The examiner reports from OCR have now been published, highlighting some of the features of the best answers from the summer exams of 2019. There were several key characteristics that helped essays to score higher marks; the examiners’ reports should help current students to see where they can improve as they develop their own writing.
Key characteristics of top-scoring answers:
- Focus on the question: weaker answers were pre-prepared generic essays that had been learned by heart and could have been called ‘my religious language essay’ or ‘my natural law essay’: the writer had just written everything they knew about the material in that unit of study. In contrast, the best answers focused on exactly what they had been asked to discuss and showed a clear engagement with the issues the question raised.
- Building an argument: high-scoring answers were built around an argument. The writers had decided what they were going to argue, with a focus on the question, and had structured their essays in order to put that argument forward and show why other views were less persuasive. Weaker answers just presented a lot of information and then tagged a small amount of argument on at the end, as an afterthought.
- Evaluation: the top-level answers evaluated different possible responses to the question, and having weighed them up, said which was the most persuasive and for what reasons. Weaker answers just set out a list of contrasting points of view without making clear judgements about the opinions they described.
- Structure: the best answers made the most of introductions and conclusions to introduce and then round off the argument in the essay. Weaker answers gave lengthy and unnecessary general information in the introductions or did not have much of a conclusion.
- Relevant academic views: answers in the top bands made use of academic and scholarly views by including them in their arguments where relevant, showing how they contributed to the debate and giving successful evaluation of them. In contrast, weaker essays were over-peppered with names and quotations without making use of them in any way. Simply listing names and quotations is not the same as using scholarly views in the construction of an argument.
Guidance for writing high-scoring essays
Here are some free resources from the Oxford A Level Religious Studies for OCR series to help you maximise your marks in the exams:
Use this link to help you check that your practice essays show all of the characteristics of top-scoring answers.
Use this link to remind yourself of ways to structure your essay so that you have a clear argument throughout.
Libby Ahluwalia has extensive teaching and examining experience and has authored numerous successful textbooks.