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Religious Studies

Exam Board Specification: AQA

How the course is assessed

100% exam
2x 3 hour exams

Description of course

Ever since humankind started to think, religion has been a fundamental part of our development. As people look into the vastness of space or witness the miracle of birth, they contemplate the meaning of life and their own mortality. It has always been this way. In the 21st century, religion still addresses the same eternal human questions about life and death, values and relationships, right and wrong.

Religious Studies is an inclusive subject, designed for people of any religion... and people who do not follow any religion. It is not necessary to have taken Religious Studies at GCSE, although students who have a GCSE will find that the AS/A Level builds on their knowledge, understanding and skills. All that is required is a desire to find out more about religion and its role in society.
Paper 1:

Section A: Philosophy of religion
  • Arguments for the existence of God.
  • Evil and suffering.
  • Religious experience.
  • Religious language.
  • Miracles.
  • Self and life after death.
Section B: Ethical theories.
  • Issues of human life and death.
  • Issues of animal life and death.
  • Introduction to meta ethics.
  • Free will and moral responsibility.
  • Conscience.
  • Bentham and Kant.


Paper 2:

Section A: Study of Christianity
  • Sources of wisdom and authority.
  • God/gods/ultimate reality.
  • Self, death and the afterlife.
  • Good conduct and key moral principles.
  • Expression of religious identity.
  • Religion, gender and sexuality.
  • Religion and science.
  • Religion and secularisation.
  • Religion and religious pluralism.


Section B: The dialogue between philosophy of religion and religion.
  • How religion is influenced by, and has an influence on philosophy of religion in relation to the issues studied.
Section C: The dialogue between ethical studies and religion.
  • How religion is influenced by, and has an influence on ethical studies in relation to the issues studied.



Higher education, future careers and progression routes

The skills that you will learn in Religious Studies will be useful to you in any number of careers; teaching, youth work, journalism, civil service or government to name a few. If you’re thinking of a career in law or medicine then a Religious Studies A Level is looked upon favourably for undergraduate courses too.

Religious Studies is one of the fastest growing subjects. This is partly because it is compatible with, and has a similar skills base to, subjects such as English, History, Sociology, Philosophy and Government and Politics. It is also a good partner course for not only the subjects mentioned, but also for Archaeology, Classical Civilisation and History of Art.

2016 Examination success rates:

100% pass rate
57% A*-B
86% A*-C

Entry Criteria:

Students must meet the Consortium minimum entry criteria for A Level courses, that is, a GCSE grade 4 or higher in English Language, grade 4 or higher in Maths (point score of 44.5 or higher).

To study A Level Religious Studies you are also required to have a GCSE grade B or equivalent in Religious Studies or a grade 5 in English Language if no GCSE. 

Additional information:

  • You would find it useful to start reading newspapers, watching the news and researching some of the key ethical stories that are prominent at the moment. Make some notes on them, how do people respond? What influences their responses?
  • A great book to introduce Philosophy is called Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, a little bit about it is below:

“In "Sophie's World" you will find an interesting novel, intertwined almost seamlessly with the History of Philosophy. This former philosophy teacher, born in 1952 in Oslo (Norway), reached success with this book, which has managed to attract even those not commonly interested in Philosophy and also, somehow, to become part of the bibliography of many philosophy courses.
The plot of the book is rather simple. It centres on Sophie Amundsen, a fourteen year old girl approaching her fifteenth birthday, who one day begins to receive letters from someone she doesn't know. In those letters, her unknown correspondent begins to tell her about the History of Philosophy, the subject he studies. Sophie's goes on receiving those letters throughout the novel, and they become an essential part of the plot, which is a mystery with unexpected turnarounds.”

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