Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for New Spec Philosophy

This morning was my last lesson with my students before the first external exam. What was my lesson plan? Hammer out as many points for the philosophy exam as possible. What was the result? Well put it this way I think I must have sweated off a stone! Here is a summary of what I can see as the final pointers to remember for the exam tomorrow:

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?


  • 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 (around 14 marks). Have you put 14 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?


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New Spec Philosophy Revision

I never actually thought I would finish the spec in time for revision, so with a week spare before the external exams start, I am now frantically putting together revision lessons that will cover the topics quickly and efficiently, whilst still covering all the key must know elements with exam practice (I think I now need caffeine on a drip!)

This is how I am going to do it.

Lesson Plans:

(Follow same structure for Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought)

Student lead:

Give students out an A3 blank sheet. Fold into 3 columns. Label: Good to go I know, Sort of know, Panic: No clue.

Using revision packs work through each section on ‘Must Learn Information’ (just OCR spec requirements found on OCR website) and using post – it notes students to fill in each bullet point and stick it in relevant column.


 Then using text books, research and write notes in ‘Text Book Notes’ section (revision packs) starting with Panic: No clue areas.

Fill in glossaries and quizzes for each section.

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Revision Packs

All revision packs are now available (including the newly added DCT pack) 🙂

New spec:

rev pack1        ethics   DCT pack


Legacy Spec for Re-Sitters:

legacy philo          legacy ethics


A2 Legacy Spec:

rev pack    rev ethic


I am currently warming up my crystal ball for my A2 predications and will post them shortly. I will not be making any predications for the New Spec (as I have absolutely no clue!) However I have written the potential question sections in each booklet so I guess they might count as my predictions. Best way for AS re-sitters to predict questions/ themes is just to study past questions (found in the above packs) and see which part of the spec hasn’t had a question in a while – that’s how I do it 🙂

Realistic Revision for New Spec

How is it that time already!! With a whirlwind new spec approaching the finish line, legacy A2 students flying the nest and legacy AS re-sits (to boost those grades) it just all feels a little too much.

The New Spec Philosophy exam commences in five weeks. The exam timetable (not that you need reminding) is:

  • Philosophy: 18th May
  • Ethics: 25th May
  • Christian Thought: 9th June

What this means is that students need to stagger their revision. My advise is start at the beginning and use the Easter ‘holidays’ (I use the term ‘holidays’ loosely because this near to an exam is not really a holiday – plenty of time in summer for that!) to focus on revising all of Philosophy and starting Ethics (e.g. first three topics).

I am not setting my students flipped learning or reading packs for the last two Christian Thought topics that I have left to cover. This is because I am a control freak (there I’ve said it)! If they cover it with me, I know then it is covered! Also the DCT exam is not for another 9 weeks!! That is plenty of time to revise Christian Thought and teach the last two topics. Yes it means that the students have less revision time in lesson but what is easier – students teaching themselves  a topic or revising material already covered in class. My answer = revise on your own and teach new materials in class. I am also going to set my students a full philosophy mock exam when they return after Easter – with three new questions under the 1.15 time constraints with no notes or help. This will really bring home the reality of the exam, with time to spare to do something about it!

So what is the best way to revise the new spec? cover.JPGMy solution is always the same: key words, quiz questions, planning potential answers, text book notes and spec analysis. 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.

Yes there is a lot for students to remember (20 topics in total) but the exams are over a four week period. With support, essay practice, minimizing materials to ‘Must Know Information’ and a bit of hard work – it can be done!

If you would like a copy of the revision packs, which include summary sheets, glossaries, potential questions, click on the images below (for a small charge):

rev pack1


DCT now available:

DCT pack

I’ve also put together something for the Legacy A2 students which might help:

rev pack  rev ethic

I also have in the works a blog looking at students work that compares Kant and Util to Business, so I will post that asap and I have set my students the challenge of their first DCT essay over Easter (to compliment their revision of course) so will post feedback on that.

Between planning, marking and blogging you would think I wouldn’t have time for that cheeky glass of vino ;-)!!

Top Recommendations: Text Books and Revision Guides

Must Buy:

Get those Grades:

I used these text books to inform my power points. I also found them a huge comfort when ensuring that my lessons remained relevant to the new spec expectations.

Further Recommendations:

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“What would Aquinas say about the Environment? Who knows!” Tackling the Application Essays

How is your juggling technique? Well that is exactly what you ne035ostrich_468x538ed to do in these essays: juggle at least two arguments with continuous evaluation and at least one application issue. But don’t weep into your computer just yet. Follow this writing frame exactly and you will not fail.

It is by far the hardest thing you will have to do over your two years on the course (that is probably why it is left until last). Unfortunately burying your head in the sand will not work. Last year alone two application questions were asked on the exam. So you have to accept that at least one application question will be there this year. See Consulting the Crystal Ball: Predicting your A2 Ethics Questions to help predict the wording of potential application questions.

The application topics are Sex and Relationships (contraception, homosexuality, pre marital sex and extra marital sex) and Environment and Business Ethics.

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