A-Level Religious Studies

Examining Life, the World and God

Exam Board and Specification Codes: OCR H573

Course Outline

Are there other realities beyond the physical world? Is your mind a part of your body? Were humans carefully designed by a creator or is our existence an unintended quirk of nature?

What is the most valuable thing in the world? What should we care about the most? Does life have a purpose? Is it wrong to kill someone who wants to die?  

Are humans essentially wicked and sinful? Does anyone deserve to suffer an eternal punishment? Was Jesus a revolutionary? Should Christians fight to overthrow capitalism?   

The above are just a small sample of the fascinating questions raised by the new RS syllabus, but they give a flavour of the kinds of discussion and debate in which a student of the subject at ‘A’ level will be invited to engage.

The arrangement of these questions into three groups reflects the division of the new syllabus (and of the exams the student will be required to sit) into the Philosophy (Paper one), Ethics (Paper two) and the developing outlook of one particular religion, in our case Christianity (Paper three).

The RS ‘A’ level has much to offer, helping the committed student to develop important transferable skills, such as the capacity to analyse and evaluate other people’s arguments and the ability to construct persuasive arguments of one’s own.

If you have an open and enquiring mind, and are drawn to fundamental questions about the nature of the world we inhabit, RS may well be the ideal subject for you.

For these reasons, the Russell Group of top universities has identified Religious Studies ‘A’ level as a qualification which provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’.

Course Description

At the end of the two years, pupils sit three papers, each of them 2 hours long.

Paper One

  • Ancient philosophical influences (Plato’s theory of Forms; Aristotle’s ideas about causation)
  • Soul, mind and body (dualism and materialism)
  • Arguments for God’s existence based on observation (cosmological and teleological)
  • Arguments based reason (ontological)
  • Religious Experience (mystical experiences; conversion experiences)
  • The problem of Evil (Augustine, Irenaeus)

Paper Two

  • Natural Law
  • Situation Ethics
  • Kantian Ethics
  • Utilitarianism
  • Euthanasia
  • Business Ethics

Paper Three

  • Augustine’s Teaching on Human Nature (original sin, grace)
  • Death and the Afterlife (heaven, hell and purgatory; election)
  • Knowledge of God’s Existence (man’s innate sense of the divine, creation as revelatory of God, God revealed through faith, God revealed in Christ)
  • The person of Jesus Christ (Christ as son of God, as teacher, as liberator)
  • Christian moral principles (the Bible as their source; the church; love as the sole principle)
  • Moral actions (the case of Bonhoeffer)

What the Course Entails:

There is no coursework component to the Religious Studies ‘A’-level course, so the sole method of testing employed is the written exam.

Accordingly, our approach to the ‘A’ level combines an emphasis on classroom discussion, designed to strengthen the student’s grasp of the questions at stake and of the arguments to be conducted, with frequent testing under timed conditions.

Related courses you might be interested in:

The valuable transferable skills gained through Religious Studies set students up well for any arts or humanities course at university. The courses the most closely linked are, of course, Theology and Philosophy, but, owing to its interdisciplinary nature, students also emerge from the ‘A’ level well-equipped to study subjects as diverse as Law, English, and the Social Sciences. The way of thinking it promotes, the breadth of subject matter it covers, and the academic skills it imparts provide a good grounding for a variety of careers.