5 Tips for Success at Religious Studies A-Level

If you’re taking Religious Studies as an A Level subject you need two main strengths:

  1. An ability to retain large amounts of information; and,
  2. Skill in evaluating and explaining your arguments effectively.

In this article taken from my interview with expert Religious Studies A-Level teacher and examiner, Chris Eyre, we share some important tips on how to get the most from your study in this challenging but thought-provoking subject. Chris is a sixth form RS teacher and senior examiner with over 25 years’ teaching experience, and is the author of several text books and revision guides on the subject.

5 Tips for Success at Religious Studies A-Level

1.Put the work in and you'll do well

Chris’ rule of thumb for RS A-Level is spend as much time on your study outside of the classroom as you do inside it.

Being aware of your knowledge base is really key right from the start, so taking time to look at any gaps in your knowledge is a worthwhile activity when you first start the course. By taking control of your own learning from the start, you will be well-placed to fill any gaps.

Continue this constant review and revision of your knowledge and understanding of topics as you progress through the course to avoid having to re-teach yourself in the run up to the exam. Establishing a good work ethic for this is key.

2. Make sure you've got the right foundation

As with all A Level subjects, the key to success it to know your subject thoroughly the first time round. Do the background reading for the religion you’ve been set to get a solid understanding of its principles and ethics and identify any gaps in your knowledge. This strong foundation will really help reduce stress in the second year.

If you studied RE at GCSE don’t throw out your study notes! A lot of the content at GCSE is a great foundation to what you will study at A level, and although you have just one religion to study (chosen by your teacher), there are philosophical and ethical themes you can expand on so keep the notes handy. You will be viewing the world through the lens of this one religion for most of the course.

There are elements of RS that are challenging and difficult, especially if your A level religion subject happens to be in a different faith to the one you follow personally, so bring an open mind.

Likewise, don’t assume that if your chosen religion is the same as your own religion, that you’ll know everything about it. Read widely around your faith and use it as background knowledge on which to build your knowledge. Take in the wider perspective world view and explore the different teachings from other countries and cultures.

3. Learn your content

RS exam answers award 40% of the mark for knowledge and understanding – this means you need to know facts and information. The remaining 60% of the marks are for the evaluation of your argument and your ideas. Making sure you understand the content of each topic thoroughly the first-time round will allow you to use your knowledge and structure your ideas.

4. Practice evaluative writing

A-Level exam questions test the higher order thinking skills of the student, so it’s important to practice evaluative writing whenever you can. There is a lot to learn in the subject and students often get anxious about this, but the most important thing is remembering how to use this content to write a well-rounded and interesting essay or exam answer. Research some useful evaluative writing phrases and weave them into your writing to show how your ideas are backed by your knowledge.

5. Think like an examiner

Examiners are looking for the evaluation of the content in your answer, so make sure you pull your ideas apart and analyse them in a well-structured format, always referring back to your knowledge and understanding for top marks:

  • Have a well-defined introduction that outlines your idea.
  • Create easy-to-read paragraphs that clearly signpost the reader through your argument.
  • Analyse your thinking and weave this into each paragraph of your answer.
  • Finish with a clear conclusion that brings the elements of your ideas together.

Keep in mind that the examiners are reading a huge number of essays, sometimes at the end of a long day. An insider tip here is to think about how your examiner feels when he/she is reading your essay. Is it easy for them to grasp your ideas first time? Practice getting this technique right and you’ll have greater success in RS A Level.

Would you like more help with Religious Studies A-Level?

Chris is teaching the How to Revise A-Level Religious Studies Masterclass for The Extraordinaries Club on 23rd September 2021. When you attend the masterclass you will discover:

  • How to ensure you have the ‘religious literacy' to succeed at A-Level
  • What the right kind of effort looks like for Religious Studies (so you don't waste your valuable study time revising in the wrong way)
  • The three stages of revision for Religious Studies so that you make sure you're doing the right things at the right times throughout the two year course
  • Active revision techniques for Religious Studies so that you stay engaged with your revision and improve your marks
  • How to write coherent arguments that earn higher level marks
  • The writing tricks that make it easier for the examiner to give you high marks
  • And much more…

Click here to find out more about the How to Revise A-Level Religious Studies Masterclass and sign-up

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