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Developing key skills for the Theology, Philosophy and Religion 13+ entrance exam

How often have parents said to you about the new Theology, Philosophy and Religion course – 'It’s so different from the RE we did at school, I wish I could be studying TPR with you now!’

And in many ways these parents are right. The new Theology, Philosophy and Religion syllabus is designed for bright and enquiring minds to engage with a multicultural and complex 21st century world. But not everything in TPR is new; children must have the opportunity to study the Bible as the inspiration of our culture and spiritual life. The study of the Bible has always played a key role in Common Entrance religious studies and we believe that children should at the very least have a working knowledge of its great stories and theological ideas.

We think TPR has a vital and unique role to play in the junior school curriculum for three TPR reasons!

  • T – Thinking. TPR is not just about learning facts but learning to think about what these mean and how they can be analysed critically. The new Philosophy element of TPR is unique – the subject doesn’t exist even at GCSE – and its very nature is to make us question assumptions, learn to see the world in different ways and offer reasoned and balanced arguments. In a similar way studying a religion means pupils learn to be open to different ways of thinking about the world and understand how ideas affect religious and cultural practices.
  • P – Practical. TPR is also a practical subject which develops its own special skills such as the ability to read and interpret ancient texts, to form balanced arguments on moral, political and philosophical issues and to step inside the shoes of those whose lifestyle and beliefs may be very different from one’s own.
  • R – Rigour. TPR is intended to be demanding intellectually as well as emotionally. Whether one is studying Plato or David Hume or considering the various ways of understanding dukkha in Buddhism, every aspect of the course requires pupils to think, reflect and be able to express themselves clearly. The TPR course is excellent preparation for GCSEs and Key Stage 4.

And what about the Theology, Philosophy and Religion Common Entrance exam?

The exam is important but be sensible. If time is limited, then be practical and reduce the amount you need to prepare.

Each of the three parts of the exam is divided in two, so just prepare for one of these parts.

  • For Theology either prepare God’s Relationship to the World or Human Responses to God
  • For Philosophy either prepare the Great Thinkers and Their Ideas or Ethics
  • For Religion choose one religion and prepare either Beliefs and Teachings or Practices and Ceremonies

This will of course reduce the choice of questions you can answer, but you will still have a choice of two questions where you answer one.

Finally, for part C evaluation questions, keep your answers simple and don’t worry about being formulaic.

  • Don’t have an opening paragraph.
  • Use Point, Example, Explanation, Evaluation for each paragraph (or something similar).
  • Make sure you have presented at least two sides of an argument.
  • End with a brief conclusion and answer the question.

Use the 13+ Theology, Philosophy and Religion Revision Guide to test yourself – everything you need is there!

Michael Wilcockson was Head of Philosophy at Eton and is now at The Perse School in Cambridge. He is also the chief setter for Common Entrance Religious Studies for the ISEB. Learn more about Michael here.


Hodder Education's (formerly Galore Park) TPR revision resources come in the form of the Theology, Philosophy and Religion for 13+ Revision Guide which covers all key content in an accessible format and includes guided activities and ‘test yourself’ questions that embed knowledge as students work through the book. The Exam Practice Questions and Answers book contains a wealth of exam-style questions with detailed advice and model answers to help pupils grow in confidence and achieve top marks in the exam (this resource also includes a mark scheme). Both resources are mapped to the latest ISEB syllabus for Theology, Philosophy and Religion at 13+.

Order our 13+ Theology, Philosophy and Religion revision resources online here.

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