Hints and Tips - 6 minute read
Ewan Brady, OCR Subject Advisor
We have been working hard to make improvements to our GCSE in Religious Studies. Recently, we have made some changes to the assessments and have published an assessment guide which explores our question papers along with a command words poster.
The reformed OCR GCSE has two parts:
Students learn about the Beliefs and Teachings and Practices of two religions and about Philosophy and Ethics from the perspective of one of these religions. They sit two one-hour exams for Beliefs and Teachings & Practices and one two-hour exam for Philosophy and Ethics.
The assessments have been updated to improve the 6-mark questions.
Following feedback from teachers and examiners we have:
For components 01–05 (Beliefs and teachings and practices) the 6-mark question which was previously assessed using a combination of AO1 and AO2, is:
For Components 06–10 (the religion, philosophy and ethics papers) there are two 6-mark questions:
We have published new candidate style answers with commentaries, written by senior examiners to support teachers with the changes.
In 2019 we introduced structured question and answer booklets for the one-hour religious paper options (Components 01-05). This followed administration issues in some centres in the first year of exams in 2018.
Teachers loved the new question and answer booklets and asked us to introduce them for the two-hour philosophy and ethics papers. We have done so for 2020.
The new booklets give students space to write their answers beneath each question. Teachers have told us how much this helps their students. Following our 2019 post series review we have adjusted the number of lines that candidates have to answer each question.
Over the past couple of years, we have developed the support available for teachers delivering the qualification. The following OCR resources are now available on the GCSE qualification page:
In order to access some of the materials relating to the 2019 exams you will need a password for OCR Interchange. If you don’t have a password speak to your Exams Officer.
The course is supported by an endorsed textbook from Hodder Education, our publishing partner. Hodder also publish a revision guide and other digital resource which can be seen on their website.
We have recently published two new resources – an Assessment Story and a command words poster. The Assessment Story explains:
It also includes annotated exam questions.
The section on command words, in particular, has been welcomed by teachers. It provides definitions for the command words used for 3 and 6 mark questions and provides examples where they have been used.
We have also published a command words poster for displaying on classroom walls or as a student handout.
We have held a range of CPD events this year, with plans to repeat the events next academic year:
The exam feedback CPD event was held in London in November. The day featured discussion of the most popular 2019 papers and marking activities. These events provide an excellent opportunity to interact with the trainers, OCR subject advisor and other teachers. The day was well attended, and the feedback was excellent.
This year we introduced exam prep CPD, held in London in February. The day focussed on techniques for retrieval practice, tackling the 3 and 6-mark AO1 questions, strategies to help students with analysis and evaluation questions and ideas to help students prepare for the 15-mark questions. Teachers enjoyed practising activities that they could repeat with their students back at school.
Lastly, we have had two GCSE Subject Advisor update webinars which have proven to be popular. These have featured discussions about what is coming up over the year in terms of teacher support, the changes to the 6-mark questions, exam headlines and an opportunity to ask questions.
OCR teachers like the GCSE course content. The course is seen as being good preparation for the new A Levels. Teachers say that it is more interesting than the legacy GCSE course, and ‘it is actually Religious Studies’. They like the breadth of themes in Philosophy and Ethics. OCR teachers have generally been happy with their students’ results.
Teachers and examiners didn’t like the split Assessment Objective 6-mark questions in practice – so we changed them. They also like the new structured question and answer booklets for the exams which have helped their students.
Teachers like the changes we have made and the fact that we have made them. When teachers were asked at a recent event what they like about OCR one said, ‘the willingness to change in response to teacher feedback.’
What do you think of OCR GCSE RS, the support we offer for teachers and the changes we have made? Add a comment below.
If you have any queries or questions, you can comment below, email us at email@example.com, call us on 01223 553998 or follow us @OCR_RS.
You can also sign up to subject updates and receive up-to-date email information about Teacher Networks, Professional Development events and resources and support for Religious Studies.
Ewan Brady joined OCR as a subject specialist in June 2014. Since joining OCR Ewan has been responsible for a number of subjects including Law, Government and Politics and Sociology. Ewan led the redevelopment of our new AS and A Levels in Law for first teaching in 2017. He took over responsibility for Religious Studies as Subject Advisor in 2017.
Ewan taught for 16 years in Scotland and England and has eight years of leadership experience in humanities, teaching subjects including history, law, politics, citizenship and religious studies.