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AQA A-level Philosophy – Achieving A/A*

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This course is designed for AQA A-Level Philosophy teachers who are looking to maximize A/A* grades for their highest performing/achieving students.

The course will be predominantly practically focused, concentrating on a range of successfully implemented strategies to access the top grades.

Using feedback from the most recent exams, the first two years of examinations on the new specifications, the course will outline what is expected of high ability students and explore ways to build your teaching practice around this.


  • Expert practical advice on preparing students for the highest possible grades
  • Focus on practical teaching methods which stretch and challenge the highest-performing students
  • Comprehensive analysis of the variety and demands of each style of question
  • Specific focus on how to meet these demands of A/A* grades
  • Scrutinise in detail example exam responses, including those that attracted full marks
  • Support material can be provided which centres can tailor to their own needs
  • A chance to meet and discuss ideas with like-minded individuals!

Recent changes to the philosophy specification (2022) have been considered when compiling the following programme. The implications of these changes will be considered in detail in the penultimate session of the day.

Grades A & A*: what was required in the most recent exams?

10.00 – 10.45am
  • Structure of the specification A-Level Philosophy exams and what they require of the best students
  • Feedback and grading analysis from the most recent papers – what is required for A/A*?
  • Analysis of mark schemes – which sections/questions differentiated candidates?
  • Grades A & A*: what are the differences between these?
  • Key attributes of Grade A/A* students in the classroom
  • Avoiding potential hazards: what can cost a top student their A grade?

Morning Break

10.45 – 11.05am

Teaching Epistemology: key challenges for Grade A/A* students

11.05 – 12.30pm Whilst the focus here is on epistemology, points raised will also be applicable to other papers
  • Capitalising on changes to the 2022 epistemology specification: streamlining content
  • Areas of challenge in epistemology and how to deal with them
  • Embedding retrieval into the epistemology curriculum: what works and why?
  • Peer assessment as a tool for stretching and challenging the most able students
  • Going beyond the specification: why ‘redundancy’ is not a feature of the essay-based mark scheme and how stronger students can use this to their advantage
  • Building in synopticity: key arguments and ideas from epistemology that are transferrable
  • Getting ‘exam fit’: Benchmark Assessments as a means for raising achievement

Lunch and informal discussion

12.30 – 1.30pm

Teaching Metaphysics of Mind: stretching and challenging able students

1.30 – 2.20pm Whilst the focus here is on Metaphysics of Mind, points raised will also be applicable to other papers
  • Capitalising on changes to the 2022 Metaphysics of Mind specification: streamlining content
  • Areas of challenge and how to deal with them
  • The modern learning environment: making the most of Moodle, Teams, and OneNote for raising achievement
  • The 50:50 approach: bridging the gap between GCSE and higher education. Encouraging insight, initiative, independence, and imagination
  • Achieving at the highest level: just how far can we take them? A look at what to expect at the very top end of the spectrum in philosophy of mind and how this can be used as a tool for inspiration
  • Some thoughts on pedagogy: teaching ideas that can be used to stimulate students into going beyond the specification

Discussion: afternoon tea

2.20 – 2.35pm

The Exams: tactics for achieving the highest grades

2.35 – 3.20pm
  • Looking forward: what will (and will not) be covered given changes to the 2022 specification
  • Mastering exam technique: where is an A/A* achieved or lost?
  • The shorter questions: what are the potential pitfalls?
  • Focus on the 12-mark questions and essays: what does a grade A/A* candidate need to do?
  • Model essay planners’ will be looked at as an effective method for plotting out responses to questions
  • Revision ideas to help students produce high grade essays
  • ‘5-minute marking’: why effective feedback needn’t take an age
  • Working to the standard: review of specimen scripts

Plenary discussion and depart

3.20 – 3.20pm


London | Tuesday 20 June 2023
London | Monday 13 November 2023

Please select your preferred date

London | Tuesday 20 June 2023
London | Monday 13 November 2023

This course, tailored to suit, can be delivered in your school. Discuss this further with our CPD team on 01625 532974 or click below to make an enquiry.


Oliver McAdoo has taught A Level Philosophy in one of the largest and most successful departments in the country for over 20 years. He is an experienced AQA Philosophy Senior Examiner, Reviser, Specification Developer and Scrutineer, delivering CPD for the exam board at centres up and down the UK. He has produced textbooks for, amongst others, Nelson Thornes (A Level Philosophy) and Routledge (A Level Critical Thinking) and has delivered papers at philosophy conferences alongside some of the foremost speakers in the field. Currently a consultant for Cambridge University and Principal Examiner for Cambridge International Examinations (both in the UK and Singapore) he is every bit as passionate about the teaching and assessment of philosophy as he is about the subject itself, a passion which comes across in his delivery which is widely regarded as inspirational.


  • Heads of Philosophy Departments
  • Teachers of A Level Philosophy


  • A specially prepared folder of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance

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