work going on in schools and colleges that teachers are sharing. Checklists, model essays and revision guides have been shared and are evolving with collaborative input from other teachers.
A helpful document that teachers in our MAT collaborated to produce, is a list of past paper and SAMs questions from each of the different sub themes listed on the AI. The questions have been drawn from A level, AS level and both Eduqas and WJEC past papers since the question style is the same. It is easy to see where there has never been a question on a particular topic for Eduqas A level and where some topics have appeared multiple times but in slightly different ways. Students now have a wide range of practice questions that relate specifically to the themes highlighted in the AI.
A member of our MAT very quickly drew up a brilliant learning checklist from the specification and the AI for students to use as a check list. I have seen several versions of these starting to appear online. Students can use them to tick off that they have been taught the topic, have all the notes in their files, have made revision notes and can indicate how confident they feel in the topic to focus their revision and workshop attendance.
Some departments have been working on collecting model responses to questions on the AI areas. I am cautious of this approach as the exam board do not like memorised responses that fail to directly address the question. However, I have seen helpful ideas where a combination of weak and strong responses are used to help students recognise features of strong responses and plan their own to questions on a similar theme. Check out the new OUP textbooks from myself and Libby Ahluwalia because they contain exam support that includes weak and strong responses with commentary.
Three Top Tips for students to use in their revision
- Collect all the past paper questions for the themes that we know will come up and put them onto index cards. Shuffle these cards and place in a stack. Have a timer set for 5 minutes and then pick a card from the top and list of all the points they would need to cover. When the timer goes off, check their answer against their notes, the mark scheme or the textbook. Add anything they missed in a different colour. (Those are the areas to revise!) Repeat this task with other questions and reduce the timer to 2 minutes.
- Avoid over revising the bits they are familiar with. If they enjoyed A.J. Ayer, they will be tempted to keep going over him. Work out what topics they struggled with the most and that is the focus for their revision.
- Listen to the relevant podcasts from places like Panpsycast or the Philosophy Ninja YouTube channel or any other audio resource. They can have them on as they walk, workout, or ride the train to college. Listening to this material offers a different way in which they can rehearse the main features and remember them.
Find out more about Oxford’s Eduqas A Level Religious Studies Religion and Ethics and Philosophy of Religion Student Books here.