Religious Studies A level in London
at Ashbourne A level College

Religious studies at Ashbourne is especially exciting as students from a wide range of academic and cultural backgrounds, with very different opinions about the value and meaning of religion are able to contribute to lively and rigorous debates. Atheists, agnostics, the religious and the very religious challenge one another’s thinking without attacking one another. As the Religious Studies syllabus is wide ranging, the particular topics for study are chosen in consultation with the students at the beginning of the academic year.

Why study Religious Studies

Anyone who is interested in questions about the meaning of life, the historical basis for religion and the ideological foundations of human history and contemporary events will want to study Religious Studies, which investigates such issues in an intellectually serious way. Students of Religious Studies will grapple with ideas, which are often difficult but always interesting. The rigorous intellectual discipline they develop will assist them in almost any further study or career.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Religious Studies selects options from a wide variety (and three boards). We choose according to student interests, two or three topics from a wide range.Primary texts (from the Old or New Testaments); religion and science; religion and atheism; religious and secular theories of ethics; practical ethical issues (from justice to euthanasia to business ethics); contemporary issues and Christian belief (feminism, relativism, pluralism, politics, etc.); history of religion; world religions (Judaism, Buddhism, or Islam); Christian beliefs and theology.A typical course is given as a specimen. (AQA, looking at religion and science, and ethics.)

How many units are there?

There are four units in total, two at AS and two at A2.

What is each unit about?

Unit 1Unit 2Unit 3Unit 4
AS unit 1 is called ‘Ethics I’. It deals with the nature and value of human life. Is it possible to construct a Christian ethic just on the basis of love? The contrast of religious ethics with a secular ethical system, utilitarianism. Abortion and euthanasia.
AS unit 2 is called ‘Religion and Science’. To what degree is there harmony between religion and science on the origins of the universe? Are miracles breaches of scientific law? If so, can they happen? Does the universe show signs of design? How is religion affected by recent scientific ideas such as quantum mechanics?
A2 unit 3 is called ‘Religion and Ethics’. How free are human actions and choices? If we are not free, can we be held responsible for our actions? What is the place of virtue in modern ethics? Should religion set or adapt to contemporary sexual ethics? Should science be controlled by ethics?
A2 unit 4 is called ‘Religious Fundamentalism’ In this topic two different contemporary fundamentalist movements are studied. The module also investigates what is the essential nature of fundamentalism in general. Historically, how did it arise, how does it arise, and how should we react to it?

How is each unit examined?

Unit 1Unit 2Unit 3Unit 4
Students sit a 1 hour 15 minute exam. Students answer two questions out of four. This examination accounts for 25% of the A Level.
Students sit a 1 hour 15 minute exam. Students answer two questions out of four. This accounts for 25% of the A Level.
Students sit a 1 hour 30 minute exam. Students answer two questions out of four on their topic. This accounts for 25% of the A Level.
Students sit a 1 hour 30 minute exam. Students answer one question. This accounts for 25% of the A Level.

How is the course structured?

The first two units form the AS syllabus in the first year, followed by units 3 and 4 in the A2 syllabus, studied in the second year. In each year the units are covered in the first two terms, up to the Easter break, when we embark on an intensive programme of revision and examination practice.

When do I sit my exams?

AS students sit their examinations in June. There will be opportunities to resit AS units in January of the A2 year. The A2 units can only be taken in June.

Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?

Michael Peat

BD Hons, DipTheol (London) BSc Hons (Birmingham) Religious Studies, Mathematics and Philosophy

Michael Peat has a very broad academic background as his first degree was in Physics. Doctoral studies in Theology took him to Philadelphia where he lived for many years and he now teaches Philosophy and Theology at Ashbourne. Philosophy, though challenging, is a particularly popular subject. Michael is a keen chess player and along with Chris Todd runs the chess club.

Beyond A Level for Religious Studies Students

Religious Studies is a well regarded A Level which can lead students into almost any course of further study. It is a particularly good background for students who are interested in research in the commercial or industrial sector as it is a subject which requires students to ask the big questions about human behaviour and motivation.