Assessment of religious studies / education AS/2

Jon Mayled

The non-statutory national framework for Religious Education (2004) states on p.31 that:

While there is no legal requirement that students must sit public examinations, students deserve the opportunity to have their learning in the statutory curriculum subject of religious education accredited.



Accreditation can be through courses leading to qualifications with the title ‘Religious Studies’ and/or other approved courses that require the study of religion and ethics. Agreeds Syllabus Conferences (ASCs) are recommended to include a requirement that religious education should be taught at the following ages through accredited qualifications so that, from the earliest opportunity, schools provide: - for all students aged 16–19, at least one course in religious education or religious studies leading to a qualification approved under Section 96 that represents progression from 14–16.

The Cornwall Agreed Syllabus 2005-2010 states:

Evaluating and critically analysing religion

  1. Schools are required that pupils follow an accredited course at Key Stage 4 and in 6th Forms. The accredited courses offered must include Christianity and at least one other religion at KS4 and 6th Form from the religions studied at Key Stages 1 to 3. It does not follow that pupils must be examined in more than one religious tradition but they must have had a clear opportunity to develop their thinking in relation to more than one religious tradition.
    • It should also be noted that whilst pupils must follow a Section 96 listed course it does not follow that they must be examined in that course if it is felt that they may not be able to attain a grade in that course. Nevertheless, pupils have a right to have their work accredited and schools have a responsibility to offer a range of qualifications to meet the needs of all learners in their school relative to religious education.
  2. Teachers are free to decide:
    • a) which courses they think best meets the needs of their pupils
    • b) whether to offer one or more forms of accreditation to pupils, or whether to put different examinations together to create a more meaningful accreditation for pupils (such as pupils studying more than one Short Course GCSE to make a Full Course GCSE)
  3. The programme of study is intended to occupy 5% of curriculum time at 14 - 19. At KS4 this approximate to 45 hrs per academic year and sufficient time at 6th form to pursue a meaningful accredited course but not less than 20hrs per academic year.

For many pupils pursuing further study in religious education post-16 this requirement will probably be met by a GCE AS or A level qualification.

All of the UABs (Unitary Awarding Bodies) offer an Advanced GCE in Religious Studies. Across the UABs these specifications offer specific papers in world religions, sacred texts and philosophy and ethics. Centres are free to choose whatever papers they wish from the specifications but the vast majority of students following an Advanced GCE in Religious Studies now offer Philosophy and Ethics as their two examination options.

Assessment Objectives

Assessment Objectives

The QCA approved criteria for Advanced GCE in Religious Studies (July 2006) specifies the two Assessment Objectives (AOs) as:

  • Assessment Objectives Weighting
  • AS level A2 level A level
  • AO1 Select and demonstrate clearly relevant knowledge and understanding through the use of evidence, examples and correct language and terminology appropriate to the course of study. In addition, for synoptic assessment, A level candidates should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the connections between different elements of their course of study. 65-75% 55-65% 60-70%
  • AO2 Critically evaluate and justify a point of view through the use of evidence and reasoned argument. In addition, for synoptic assessment, A level candidates should relate elements of their course of study to their broader context and to aspects of human experience. 25-35% 35-45% 30-40%

The UABs have each weighted the AS/A2 ratio slightly differently and teachers should be aware of the particular requirements of the specification they are delivering.

Because the examination is completely unitised there is no requirement for students to pursue subject areas through AS to A2 and in some instances it is possible for candidates to offer four different areas of study for assessment. However, teachers should be aware that, in many instances, such a method of approaching a specification would still require students to have learnt the AS content for the related A2 papers even though they may not offer the AS papers for assessment.



The most significant difference between the UABs lies in the ways in which they have addressed the question of synoptic assessment. Teachers are recommended to study the specifications very carefully to determine where at A2 synoptic assessment takes place and how this is done.

Preparing for assessment:

The key issues when assessing a piece of student’s work are:

  1. Does the answer directly address the question asked?
  2. Does the answer reflect the Assessment Objective(s) being examined?
  3. Does the answer give good and sound detail and explanation? The issue here is whether the student has produced a good answer to the question. The answer may not include all the information which the candidates have been taught but this does not stop it attaining the highest levels. The examiner is only assessing against the question itself and the levels of response which are used for marking.
  4. Are there correct, relevant and appropriate references to theories and scholars?
  5. For the best grades – does the answer show good use of relevant terminology and a comprehensive coverage of the material? In order to make this assessment teachers should always use the Levels of Response published by the examination boards.
  6. In order to achieve the highest grades students need to be clear about the requirements of the assessment model. It is recommended that all students are given copies of the Levels of Response and that these are used for all essay marking. Students can then easily see from the marks awarded the descriptor of the level they have attained and what general improvements they need to make in order to raise their achievement.
  7. Students should be trained to use the Levels of Response. They should use them to assess their own work and then for peer assessment. Peer assessment can be difficult to establish but can be very effective. It is recommended that students are paired in ability groupings and read each others work aloud, commenting as they go. This then leads to consideration and discussion of how it can be improved.