The release of the Advance Information (AI) on 7th February 2022 brought a new flurry of activity and anxiety for most teachers of GCSE Religious Studies and questions have arisen as we have tried to decide how to use this to 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 in the AO2 questions. They have avoided giving so much detail that students could guess the questions and memorise model answers in advance, but enough to support student progression and revision. The grades students come away with should reflect their capacity to cope at A-level if they choose.
Whilst the AI states which Areas of Study, we can expect to see on the 2022 examination paper, it has also been stated that the advance information does not apply to the shorter, AO1 questions. This is to focus the bulk of teaching and revision on the areas that will generate the most marks in the examination, whilst still ensuring the range of the specification is taught to students.
In the GCSE Religious Studies AI, one Area of Study has been identified within each Theme from within the Component 1 Paper. Theme 1 identifies Relationships, Theme 2, The Origin and Value of Human life, Theme Three, Crime and Punishment and Theme 4 Issues of Human Rights. This means that students can focus the bulk of their revision on these areas. From the Religion papers, one Area of Study from Beliefs and Teachings, and one from Practices has been identified as the focus for revision. These areas of study are where the board will draw their AO2 question, and this is true of a similar approach has been taken in Route B and short course. However, there seems to be much anxiety about the fact that AO1 questions will still be drawn from any area of the specification and so the full specification must still be covered. The point of the AI has always been stated to be about supporting revision rather than narrow teaching and learning. It should be impossible from the AI to predict questions and prepare answers in advance that students can memorise and then repeat verbatim. However, this feels like cold comfort to teachers who feel worried about covering the full range of the GCSE specification in a limited amount of time and are worried about what to do with this information.
How can I use this information?
So, how can we use this information as we move forward, so that we can support our students and give them the best chance of success? I have seen teachers sharing documents such as checklists, model essays and revision guides as well as collaborating with other teachers to produce documents that help students to address AO2 questions from the Areas of Study that have been highlighted.
It is useful for students to see the kinds of past paper questions that have been asked on the Areas of Study that have been selected for this year’s examinations. Compiling a list of questions is very helpful as it is then easy to see which areas have been targeted repeatedly in the past and where there has never been a question at all. It also gives students a bank of questions to practice with. However, not all the Areas of Study have many example questions to work with. It is possible to collaborate as a class and invent new questions for this document as a ‘Wiki’ from these Areas of Study. In this way, they can widen their range of practice questions and even invent their own mark schemes. It is possible to do this for the AO1 questions as well which offers students the opportunity to practice answering these from the wider range of topics.
Learning checklists have been popping up online since the AI was released. Created from the specification, but in the form of a list, 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 students and teachers feel better if they have model answers available for each of the Areas of Study. I am cautious of this approach as the exam board do not like memorised responses that fail to directly address the question, and we know that the exact same questions will not be asked again. However, I have seen helpful ideas where a combination of weak and strong responses is used to help students recognise features of strong responses and plan their own to questions on a similar theme.
Check out the OUP textbooks that were released last year for both Route A and Route B specifications because they contain exam support that includes both weak and strong responses with commentary.
Three Top Tips for students to use in their revision
- Set aside 5 minutes every day to focus on learning key terms. This can be in the form of flash cards – physical or virtual by using index cards or apps like Quizlet. I spend 5 minutes at the start of each lesson with mini whiteboards and pens. I practice five key terms from previous lessons and students hold up their answers for me to see.
- Create their own knowledge organisers using Canva or any other free graphic design site. They can create an infographic to print off and display at home. Add in colour and dual coding (pictures) to remember key quotes, main themes, and arguments in a clear order.
- 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.
Find out more about Oxford’s Eduqas GCSE Religious Studies Student Books for Route A and B here.