Curriculum – Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (P.R.E)
What is Philosophy, Religion and Ethics A Level?
Philosophy, Religion and Ethics (PRE) is a critical and reflective study of philosophy of religion, ethics, and Christian theology. It is much more philosophical and theological than GCSE Religious Studies. It is highly regarded by admissions tutors at the UK’s top universities. You will explore some of the fundamental questions that humanity has explored for thousands of years and evaluate the views of some of history’s most important philosophers and theologians. You’ll develop your own ideas and arguments, and develop your reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. You’ll learn through a variety of methods including debates, seminars, independent study, and textual analysis. Sometimes, you will discuss and explore topics that are controversial and challenging. After two years, you’ll be a confident, mature, critical thinker with excellent transferrable skills highly valued by universities and employers.
Does PRE complement Science and Maths A Levels?
Yes, absolutely. There is quite a lot of cross over in terms of content. For example, we study evolution (biology), the origins of the universe (physics), as well as the nature of the brain & how people make decisions (psychology). As in Maths, in PRE arguments are often made on the basis of pure reason, and we analyse and create logical chains of reasoning. PRE can help science and maths students develop their writing, reading and speaking skills, which is crucial for many university degrees and careers that involves science and maths.
Does PRE complement Humanities subjects?
Definitely. There’s a lot of cross over in terms of skills, as PRE involves critical thinking, essay writing, textual analysis and the reading of extended texts. PRE students who study other humanities subjects find that the critical thinking and evaluative writing skills they develop in PRE help them make progress in other subjects. We sometimes explore similar issues, for example the role of the government within society, factors behind migration, and whether religion should play a role in politics.
Is PRE a subject that is respected by Oxford, Cambridge, and Russell group universities?
Yes, definitely! Oxford and Cambridge both list PRE as one of their “preferred” subjects. 20% of successful English and PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) applicants to Oxford and Cambridge have an A Level in PRE. Russell Group universities think that PRE gives students an excellent grounding for all sorts of degrees. NCS students who study PRE have successfully applied to Oxford and Cambridge universities, as well as many Russell Group universities, to study a very broad range of subjects, including Law, Engineering, Medicine, Psychology, Physics, English, History, and Pharmacy.
Why do people recommend PRE for students who want to become doctors?
It might seem that PRE is an odd subject for students who want to become doctors. But actually, PRE is a very useful subject for prospective doctors to study. This is because doctors and medical students find themselves encountering ethical dilemmas all the time – should euthanasia always be a crime? Is abortion a form of murder? Should criminals be given the same treatment as other people? Good doctors need to be able to rationally justify their ethical judgements as much as they need to be able to accurately diagnose and treat their patients. PRE gives students the opportunity to explore and debate different ethical perspectives in order to develop their own views about issues of right and wrong. We study the views of different philosophers who put different ideas about what is right and wrong and evaluate their reasoning, and we apply this to issues like euthanasia. Medical students with PRE A Level are mature, reflective, critical thinkers who are capable of thinking deeply about the ethical issues at the heart of medicine. They also have excellent written and oral communication, which allows them to write strong personal statements and excel at interview.
What are the specifc units studied?
There are three different units – Philosophy of religion, Religion and ethics, and Developments in Christian thought.
In thePhilosophy of Religion unit, you’ll study‘Ancient philosophical influences’, ‘Soul, mind and body’, ‘Arguments for the existence of God based on reason’, ‘Arguments for the existence of God based on observation’, ‘Religious experience’, ‘The problem of evil’, ‘The nature of God’, and ‘Religious language’.
In the Religion and ethics unit, you’ll study ‘Euthanasia’, ‘Business ethics’,‘Natural moral law’, ‘Situation ethics’, ‘Kant’, ‘Utilitarianism’, ‘Meta-ethical theories’, ‘Conscience’, and ‘Sexual ethics’.
In the Developments in Christian thought unit, you’ll study ‘Augustine’s teachings on human nature’, ‘Death and the afterlife’, ‘Knowledge of God’s existence’, ‘The person of Jesus Christ’, ‘Religious pluralism and theology’, ‘Religious pluralism and society’, ‘Gender and society’, ‘Gender and theology’, ‘The challenge of secularism’, ‘Liberation theology and Marx’, ‘Christian moral principles,’ and ‘Christian moral action.’
How is the course assessed?
There are three two-hour exams. In each exam, you will need to write three extended essays from a choice of four. 40% of available marks are for your knowledge and understanding, and 60% are for your analysis and evaluation. There is no coursework set.
What do our students have to say about how PRE A Level can help you in your career or when applying to university?
