Examiner’s Report 2018: The Highlights

Whilst travelling down to the NATRE conference in Cheshire on the train, what better than the examiner’s report from 2018 to keep me busy? No huge surprises (but a few concerns) from the first year Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought reports. So here is a summary of the best bits or the bits you need to know if you haven’t had chance to read them:

General comments:

  • A significant number of essays had little to no evaluation
  • Distinct lack of scholarly views
  • Make sure examiners can read your handwriting!!

Philosophy

1. “Conversion experiences do not provide a basis for belief in God.” Discuss

Good points:

  • Clear focus on conversion
  • Developed evaluation of the effects
  • Effective use of William James, Swinburne and Freud

Bad points:

  • Long descriptive accounts of conversion, mostly St. Paul and Nicky Cruz
  • Thinking that St Paul was an atheist before his conversion
  • Not applying Swinburne’s principles to answering the question.

2. Critically discuss Aristotle’s understanding of reality.

Good points:

  • Very good accounts of Aristotle’s empiricism, explanation of four causes and prime mover (who draws things to him in a disinterested manner).
  • Used Plato in an evaluative way in relation to Aristotle scored higher bands

Bad points:

  • Confusion between efficient and formal causes (note: this has been an issue throughout the legacy papers as well)
  • Wrote all they knew about Plato and only compared with Aristotle in the final paragraph.

3. To what extent does Kant successfully criticise the ontological argument?

This section stopped me in my tracks. The report starts by saying “while a popular question, candidates struggled to produce good responses and very few recognised that Kant is critiquing the Cartesian version of the ontological argument.”

Now this annoyed me slightly. I cover Descartes in passing as I think he presents interesting links to the concept of predicate, using his example of the triangle and valley (I often find it helps students understand the concepts further). However Descartes has been completely removed from the spec and makes absolutely no appearance in the new spec (not even in the discussion pointers or recommended books).

So if you are new to the spec and don’t realise Kant’s links to Descartes and/or do not cover Descartes at all and closely follow the specific wording of the spec (as time does not allow us to cover all and everything!) then the examiners were expecting something not made clear and marked according to (I think) an old spec mark scheme not a new one. When I teach Kant I explain his views on predicates and get the students to link back to Anselm (who is on the spec) with Descartes links as a passing activity/ mention. I think the question is fine, I think the examiners marking/ report is way off!

kant

Ethics:

Continue reading “Examiner’s Report 2018: The Highlights”

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Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

I was a little disappointed at the start of this school year because for the first time in ten years our intake of new students to Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought was significantly down. We have always fluctuated between 3 and 4 classes of first year students (between 75-100 students) but this year our intake was just over 40.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know that R.S doesn’t always bring in the big numbers at A Level, I am also very grateful to still have four large groups over the two years. My concern is that next year our students will be entered onto a 3 A Level programme immediately (whereas currently they select four subjects, take one as an AS exam at the end of the first year and continue three subjects into the full A Level) and notoriously R.S is that fourth subject choice…not any more!

Rather than just blaming the new spec content, dip in the cohort or not being recognised as a facilitating subject, I have set myself a challenge (I do this quite often – remember the Revision Podcasts last year?!?) I am going to revamp, promote and advertise R.S. My main motivation (other than wanting a job next year) is that I believe that Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought is an amazing subject at A Level (slightly biased I know).  So I have come up with a number of areas where I think improvements can be made:

  • Open Evening
  • Taster Days
  • Career Links
  • Connections with local secondary schools
  • Social Media

And this is how I am going to do it…

Open EveningsImage may contain: 10 people, people smiling
Last year I put a lot of effort into revamping R.S on Open Evening, with a number of interactive stations, a Philosopher photo booth and updated handouts (for more details see: Open Evening Ideas for A Level R.S). The big problem though was that so many visitors never entered the room. So my plan for this year (and I best get a move on since it is in three weeks!) is to:

  1. Create a promotional video with students (going to ask the students about this one)
  2. Set up a large folding display board with important features of the subject, including trips, past and current student quotes, celebrity philosophers and topical discussion questions.
    (Update: first section on trips completed)…DolpTR4XUAMuO18
    Finished product (it took far longer than I anticipated – there was a lot of cutting, laminating and sticking but I am very pleased with the outcome!)
  3. Student helpers to go around college interacting with visitors. Update: I have created Discussion Question slips to engage parents and students in key ideas.
    DSC_0107
  4. Send links via FB and Twitter to local schools with the promotional video. Update: two schools out of five re-tweeted, liked and/or shared the video, which is a really good start!
    OE
  5. Pop-up-shop: enquire if there is a more focal point in college (such as our Hub or café) to set up a table with handouts, discussions questions and sweets…plus the display board. Update: we have been allocated a prime location in the café area to advertise the subject…fingers crossed we draw in some interest.

Continue reading “Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?”

Warning: Doctrines of Christian Thought Exam Approaching!!

The questions you will not be asked Monday afternoon are:

May 2017 First Year Paper:

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May 2018 First Year Paper:

IMG_4527

This means that a question on each of the areas of the first year spec has been asked. What this means (and following the pattern of the previous two A2 exams) is that there could be two questions on AS and two on A2. This means that the same topic might be asked again, just not the question areas already asked above. I have a feeling you may get asked three Q from A2 because there are so many question areas that could be asked from the second year and the AS has been covered quite efficiently over the last two AS exams.

