Cream of the crop

21st January 2005 at 00:00
A new crop of revision guides has appeared for religious studies. Most are companions to class texts, intended for use in conjunction with them. Hodder's Revision Guide (Edexcel) series by Victor Watton (Religion and Life; Catholic Christianity, Religion and Society, pound;4.99 each) is clearly set out and suitable for students' personal use. Pages are well spaced - sometimes rather too much, as quite large areas are blank. In each topic, main facts are boxed, as are key terms.

There are practice questions and some specimen answers. There is always a danger in revision summaries: "all Christians are against euthanasia" appears in a Catholic text, but it is still contentious. So is "Jesus banned divorce" -just read Matthew 5.31. But in such instances the fault lies sometimes in the syllabus itself, sometimes in the exam questions - not always in the revision handbook.

Heinemann's Revise for Religious Studies GCSE:AQA Specification A by Gordon Geddes and Jane Griffiths (pound;5.99) is very content-geared, like the syllabus. Its sections end with short questions, then exam-type questions, examiner's comments and a check list for personal revision:

"understand and know", "need more revision" and "do not understand". The Holy Land section is another example of a presentation that is too brief and open to challenge.

Among Heinemann's Revise for Religious Studies GCSE AQAB series, Thinking about God and Morality by Marianne Flemming is particularly good. Other titles are Truth, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues by David Worden and Key Beliefs, Ultimate Questions and Life Issues by Peter Smith and David Worden (pound;5.99 each). The opening section of each guide, "What do I need to know?", helps students to focus on the material ahead.

Letts Revise GCSE:Religious Studies by Catherine Lane (pound;9.99), unlike the others, is in full colour. It is not specific to a single exam board, but pages 4 and 5 display a diagram showing which sections fit the options of which boards so that students know what to include and what to omit. Exam board symbols appear throughout the text as reminders. Sample questions and answers are provided, along with progress checks throughout the text. I wonder about some of the key points, eg "Euthanasia is a very controversial issue about which many people have strong feelings". If you don't know that towards the end of the two-year course without prompting, is there much hope for revision, even with a guide?

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