This website contains revision and learning materials for A level Philosophy and A level Religious Studies (which schools sometimes call theology or RE or RPE).
Use the menu at the top of the page to find the notes relevant to you – Click on your A level (Philosophy or one of the 4 RS exam boards)
The content on this website is not finished. If there are topics which are empty or unclickable, then it means I have not finished writing and uploading them. My main focus is on the OCR RS exam board since that’s the most popular and the one I have the most number of students for. However I do get a lot of students for the other exam boards and I hope to finish the notes for them too, though realistically I can’t put a date on when I will get that done.
Hope the site is useful! – Joe Livingstone, A level tutor and examiner.
Note: I am currently updating my all my notes, hope to upload them at the end of September.
Discussion about the purpose of the site and how to use it
I love the AQA Philosophy text book by Michael Lacewing – however it is unnecessarily long, even for students who want to get an A*. So, I’ve made my own notes.
However, the religious studies text books, while good for introducing students to the subject and teaching them about it, in my opinion are not great at explaining how to structure the content, especially the AO2 content, into essays that get high grades. They often just list strengths and weaknesses. If that’s what you’re doing for AO2 in your essays, it’s going to be difficult to get above a C grade. Unfortunately my notes are not particularly good for students who are just trying to get a C grade. Hopefully one day I’ll release a simplified bullet point version of them.
My notes for religious studies are structured in an exam-orientated way, radically different to the text books I’ve seen. They are geared towards indicating to you what you should write into your actual essays in the exam. Each topic is set out in individual paragraphs which you should learn off by heart. It’s not wise to try and learn essays off by heart for religious studies A level because of the significant variety of questions you could get in the exam. However, you can and should learn individual paragraphs off by heart and when it comes to the exam, you can choose the relevant paragraphs from the ones you have learned.
If you want a solid B grade and certainly if you want more than that, it’s very important to learn not simply criticisms, but defences against those criticisms. AO2 marks are awarded for evaluation which considers multiple points of view and is developed. If you explain an argument/theory and then just throw one or two short criticisms against it and leave the paragraph there, that will not achieve high AO2 marks.
If you explain the argument/theory, then a criticism of it and then explain how you think that criticism fails by offering a defence against it, that would be much better. However, it requires that you learn not simply short criticisms, but criticisms paired with defences, and perhaps even counter-defences. These chains of back-and-forth argument which end with your judgement as to which side is right and why are what achieve high AO2 marks.
You can write out these chains and learn them off by heart as individual paragraphs. My notes are examples you can use of the classic back-and-forth debates that philosophers & theologians have engaged in. It might be different to what your teachers have taught you – all teachers throw in a few things they like in addition to teaching the specification. You can add stuff your teachers have taught you and arguments you find on the internet, or just use the content I suggest here – but the main point is that you shouldn’t just try to learn everything in an unstructured way. You should arrange the AO2 content into chains of back-and-forth argument and learn it like that. This makes writing essays in exam conditions much easier!