Exam 2022: Examiner Report Summaries (2017-2020)

We can learn a lot from previous exam feedback such as patterns, gaps and common mistakes. I could not recommend studying the examiner’s reports enough, as they are practically the mind of the examiner directly instructing students what to do and what to avoid. If you then go into your exams and make one of those mistakes (which have been highlighted previously) well that’s just silly and unprepared. So this blog summary, taken from previous blog posts, has all the relevant information for the 2022 exam in one place.

General comments (2017-2020):

Good points:

  • Evaluation throughout
  • Focus directly on question not general topic
  • Outlined line of argument at the beginning (often in introduction) and followed this throughout answer (AO2 driven). Those that added evaluation near end of each paragraph often did not score into higher brackets.
  • Relevant material used
  • Showed knowledge from other topics (synoptic links) suggesting an understanding of the holistic nature of the A level.

Bad points:

  • Lack of focus on exact wording of the Q
  • Long introductions, summaries better left until the end
  • Most of essay spent on A01 with A02 added at the end – resulting in insufficient depth
  • Write everything I know on that topic (pre prepared formulaic answers)
  • Evaluate through juxtaposition of different views. In other words, putting one name against another name and thinking this is evaluation. You need to say which view is stronger/ more convincing etc.
  • Lack of planning leading to long rambling answers- paragraphs are your friend!
  • Few students showed signs of having undertaken research.

Specific Comments


PhilosophyGood pointsBad points
Critically discuss Aristotle’s understanding of reality. (2018 First Year only)  Very good accounts of Aristotle’s empiricism, explanation of four causes and prime mover (who draws things to him in a disinterested manner).
Used Plato in an evaluative way in relation to Aristotle scored higher bands.
Confusion between efficient and formal causes (note: this has been an issue throughout the legacy papers as well).
Wrote all they knew about Plato and only compared with Aristotle in the final paragraph.
To what extent does Hume successfully argue that observation does not prove the existence of God? (2018)  Variety of Hume’s criticisms, relating them to succinct summaries of the Teleo and Cosmo arguments. (Satisfactory answers wrote copious amounts of descriptions for Aquinas and Paley, leaving little room for Hume).
Darwin and Tennent’s anthropic principle when used in relation to Hume.
Analysed Hume’s criticisms, weighing up how successful they are.
Juxtaposing alternatives such as Big Bang without justify any reasoning as to why applying them.
Accepting points without question such as Hume’s Epicurean thesis.  
Assess Boethius’ view that divine eternity does not limit human free will. (2019)  Explain in detail Boethius’ reasoning including simple and conditional necessity.
Effective use of Aquinas’ lofty peak and comparisons to Swinburne’s everlasting ideas.  
Least popular and least well done- insufficient knowledge of key theory.
Some compared to Anselm’s four dimmensionalist approach but didn’t understand how his views of eternity meant that all moments were in God equally and so God is with us in the moment of choice.
Linked divine eternity to the afterlife or concentrated too heavily on FW.
PoE was discussed but only credited when tied to Q.
Debate surrounding God’s other attributes: omnipotence, punish/ reward and omniscience.
Critically compare the logical and evidential aspects of the problem of evil as challenges to belief. (2019)Focus on the critically compare.
Explored how Augustine’s privatio boni defeated the logical problem by removing ‘evil’ from the Inconsistent Triad (very clever!).
Explored how Hick’s vale of soul making accounted for the scale of evidential evil.
Compared the ‘a priori’ nature of logical with ‘a posteriori’ nature of evidential.
Discussion of God’s attributes and FW (synoptic links to Nature of God).
Unprepared for this question.
Inconsistent Triad not linked to Q.
Some students thought the theodicies where the evidential problem of evil.
Analyse Aristotle’s four causes (2019).  More interesting responses used own examples to show four causes.
Discussion around Aristotle’s empirical approach/ reliance on senses/ a posteriori knowledge vs Plato’s rational a priori approach. This was then evaluated by linking to whether Aristotle was successful in explaining the main parts of his argument: potentiality, PM, change and movement etc.
Fallacy of Composition used effectively against Aristotle, whether humans do have an innate purpose (Sartre) and evolution as a challenge to purpose.
Confusing the four causes or not knowing and understanding the formal cause.
Confusing the views of Aristotle and Aquinas’ three ways.
“The world was created by chance, not by God’s design.” Discuss (2019)  Aquinas, Paley and Tennant used well, as well as Hume’s Epicurean Hypothesis as an alternative to chance.
Dawkins’ blind watch maker was used to demonstrate chance and no foresight with Tennant’s aesthetic as a counter argument.
Big bang, red shift and evolution used well to support chance.
Kant was used well by some, as well as Douglas Adam’s conscious puddle and Mill on POE.
Confusion over teleological and cosmological with some even drawing upon Ontological argument too.
Over simplistic use of Paley’s watch
Overuse of Ockham’s razor which did not add to their argument.  


