A Level Religious Studies

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

Is there a God? How should we live? These two fundamental questions underlie everything you will be looking at in the Religious Studies A level. You will be approaching them in a distinctively philosophical way. You will

be exploring many arguments for God’s existence and problems that argue for atheism. You will be comparing different theories of ethics from across the ages and looking at what they have to say about some very modern ethical problems. The importance of religious belief is being questioned today like never before and you will develop the skills to look at the issues in a sophisticated and critical way.

Many of the arguments and views have emerged within the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and studying the New Testament will enrich and give context to these debates. However, the fundamental questions we started with transcend any one faith and this is not a course that tries to get you to make up your mind. Wherever you stand, there is much to be learned and admired from the complexity and subtlety with which theists, agnostics and atheists have addressed the sorts of questions that fascinate everyone.

Lower sixth

The AS qualification consists of three papers. In Paper 1 (Philosophy of Religion) you will begin by looking at three famous arguments for the existence of God: the design, cosmological and ontological arguments. You will consider religious experiences and the problem of evil. In Paper 2 (Religion and Ethics) you will study three ethical theories: Utilitarianism, Situation Ethics
and Natural Moral Law. You will then apply them to debates regarding war and peace, and sexual ethics, the environment and equality. In Paper 3 (Christianity) you will explore Christian beliefs, values and teachings, and the practices that shape religious identity. You will also examine the significance of the bible as a source of authority, and the role of Jesus in the life of Christians.

Upper sixth

The full A level qualification consists of the same three papers covered at AS, with added breadth of material. In Paper 1 (Philosophy of Religion) you will examine issues concerning religious language, life after death, and the significance of scientific debate. In Paper 2 (Religion and Ethics) you will compare Kant’s deontological ethics with Aristotle’s virtue ethics. You will then explore medical ethical issues with a focus on debates concerning the beginning and end of life. In Paper 3 (Christianity) you will examine social and historical developments in Christianity: the challenge of modern science, secularisation and new movements such as global evangelicalism. You will also study the works of scholars on atonement, and the relationship
between religion and society, including issues of multiculturalism and gender equality.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Religious Studies is a much-respected subject. It introduces perennially fascinating theological and philosophical problems that will engage you and develop your critical and analytical skills. You will learn to think in abstract ways and to challenge your own beliefs. You will develop the ability to read and understand complex ideas and the ability to articulate them clearly in essays. All of these are valuable skills across a wide range of disciplines, making it a subject universities look favourably on.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You do not need Religious Studies GCSE or indeed any other particular qualifications to study the subject at A level. You should be aware that the course requires a good deal of reading and writing and a capacity for logical thought.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

All three AS papers are assessed by 1 hour written exams, each worth a third of the overall qualification. Each paper consists of two sections: four short structured questions followed by an essay question from a choice of two.

A level

All three A level papers are assessed by 2 hour written exams, each worth a third of the overall qualification. Each paper consists of three sections: three short, structured questions; two extended- response questions based on excerpts from an anthology; and an extended essay question from a choice of two.

Reading

An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion
By B. Davies
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0199263479

Being Good
By S. Blackburn
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0192853776

Christianity: An Introduction 3rd Revised Edition
By A. McGrath
Published by Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 978-1118465653

An anthology of extracts for all three papers is provided by the exam board.

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: 8RS0, A level: 9RS0

Fozia Niazi
Head of Department

Tara

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Medicine)

The teachers have been amazing and have all gone over and above everything I needed. Coming to MPW is the best decision I ever made, I’m just so glad I came here. I would never have got these grades without the support of MPW and my fantastic teachers.

Hector

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A

Progressed to
University of Edinburgh (Philosophy and Mathematics)

MPW felt more like a university than a school for me. I really liked having the freedom to plan my own time around the set periods of lessons and there is also a real focus on doing your work on time, being methodical and preparing well so there is no last-minute stress at the end of the year. Unlike at some schools where it can be a lottery who your teachers are, at MPW they are all first-rate. If, like me, you change your mind after school about what you want to do and need to get some new A levels there is nowhere better to cater to your needs. I would recommend MPW. It is a fantastic school. 

Charlotte

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A

Progressed to
University of Bristol (History and Innovation)

The teaching is amazing. It’s so relaxed and if there is anything you don’t understand it is easy to ask. I wanted to do a course that is not usually taken by History students at MPW (Tudor Rebellion) so they tailored a course for me and I had one-to-one tuition for that part. It’s been really good to boost my grade.

Nicola

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A

Progressed to
University College London (Medicine)

I chose MPW because my brother came to MPW, loved his time here and came out with really good grades. When I didn’t do so well in my AS levels I knew something had to change. I came for an admissions meeting and it felt like a good fit for me. It’s been absolutely amazing. I’ve never had an exam period before where I wasn’t stressed, panicky or not feeling prepared but at MPW they have changed that. The exam preparation that you do throughout the year has helped me so much.

George

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AA

Progressed to
University of Bristol (Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

I retook my A levels because I had my heart set on going to Bristol and I knew that I could do better than BBB. My parents chose MPW for me because of its fantastic reputation. MPW has been so much better than I expected. The teaching is so enthusiastic, they do exactly what you want and are really focussed at the same time as being very personable and taking a genuine interest in you.