First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy Soul Question

Here’s a breakdown of a student’s answer for the question on the Soul, Mind, Body unit from the new spec exams 2016 (first years).

‘There is no such thing as a soul’ Discuss (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 9/15
A02 8/15

I used this answer as part of my lesson on essay writing for this unit. I gave the students 3 highlighters: critical words (purple) , use of ‘no/ such thing’ (blue) and every time a new name is used (green). What was clear very quickly is that this student used multiple critical words, wide selection of scholarly names and linked points back to the question.

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question

I love deliveries from new spec text books to stationery. Today’s delivery: philosophy exam papers from the new spec exams (first years). Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on Problem of Evil.

Assess the claim that natural evil has a purpose (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 14/15

From reading the student’s answer there are a few noticeable points:

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

intro aug 1.jpg

There are three simple things that make this introduction work. The first is the student uses the word ‘natural’ 3 times and ‘purpose’ twice. This shows that they are directly linking their essay to the question immediately (it is also a good way for the student to really clarify what the question is asking of them). Secondly the quote grabs the reader’s attention immediately. It is a short yet relevant quote from Augustine which the student then links into the question with a ‘this means’. Thirdly the student introduces the other key names involved Hick and Irenaeus. This makes it clear to the reader that they will be involved in this answer.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure

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Nature or Attributes of God: A2 Philosophy

Please find the first A2 New Spec PowerPoint. Lesson plans to follow 🙂

To view all available teacher and student materials click on: R.S Resources. This digital goods store will allow you to quickly and safely download all materials (for a small charge). These include PowerPoints, lesson packs (with all worksheets and activities) key knowledge test packs (with answers), essay writing skills pack, revision packs and much more.

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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“Religious experiences are an illusion of the mind”: Student’s Work

This is an example of what I would class as a good introduction. See the use of critical terms (red), links to the question (x3 in green) and the engagement with the two key names (Freud and James) in relation to the quote. The quote shows higher level independent reading but also shows understanding through not only linking it to James but also the question.


This is the first paragraph from the same essay. See the clear structure: James (yellow), E.G (green), E.G evaluation (purple), E.G evaluation linking back to James and introductory links to Freud (blue). Once again this is what I deem a good paragraph. The student maintains links to the example throughout (St. Teresa), I learn as a reader about her case without excessive description, James is also not forgotten from the first part of the paragraph by the student linking it to the example in an evaluative and analytical way. It does not over complicate the structure, the evaluation is prominent and the links back to the question are noticeable.

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Mock exam feedback: Marking new spec

I have finally battled my way through marking 50 mock exam answers for new spec Philosophy. Here is how I approached setting their first timed exam, the marking process and  feedback given:

Setting their first mock paper:

  • The questions were designed from the specification wording
  • 4 questions were set (even though in the actual exam they will only have three)
  • Each student answered one question ( even though in the exam they will answer two)
  • The students were given 40 minutes

Prior to starting:

  • Each student could complete a planning booklet (see Essay Plans: Supporting New Spec Revision) which they were allowed to keep in front of them during the mock exam (the questions in the plans/ exam were of course different)
  • After seeing the questions each student was given five minutes: one minute to talk to the person next to them, four minutes was to plan their structure.

Note: it was made clear to the students that in the actual exam their will be no discussion, limited planning time and no notes. However because this was their first timed essay, in exam conditions with questions they has not planned and prepared, I wanted to make the task more manageable.

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