EthicsGood pointsBad points
Voluntary euthanasia is always morally acceptable. Discuss (2018 First Year only)  Good use of case studies/ examples: Diane Pretty, Dignitas and Dr Anne Turner.
When linked to a wider variety of precepts (not just preservation of life) this resulted in better responses.
Sanctity of life linking with NL and quality of life linking with SE.
Number of candidates failing to focus on the specific type of euthanasia.
Generalised overview.
When linked to NL: confusion over doctrine of double effect (note: this always poses an issue in understanding).
A number of responses focused on a ‘reportage style overview’ of euthanasia without linking into a specific theory.
Evaluate Aquinas’ theological approach to conscience. (2018)  Effective discussion of: ratio, synderesis, conscientia, vincible and invincible ignorance and Aquinas’ focus on reason and how this makes his view on conscience different to others.
Good synoptic links to Augustine and the Fall to challenge Aquinas’ optimistic ideas of synderesis.  
Misconception that conscience is the voice of God according to Aquinas.
Analysis of Aquinas was limited to his assertions being religious and old fashioned.
Candidates wrote at length about material from the old spec often at the expense of more relevant material.
‘”Good” is meaningful.’ Discuss (2018)  Good understanding of: Bradley and Foot for Naturalism, is – out fallacy and Moore’s intuition.
Links between Ayer’s verification principle and emotivism were often used well and how morality is neither analytic nor synthetic.  
Linking ‘good’ to normative theories often produced superficial answers.
Not focusing on the term ‘good’ as a technical term direct from the spec.
Common misunderstandings surrounding emotivism.
Assess the view that natural law is of no help with regard to the issue of euthanasia (2018)  Detailed understanding of: primary and secondary precepts, use of reason, real and apparent goods, double effect.
Effective use of case studies to illustrate a point.
Good use of how NL protects the vulnerable but does not give adequate focus on Quality of Life.
Limited to applying only preservation of life.
Unable to contrast to SE effectively.
Dominated by lengthy case studies without clear argument.  
“Natural law provides the best approach to sexual ethics.” Discuss (2019)  Develop PP beyond reproduction, providing various secondary precept links to sexual ethics.
Four tiers and Biblical material was used but MUST have been explicitly linked to the Divine Law tier.
Explored how NL might be troubling with increasing liberal and secularised society.
Naturalistic fallacy used against NL. 
Bible material given but demonstrated a misunderstanding that NL, Catholicism and Bible are effectively one.
Evaluation limited to outdated and religious
Contrasting or juxtaposing views rather than evaluating (DO NOT just put names together Aquinas says this… whereas Dawkins says that… this is not evaluation! You need to say who is better/ more convincing etc in line with your argument).
Describe three or four ethical theories and evaluation at the end, thus failing to give enough on NL.
Some students wrote at length about abortion. How? Why? Students should not be learning about abortion (old spec alert!!) and therefore have no reason to confuse this as a topic where something like that is relevant.
“The terms good, bad, right and wrong reflect only what is in the mind of the person using them.” Discuss (2019)  Confident in explaining and exploring three perspectives, cognitive vs non cognitive and how emotivism/ Stevenson and Ayer’s verification (I thought this was philosophy so would only be a synoptic link as Ayer says more about emotivism than just verification?) link to the question.
Students who used Moore and recognised the potential issues associated with the use of intuition, irrespective of what can be known of goodness through intuition were successful.
Pre-prepared overview of meta ethics (often occupied with meaningfulness).  
To what extent is Freud’s psychological approach to conscience the most helpful approach? (2019)  Aquinas skilfully used to critique Freud, linking information always back to Freud and the Q.
Good analysis of Freud using validity and falsification of views.
Good use of Dawkins, evolution, Piaget and Fromm to support Freud (Even though not required).
Confusion over where conscience is found in the Id, Ego or Superego.
Conflation of conscience and consciousness.
Psychosexual stages not linked to Q with often lengthy descriptions of the Oedipus complex.
General discussion of Freud’s view on religion rather than the Q.
Focus on too many other names and theories often juxtaposing names rather than evaluating.

