March 6, 2024 / by Madeleine

40 mark essays OCR Religious Studies – Understanding the mark scheme

So you have 40 minutes to get a maximum of 40 marks (or 50 minutes, if you are granted Extra Time in exams). But what are you really being asked to do in these essays?

OCR Religious Studies (H573) has two Assessment Objectives – these objectives are what you are being marked on.

AO1 I call ‘showing what you know’, but more specifically it is showing a broad, and also deep understanding of a given topic. (You will have studied many topics in Religious Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Developments in Christian Thought, but don’t worry, lots of them complement each other and have crossover content!)AO1 is worth 40% of the total marks, so a maximum of 16 marks. To get 14+ out of 16, your AO1 skills must be ‘excellent’ which include…

  • showing you understand the question, and the topic it sits within really well.
  • staying laser-focused on the question throughout.
  • selecting the right scholars i.e. theologians and philosophers, (and the right amount of them) to properly cover the debate that the question points to.
  • You might refer to ‘sources of wisdom’ i.e. texts that are not from a single author, such as the Bible or the Catholic decrees, or historical texts like the Nicene Creed.
  • Use philosophical and theological terms appropriately throughout your essay.
  • Use that selection wisely, showing complex understanding of them when you apply they to your arguments in answer to the essay question.

AO2, argument and analysis, is worth 60% of the marks, so a maximum of 24 marks. This time, you are being asked to look at a certain view – it might be a claim in the question e.g. ‘We have no soul but are just physical bodies. Discuss’ – or a view or theory, such as Utilitarianism or ‘euthanasia is always wrong’. You are being asked to look at the significance of this view within a wider debate on the topic, compare its strengths and weaknesses to other points of view on that question and come to your OWN conclusion as to who you agree with, who you disagree with, and why.

To understand how to do AO2 well, you can look at the top band on the mark scheme, for 21+ marks:

First of all, it says that you should provide an excellent, clear and successful argument. You cannot therefore conclude that ‘both sides are right’. You need to decide which position is the strongest and argue for that position. You should stick to that position throughout the essay i.e. state it in your introduction, return to it at the end of every paragraph and reiterate your answer in a strongly worded conclusion.

They also want to see ‘detailed evaluation of the issue’, so you not only need to be confident on the topic, but also show that by confidently making judgements on the different available views and their strengths and weaknesses.

Your judgements should be justified by supporting reasons e.g. ‘Utilitarianism is a strong approach to business ethics because…’.

Your arguments should again be laser-focused on the question, using the right terminology and as with AO1, selecting the right views and the right amount of views as appropriate to answering the question.

Click here to see how this looks for certain topics and here for what the essay writing skills involve.