A Level Ethics Predictions 2019

First of all I was very uninspired by yesterday’s Philosophy questions (my feeling was a bit ‘meh’). I think they were deceivingly difficult i.e ‘Analyse Aristotle’s four causes’ appears easy but you would really have to work on developing and formulating strong evaluation with so few words to work with in the question. What is also noticeable is that Teleological and POE both came up in the first year’s exam as well. What this means is that there is no correlation between first year and second year questions. I think the exam board are going out of their way to make the questions as unpredictable as possible and thus repeating a lot of the same areas (Bonhoeffer in DCT has come up three times already -there has only been four exams!). But that is now old news…let’s look ahead towards ethics.

Here are the previous questions from the first and second year’s exams:

ethics Q

All that we can learn from looking at these is how the questions are worded. The obvious gaps in the second year are: Sex ethics, SE and Euthanasia and Util and Business. However the way that the examiners are throwing in a few curve balls, you need to go into that exam ready for anything.

So I think potential question areas could be:

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Panic “My Exam is Tomorrow!” Must Read for Ethics (First and Second Year)

08e2657614ca71a5004366998fa92b2aRound Two…Ethics.

Students often find Ethics a bit easier to get their heads around than Philosophy, maybe because it links more with everyday life or because there is just less of it. Either way when it comes to the exam you need to be sharp with your structure, keep your application answers under control and suppress your need to write like a GCSE student (especially when it comes to euthanasia …your body is God’s temple snore!!)

So this blog is structured to support with: the style of ethics questions, structure of essays, tips per topic, application discussion themes, final tips and top three mistakes.

Question Style:

Ethics questions roughly follow four styles:

  1. Specific topic – application open (Natural Law is useful when dealing with moral decisions)
  2. Specific topic with specific application (Kantian ethics is helpful when dealing with issues surrounding business ethics)
  3. Specific topic alone (There are no strengths with the Natural Law theory)
  4. Application (The religious concept of sanctity of life is outdated)

Don’t forget:

  1. Natural Law and Situation Ethics go together with Euthanasia
  2. Kantian Ethics and Utilitarianism go together with Business
  3. All four go with Sex Ethics (2nd year)

This means if the question is worded like Q1 (above) you need to know which ethical issues to link to the topic in the question. For example Kant is only applied to business not euthanasia.

If the question implies that a certain topic is the ‘ best approach’ you might want to compare it with the other topic from that section. So “Utilitarianism is the best approach to business ethics” you might wish to compare to Kant (see: “Utilitarianism is more useful than Kantian Ethics when dealing with ethical dilemmas” Discuss: Student’s Work to help.)

Structure of essays:

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Predictions for Ethics 2018 (First and Second Year)

There is one look I am very familiar with on the approach to the exams: the panicked eyes of students that just Screen Shot 2016-04-02 at 20.46.38.pngwant to know “what do you think the questions will be in the exam?” What I want to say is “How do I know???”…however to ease your panic there are a few ways to prepare yourself for the exam (don’t forget this is based on faith not science).

  1. Look at the past exam questions. PROBLEM…there has only been one round of exams for the new spec and nothing for the full A Level.
  2. Examine the specification closely (this is what your teacher will teach you from – the checklist). You must know every bullet point because examiners often just add the words ‘critically assess’ or  ‘evaluate’ in front.



If you do not have access to either sample answers or specifications go to the exam board website. So in this case go to OCR:http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/as-a-level-gce/as-a-level-gce-religious-studies-h173-h573-from-2016/ for all mark schemes, sample questions, examiners comments and specification.

First Year:

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Sexual Ethics: A2 Application

Preview of lesson plan:

Agree/disagree worksheet in pairs/ groups on pre/ extra/ homosexuality. Discuss answers as a class – initial debate over key issues.

Cut and stick – different philosopher’s views. Add strengths and weaknesses.

Ppt: Slides 1-2 outlining how Sexual Ethics is an application topic.

Ppt: Slide 3: Students write a paragraph answering:
‘Should sexual behaviour be private and personal or subjected to societal norms and legislation?’ (make sure students happy with all words used e.g legislation)

On board write private/ personal vs societal norms/ legislation. Students share views and discuss ideas – add to the board.

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Ethics NL Question

Here’s a breakdown of a student’s answer for the question on Natural Law from the new spec exams 2016 (first years).

To what extent does natural law provide a helpful method of moral decision making? (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 14/15
A02 13/15

The structure of the answer is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

Four paragraph themes:

  1. Links to Aristotle and telos
  2. Four tiers of Moral Law hierarchy
  3. Primary Precepts
  4. Synderesis and apparent and real goods

Each of these paragraphs follows the same structure: theme raised, briefly outlined, link to euthanasia (moral decision making), layered evaluation (helpful or not?). Each paragraph has roughly a 30/70 split between A01 and A02.

There are four reasons (in my view) this answer did well:

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“Utilitarianism is more useful than Kantian Ethics when dealing with ethical dilemmas” Discuss: Student’s Work

Writing application essays can be very difficult. You not only are juggling your topic with evaluation but applying it to an ethical issue. In this case, the question is even harder  because you also have two compare two topics together. Now you could just talk about ethical dilemmas in general and whether Utilitarianism or Kant is more useful. However I think you run the risk of producing a vague and bland answer. I would stick with the dilemmas surrounding Business Ethics (this is what your examiners are really looking for.) So before you start writing decide which 2-3 dilemmas or issues you are going to talk about (e.g. sweatshops, treatment of employees, whistleblowers, globalization etc.)

This is an example of what I would class as a good introduction.  This is because it displays to an examiner all the necessary elements in a simple and clear way, yet remaining informative (not descriptive) and is effective in the way it handles the question. From reading this introduction it is obvious what the question is. Always a sign of a good start!


When answering a question that specifies two theories (Util and Kant in this case) then you need to decide your four paragraph rule for each – this is your structure. It is only four paragraphs (not the usual five: The Five Paragraph Rule) because you are required to compare two theories rather than one (e.g. unlike the Natural Law and Euthanasia question I blogged about previously)- therefore you need time to explain and evaluate  both.

Four paragraph rule=

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