Christian Thought:

Christian ThoughtGood pointsBad points
To what extent is faith the only means of knowing God? (2018 First Year only)  Focused on the word ‘only’ in the question.
Contrasting the faith in natural vs revealed and the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches.
Barth and Brunner debate and Calvin and Plantinga.
Philosophical exploration of what it means to know God and if this is even possible.
Side-tracked by arguments for the existence of God rather than the means by which someone can come to know God.
How ‘faith’ fitted into natural and revealed theology.
Focusing exclusively on natural theology.  
‘Bonhoeffer’s theology is still relevant today.’ Discuss (2018)  Good use of: discipleship and solidarity – tied in with liberation theology and civil disobedience.
Also how recent suffering can be linked to Bonhoeffer to show that Christians have a duty to act.
A few mentioned Religionless Christianity, no rusty swords and the western void (if I’m honest I’ve not come across these…certainly not in the textbooks!)
Cheap and costly grace frequently misunderstood (some misunderstandings that ‘costly grace’ is equivalent to ‘salvation by works’ instead of as the appropriate response of a genuine Christian taking up their cross to follow Christ).  
To what extent was Jesus a political liberator? (2018)  Demonstrating understanding of: Jesus wishing to challenge the ruling authorities and aiming for wholesale reform of society.
Effective use of comparisons to Jesus as Messiah, teacher of wisdom, social liberator and Son of God.
Well-developed Biblical evidence and scholarship from Hick, Lewis, Brandon, Sanders and Aslan (which OCR resource are these all in?).
Distinguish between Jesus’ role as a social liberator vs a political one, acknowledging that being one does not necessarily imply being the other too (with effective use of biblical examples to support). 
Over emphasis on other parts of the topic: Jesus as a Zealot, liberator, Messiah, wisdom and Son of God without links to the specific question.  
Assess the view that Mary Daly’s theology proves that Christianity is sexist. (2018)  Concept of ‘proof’ was interestingly addressed, including evidential examples of how Christianity is and is not sexist.
Insightful references to Daly’s own bias and how this clouds her judgement affecting her theological views. 
Acknowledged how the writing, collation and revelation of the Bible were patriarchal and therefore inescapably sexist (despite Jesus’ efforts).
Students who showed greater awareness of hermeneutics, exegesis and eisegesis were better able to analyse the extent to which Daly proves that Christianity is sexist.
Ruether was overused.Discussing the extent to which Christianity is sexist in general.
Use of Unholy Trinity but often ideas not unpicked in full and what these mean for women in practice.
Many candidates fell into the trap of criticising Daly ad hominem rather than the details of her theology. This means that students often criticised Daly for hating men rather than what they stand for/ practice.
Not being able to apply knowledge of Daly effectively to the Q.  
“Humans have an innate knowledge of God.” Discuss (2019)  Discussion of natural vs revealed theology worked well.
Calvin contrasted with secular views
Less frequently Acts 17 but would have maybe been useful for discussion.
Conscience, intuitionism and God as standard for goodness were usually made relevant to the Q.
Not understanding word ‘innate’.
Careful using pre – Christian thinkers and applying them to Christian Q (I am guessing they mean the likes of Plato or Aristotle for example) yet if handled well can be an asset to an answer.  

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