Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for A Level Ethics

08e2657614ca71a5004366998fa92b2aRound Two…Ethics.

Students often find Ethics a bit easier to get their heads around than Philosophy, maybe because it links more with everyday life or because there is just less of it. Either way when it comes to the exam you need to be sharp with your structure, keep your application answers under control and suppress your need to write like a GCSE student (especially when it comes to euthanasia …your body is God’s temple snore!!)

So this blog is structured to support with: the style of ethics questions, structure of essays, tips per topic, application discussion themes, final tips and top three mistakes.

Question Style:

Ethics questions roughly follow four styles:

  1. Specific topic – application open (Natural Law is useful when dealing with moral decisions)
  2. Specific topic with specific application (Kantian ethics is helpful when dealing with issues surrounding business ethics)
  3. Specific topic alone (There are no strengths with the Natural Law theory)
  4. Application (The religious concept of sanctity of life is outdated)

Don’t forget:

  1. Natural Law and Situation Ethics go together with Euthanasia
  2. Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism go together with Business
  3. All four go with Sex Ethics (2nd year)

This means if the question is worded like Q1 (above) you need to know which ethical issues to link to the topic in the question. For example Kant is only applied to business not euthanasia.

If the question implies that a certain topic is the ‘ best approach’ you might want to compare it with the other topic from that section. So “Utilitarianism is the best approach to business ethics” you might wish to compare to Kant (see: “Utilitarianism is more useful than Kantian Ethics when dealing with ethical dilemmas” Discuss: Student’s Work to help.)

Structure of essays:

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Predictions for Ethics (First and Second Year)

There is one look I am very familiar with on the approach to the exams: the panicked eyes of students that just Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 20.46.38.pngwant to know “what do you think the questions will be in the exam?” What I want to say is “How do I know???”…however to ease your panic there are a few ways to prepare your5sefl for the exam (don’t forget this is based on faith not science).

  1. Look at the past exam questions. PROBLEM…there has only been one round of exams for the new spec and nothing for the full A Level.
  2. Examine the specification closely (this is what your teacher will teach you from – the checklist). You must know every bullet point because examiners often just add the words ‘critically assess’ or  ‘evaluate’ in front.

E.g

conscience

If you do not have access to either sample answers or specifications go to the exam board website. So in this case go to OCR:http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/as-a-level-gce/as-a-level-gce-religious-studies-h173-h573-from-2016/ for all mark schemes, sample questions, examiners comments and specification.

First Year:

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Predictions for Philosophy (First and Second Year)

untitled.pngI am starting to think that my students think I am Mystic Meg and have God on speed dial giving me inside tips. Because if I had a pound for every time I have been asked for my predictions over the years I could have paid for a luxury holiday to Barbados with a yacht…and cocktails.

The simple answer is – “I have no idea!” Why? Because this is the first time the full A Level has been sat. This means there are no previous questions to rule out and no lessons to be learnt. We are all going in blind!

First Year:

It is slightly easier this year as we have one round of questions and the examiner’s feedback  (see: Examiner’s Report 2017: What can we learn?).

Last year’s question paper:

philosophy

Now don’t get excited! This does not mean that Cosmological, Problem of Evil and Soul, Mind and Body won’t be on this year but it certainly is quite unlikely. However examiners love curve balls so they might throw one in just to catch you off guard. So you might for example get a question specifically on John Hick’s POE for example.

However I am thinking:

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Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for Philosophy (1st and 2nd Year)

32468058_10156606003370809_779382825869639680_nIt’s that time again! This is my tenth exam season and let me tell you it doesn’t get easier. Every year is a manic scrabble to get the A2 students ready with all their revision materials, last minute tips (and endless mock exams) and final words of wisdom (hopefully!) For the first years it is now a mad rush to finish the spec in time for the first exam. So here are my last minute tips for Philosophy…

Evaluation panic you can always use:

  • God of Gaps: Having a gap in knowledge and filling it with God. This could even be used more creatively with Plato and Aristotle e.g. what sustains the four causes (potential to actual) = Prime Mover. Prime Mover is used to fill a gap in knowledge
  • Leap of Logic: Drawing conclusions with limited or no logic/ evidence
  • Reductio ad Absurdum: reducing logical statements to illogical conclusions (e.g. design in world = God designer)
  • Burden of Proof: whoever is making the claim must back up with proof. So does Plato provide enough proof for WOF – yes/ no discuss in answer
  • Ockham’s razor: go with the simplest solution E.g. St Theresa had a vision or was it just caused by malaria? What is the simplest solution?

Evaluation:

  • You must use critical words throughout your answer to emphasize your evaluation (see to help: “But how can I tell the difference between description and evaluation?”). If you don’t use critical words you are only stating perspectives not evaluating them. And you cannot ‘name dump’ e.g. “Stephen Fry questions how can God exist when he allows children to die of cancer. This is a convincing argument.” This is not evaluation! You must use the special word of ‘because’.
  • I recommend that my students do not use ‘I think’ as it does not read academically. Instead channel your views/arguments but use other language such as ‘one might argue’
  • Don’t forget you get a lot of marks for evaluation (15 marks first year and 24 marks second year). Have you put 15 different evaluative points in your essay using critical words with ‘because’? Have you defended against the criticism and then weighed up whether the original criticism or defence is stronger?

General:

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Preparing for the Finish Line: Revising New Spec

How is it that time already!! With a whirlwind new spec approaching the finish line, impending final exams and just not enough time to feel in control, it all feels a little too much!

I receive a lot of emails asking for advice and help with revision. In short there is no 1.pngquick fix or easy answer. Revision is hard work and takes a long time. I often describe revising like going to the gym (it’s about as fun!!), you need to go to the gym consistently, regularly and with a healthy approach, in order to change your physical fitness. This is exactly the same for your brain, you need to revise regularly and consistently and follow a healthy approach – regular breaks, plenty of sleep, no distractions etc.

So here is some advice that might help:

What to revise?:

This might seem a really silly question but the answer of all 32 topics is just so daunting it needs to be broken down into more manageable chunks:

      • Learning key words
      • Answering short content based questions
      • Planning potential essay answers (e.g. “An argument based on reason is more reliable than an argument based on senses.” Discuss or ‘Critically compare Plato’s Form of the Good and Aristotle’s Prime Mover’ or “Evolution logically explains design without the need of God.” Discuss)
      • Making textbook/ wider reading notes
      • Analyzing the spec requirements

These cover all the main elements needed. If students know their key words and spec requirements = C grade, if they can plan potential answers this will help ease the pressure off the exam and if they do a little wider reading this will support higher grades.

Where to start my revision?:

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Revision Guides: Which ones are worth your money?

The Revision Guides I purchased where Libby Ahluwalia’s Oxford A Level Religious Studies (one book) and Chris Eyre and Julian Waterfield’s My Revision Notes for Religious Studies (separated into three books).

I have to admit straight away I am biased towards both books, so when ordering them I knew it was a done deal as far as quality. Ahluwalia’s text books have been an invaluable support over the last two years in preparing and teaching the new spec material. I trust Ahluwalia’s experience with OCR and her keen yet fair eye when it comes to assessment. I have also worked closely with Julian Waterfield over the years, so I know first hand his love for the subject, his honed skills for marking essays and his understanding of the reality of teaching. Neither of the Revision Guides let me down!

However I know with tight budgets purchasing a class set for both guides is unrealistic. Also bombarding students with lots of different books can sometimes over complicate revision rather than make it easier. Therefore as I am not a fence sitter, here is a rundown of my views of both guides:review 1

So my overall verdict:

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