With GCSE RS, there is room for different schools to choose a range of combinations depending on the specification you’re taking and the religion(s) your school has chosen to study. So, today we’re just going to focus on some of the common ground, and advice for scoring top marks that applies to all the RS-ers out there!
The good news about the Religious Studies GCSE is that there is no coursework! The bad news is... there is no coursework! This means your grade will solely come down to how you perform in your written exams. That’s two years worth of content and learning that you need to demonstrate. But fear not! You can master this but it takes organisation. Don’t know where to start? No worries – we’ve got it covered!
Get Your Priorities Straight
First things first – get your topic list and your mark scheme in front of you and make yourself a list of everything you need to know. You can write this out and have coloured pens or pencils at the ready or you might find it easier to create a table or spreadsheet so you can go back and change the colours as you master each topic on the list. Underline or colour in a box next to each item on the list with either red, yellow/amber or green according to how well you feel you know that content; red means that the topic is very shaky and it needs learning pronto, anything yellow/amber needs some moderate recapping, and green means you are confident in on the topic. Now you know where to focus your attention, let’s get cracking with the revision, shall we?
Mind Maps All Day Long
Mind maps don’t work for everything... but for a content-heavy, written exam-centred GCSE like RS, they are an ideal way to go through each religion, theme or issue. You might think “but I don’t have time to write all my class notes/everything in my text book out again – I’ve got to get revising!” but the trick is that creating these mind maps IS revising. Putting the information in your own way, in your own layout with your own wording helps strengthen up the neural pathways and firms it up in your memory.
When you’re done, you’ve made a great resource for yourself - but half the revision was in the making of the mind map. Remember to summarise and condense: think key words, arrows, bullet points, quotes in colour-coded boxes – even drawings and diagrams!
Time to Teach Someone Else
Get a friend or family member, even a classmate who is revising too, and talk them through your mind map. Not only is this a great way to spot anything you’ve not made clear to yourself, it is a chance for you to interact meaningfully with all that information you’ve got to remember; learning by teaching is a proven effective way to get your brain retrieving that information!
Let It All Out
This step is about timing as you will, ideally, want to do this after you’ve used your mind map to give your friend a lesson. Sit somewhere quiet with a pen and paper, set a timer for 10 minutes, write the topic heading and splurge! By “splurge”, we mean get everything you remember out of your brain and onto that piece of paper. You will amaze yourself with how much has stuck! Now compare it to your mind map – what did you miss out? Add it to your splurge paper in a different colour pen and each time you try, you’ll find your “splurge” is increasingly written in just the one colour.
Timing is Everything
Look at your practice papers and familiarise yourself with the command words and the amount of marks awarded for each question. If you’re underprepared, it’s oh-so-easy to fall into the trap of waffling on for far too long in a panic - you won’t get any bonus marks here! The clue will be in the marks; if you’ve been asked to give two points and the answer is worth two marks then keep it short, sharp and succinct. Equally, if the question asks for two perspectives on an issue but the question is worth 4 or 5 marks, the examiner is going to want more from you - such as a relevant quotation.
The Big Ones: Best Tips for Best Scores
When it comes to the essay questions, it’s a little tricky to give one-size-fits-all-exam-boards advice here, but here are some top tips that will be helpful no matter what:
If you have found that you tend to run out of stamina towards the end of practice papers, don’t be afraid to tackle the essay questions first and work your way back through the paper to the easier 1-markers. Just be careful to read all the questions through in order before deciding which you will answer first.
If it’s an issue based question, decide what your position is first. Do you agree or disagree? Which religion (including Atheist or Humanist perspectives) and relevant quotations support your viewpoint? Now consider what the polar opposite of your view point is; which religions would disagree with you and why? If you can make 3 points and 3 counter arguments, each supported with evidence (including correct terminology) and conclude with why you ultimately agree with your chosen position, then you’ll be looking at full marks.
Check your SPAG! Taking care of spelling, punctuation and grammar can ensure you some easily won marks, so it’s well worth taking the time to proof read those longer answers!
If you feel you would benefit from some support from an expert, reach out to Titanium Tutors where we have excellent tutors from top undergrads who aced their own Religious Studies GCSE and A-Level, to R.S teachers leading their own departments.
Blog Post Crafted by Jenny
Jenny is a Deputy Company Manager, co-managing our Admin Team.
She studied Theatre Studies at Rose Bruford College and got a First Class BA Hons from University of Manchester, before going on to teach Drama in schools.
She loves chilli con carne and a cup of tea, but not together, and is quite confident she could beat you at scrabble.