Difficult to predict this one, so based on my gut feeling (the main thing my gut has been doing over the past few weeks of exams is flip flops!) I think the Q areas are going to be:

  • Pluralism and Theology – worded around exclusivism
  • Gender – worded around the church’s teachings/ traditional views/ where it fits into today’s society
  • Secularization – faith/ scripture so you could link in natural and revealed and moral principles from AS
  • Person of Jesus – liberator or divine vs human.

I think because the two topics within Pluralism and the two topics within Gender overlap and are very similar ( in that you could easily interchange the information between them) therefore I think any questions on these areas will be quite open (potentially quite vague, hopefully not too obscure like the Philosophy questions).

Tips:

  1. Make sure you know Ephesians,  Acts and Mulieris Dignitatem.
  2. Be prepared that the questions might be quite open. Remember that a lot of these topics link together, so it is about answering the question in the most efficient way which could include different texts, names and elements from a range of topics.

Note: You need to revise all areas. These predictions could be completely wrong, so you do not want to be caught out in your last exam.

Also check out: Predictions for Christian Thought (First and Second Year) and Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for Christian Thought (1st and 2nd Year)

Good Luck

This is your last opportunity to shine and show the examiners what you have learnt!!

Warning: Ethics Exam Approaching!!

The questions you will not be asked tomorrow are:

May 2017 First Year Paper:

untitled

May 2018 First Year Paper:

ethics Q

This means that all areas of the first year spec have had a question asked on them. So what has been covered is: specific topic (natural law) + open issue, specific topic (Kant) + open issue, specific issue (Business), specific issue (euthanasia), specific topic (SE) + open issue and specific topic (Utilitarianism) + open issue. So all topics have had a specific question on them as applied to moral decision making (an issue). And both business and euthanasia have been asked on there own. Note the massive overkill already with the terms ‘moral decision making’!

So what is missing:

Specific topic on it’s own (e.g Bentham vs Mill )
Specific topic with specific issue (e.g NL+SoL)

So last minute advice:

  1. Check out the BBC news for any recent events in business, euthanasia or sex ethics
  2. Be prepared that at least one of your questions (I think 2 out of the four) will be application
  3. Give specific examples and statistics to avoid vague sweeping statements
  4. If a comparison Q is asked e.g Bentham vs Mill make sure you compare in every paragraph using language like: whereas, both, differing, similarly etc
  5. Whatever is mentioned specifically in Q, that is the start of every paragraph. So if ‘Emotivism is the only way to approach ethical language’ Discuss, every paragraph needs to start with emotivism, even if you bring in EN or I to criticise it, that comes later on in the paragraph.
  6. Meta and Conscience are stand alone topics. This means that you are not expected to link meta or conscience to sex ethics or the AS topics (NL, SE etc) You can make synoptic links i.e. between Fletcher’s conscience and Aquinas because they both link to conscience, as part of your evaluation.

Make sure you read:Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for Ethics (First and Second Year) and Predictions for Ethics (First and Second Year). Don’t forget last minute support with Revision Podcasts on YouTube: Revision Podcasts and also my Tips for Writing an Application Essay:

Finally the more links to specific wording in the question and the more you argue, argue, argue, the better you will do! Get off the fence, raise discussion points, pass judgements and criticisms, defend arguments and evaluate everything. Control your content and need to regurgitate information, it is not how much you write/ remember it is what you do with it!

Good Luck

I will be thinking about you all tomorrow. Show off and shine!!

Warning: Philosophy Exam Approaching!!

The questions you will not be asked tomorrow are:

May 2017 First Year Paper:

untitled.png

May 2018 First Year Paper:

IMG_4525

This means that:

  • Soul, Mind, Body
  • Cosmo
  • PoE
  • RE
  • Aristotle
  • Onto

Have all been asked. All that is missing is:

  • Plato
  • Teleo

You could still get asked a question from any topic area, including areas already been asked above. The only thing we can be pretty certain of is that similar Q’s will not arise.

So last minute advice:

  1. Check out BBC for moral evil examples and recent events/ stats with the volcano eruption (natural evil)
  2. If you get a question on ‘Religious Language is meaningless’ do NOT talk about Falsification. The exam board has made it very clear that Flew never uses the word meaningless (only ‘vacuous’ yet in my book they pretty much imply the same thing) but still we follow the exam board!! I recommend Verification vs Language Games for a Q like this.
  3. Any RE question mention WJ’s four even just in passing
  4. Avoid numinous as an example, unless the question asks or if you have a specific case to draw upon, otherwise your answers will just be vague.
  5. Make sure you read questions carefully: psychology vs physiology could cost you dearly!
  6. If a comparison Q is asked e.g Plato vs Ari make sure you compare in every paragraph using language like: whereas, both, differing, similarly etc
  7. Whatever is mentioned specifically in Q, that is the start of every paragraph. So if mentioned ‘a priori is better than a post’ structure with Onto throughout.
  8. If Q on God’s attributes, focus on Q throughout, do not get side-lined on long rambling content.

Make sure you read: Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for Philosophy (1st and 2nd Year) and Predictions for Philosophy (First and Second Year). Don’t forget last minute support with Revision Podcasts on YouTube: Revision Podcasts

Finally the more links to specific wording in the question and the more you argue, argue, argue, the better you will do! Get off the fence, raise discussion points, pass judgements and criticisms, defend arguments and evaluate everything. Control your content and need to regurgitate information, it is not how much you write/ remember it is what you do with it!

Good Luck

I will be thinking about you all tomorrow. First A Level exam for new spec – let’s make it a good one!!