As you know, the pandemic has affected GCSE courses in the past two years. Students may not be confident in some areas of the exam specification or may have even missed other parts. So the Department for Education (Ofqual) has decided to help students in their revision for the 2022 summer exams. For GCSE Religious Studies, this means that AQA has given some advanced information (AI) for the exams.
What is the advanced information for AQA Religious studies?
The information identifies the main subject topic areas used as the primary focus of questions in the exams. This information is only for Paper 1 (study of religions) so there is no advance information for Paper 2 (thematic studies). You need to check this information for the specification and the religions that you teach.
You can easily check the information for your specification here https://www.aqa.org.uk/2022-exam-changes .
What can you do to support students to use this advanced information?
Firstly, Ofqual have said that this information is for revision purposes and that teachers should finish teaching the full content of the specification. Whilst it may seem tempting to not complete topics that are not in the advanced information, the reality is that most of it is needed to ensure that students have a full understanding to be able to answer the questions, especially from the beliefs & teachings sections. Even if a topic that you have taught from the exam specification is not included in this list, students can still use it in their answers. For example, they may want to mention ‘incarnation’ in an answer about Christmas even if it isn’t one of the topics listed. The AI document says “Students may need to draw on other specification content within their responses to be able to access the full range of marks.” so take this into consideration when planning your final weeks with students.
Sharing the AI
You know your students and know what is the best way to approach sharing this information with them. This could be to give them the actual AQA document or give them a copy of the specification with the AI content highlighted. If your students are highly motivated then they will use the information themselves but if you have students that need support, giving them the specification as a checklist for revision might help them. Giving them activities using the content is the best way to structure support rather than just telling students to ‘revise’.
Creating and using exam questions
AQA religious studies has a very clear question stem format which makes it easy to write your own questions using the AI.
1 mark – Which one of…
2 mark – Give/name two….
4 mark – Explain two*….
5 mark- Explain two…..Refer to sacred writings or another source of _________belief and teaching in your answer.
12 mark – “__(insert statement)_____”
*Remember this can be similar/contrasting/influences depending on the section of the specification they’re from
You can write some yourself or to help students be clear on question requirements, write their own and they could swap to answer. Writing a mark scheme of which content could be included in an answer could also be a useful activity, as a class or by themselves. If you usually set exam questions for homework then using the AI as question topics would be a good idea.
Students also need to work on their timing. In theory they have a minute per mark however they need to accumulate time to give themselves more time for the 12 mark questions. Using a timer when students complete exam questions can be helpful to get them used to the pace that will be needed in the exam.
Model answers are always useful for students as they can see how they could answer a question. You can write an answer with them and narrate your thinking as you write or give them a set of answers and they can choose the best one and have to justify why it is the best.
OUP have several resources to support your students in preparing for their exams. Their workbooks feature great activities such as keyword tests, practice exam questions and activities that support learning content and practising answers. OUP have also made a document to support students focusing on the AI whilst using their revision guides, you can find them here.
Dawn Cox is an experienced teacher and leader at secondary level. She has a Masters in Innovation and Leadership in education and is a Chartered College of Teaching, Chartered teacher. She has worked on senior leadership teams, been an AST, Lead Practitioner and an SLE. She is currently Head of Religious Education. Dawn has presented at national conferences on teaching and learning including assessment and strategies for promoting long term learning. She is interested in using research in education to ensure that teaching and school leadership is evidence based. Dawn is also an author and blogger for Oxford University Press.