We asked some of our Y13 students to share some of their thoughts about how PRE A Level is useful. Below are some of their ideas:
|Degree/career pursued||A Level subject combination||Comment on how PRE supports degree application|
|Medicine||PRE, Maths, Chemistry, Biology. (Student A, applying to study Medicine at Cambridge University)
PRE, Chemistry, Biology (Student B, applying to study Medicine at King’s College London)
|“PRE is a strong compliment to my other subjects, and gives me skills which I would not have otherwise. My ability to confidently express ideas has improved which is an essential skill to have as a Doctor and a Medical student”.
“The topics covered in PRE are relevant to medicine as well as being incredibly interesting – for example, we explore euthanasia and medical ethics, which are important for medical interviews and the life of a doctor.”
“I knew when choosing my A Levels that I would need to sit the BMAT exam, which involves a written essay on a philosophical topic. Thanks to P.R.E., I wrote an essay which scored 4.5A (the second highest possible mark).”
“I enjoy P.R.E. because it is a subject which looks beyond our finite world. The deeper meanings to life are uncovered by RS which I find very satisfying.”
“PRE. has developed my confidence and my communication skills because we often have to explain our own opinions to the class.”
“As a doctor, you will be communicating with many patients who come from different cultures and backgrounds, and it is important that you can understand and respect their values. Studying Christianity and differing viewpoints of many interesting philosophers has enabled me to understand those who share different values to me.”
“It is nice to study PRE. where I can develop my essay writing skills and creativity. I’m happy that I study a subject where I can delve into the viewpoints of extremely interesting philosophers.”
|Law||PRE, Government & Politics, History (Student C, applying to study Law University College London)||“As an aspiring lawyer, I have found that studying PRE. has given me the opportunity to develop a strong skill set that is suited to a degree in law. All law degrees and careers will involve facing moral and ethical issues, and these are covered in and throughout many concepts and theories in PRE.”
“PRE equips you with critical thinking skills and the ability to interpret information, formulate questions and solve problems. These are an essential part of being a strong law applicant.”
“I would definitely encourage all students to consider taking PRE as it is truly one of the most intriguing and stimulating subjects; every lesson is somewhat a new adventure that opens your eyes to a part of the world and how it works that you’ve never thought about before.”
|Engineering||PRE., Maths and Physics(Student D, applying to study Civil Engineering at University College London)||“I know that PRE has allowed me to develop the skills to study Engineering at University.”
“Critically assessing the interesting and challenging concepts in PRE has taught me how to use different concepts or ideas to answer many difficult questions, and this helped me in my other subjects like Physics, where we combine many concepts to understand laws of nature.”
“Einstein said that his work on relativity would not have been possible without being influenced by the philosopher Hume. By studying Hume’s philosophy, Einstein learnt that mere observation is not enough to grasp the laws of nature and this allowed him to come up with his work on relativity.”
“Maths and PRE are also very similar. Both subjects often answer questions by using pure reason, by making assumptions, and then examining the consequences of those assumptions.”
|Psychology||PRE, Psychology, Biology(Student E, applying to study Psychology at King’s College London)||“PRE A Level has helped me develop extended writing and critical thinking skills which are vital when studying subjects such as Psychology and Biology. PRE has allowed me to engage with complex texts and develop my problem-solving ability which I use on a regular basis in biology, specifically the exam where you are given dense texts to examine.”
“Studying the ideas of Freud in both PRE and Psychology gave me the opportunity to identify different perspectives to his argument on human behaviour and our perception of God.”
“Studying PRE has given me an edge in my application to study Psychology at university. When studying diagnoses in clinical Psychology, arguments which I learnt in P.R.E. classes gave me the opportunity to examine the ethics behind the decision-making process used by clinicians.”
“PRE A Level comes with many rewards and is definitely worth it.”
|Psychology and Philosophy||PRE, Economics, Psychology(Student F, applying to study Phycology and Philosophy at University College London)||“After studying PRE A Level, I decided to apply to study Philosophy and Psychology at university because I like the idea of exploring aspects of theories and trying to find possible inconsistencies in them. Doing this enables me to decide which theory is more successful over another or if they are successful at all. This gives me the opportunity to really discover in great depth the concepts that we study, but at the same time playing a rather important role in the formulations of my mentality and opinions on many important topics.”|
|Politics, Philosophy and Economics||PRE, History, Economics(Student G, applying to study PPE at University College London)||“PRE. is such a versatile subject & I always find a way to relate it to my other lessons, so you will too.”
“Because I really enjoyed studying philosophy within PRE., I decided to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at university. This decision was also developed from my studies of Economics and my interest in Politics. I am pulled by the idea that these three disciplines all interlink and influence world events. For example, the problem of inequality is an issue that even philosophy might look to solve. It’s amazing how philosophy is something we do in everyday life.”
“Truly, I can’t wait to study PPE and I know 100% that PRE has prepared me for this.”