Studies of Religion 2U is a fun subject. But it often scales quite hard, so learning the content and spitting it out in an exam is often not enough for a Band 6. In order to do really well, it’s important to make your essay or answer stand out to markers.
In my trial exam, I scored a 95.5% in 2U Studies of Religion. I did this as a Distance Education subject, too, and I started about 2 months late. Trust me, it is definitely possible to do well in this subject, even if circumstances are against you. These are the nine steps to success in 2U SOR.
1) Love your syllabus.
The first step to doing well in this subject is knowing exactly what is required of you. SOR really breaks down exactly what you need to know, with a super specific syllabus. Swear by the syllabus, and make sure everything you do relates to a specific point on that document.
Also make sure you KNOW the syllabus. I made some really simple flashcards with syllabus headings and sub points on them. This makes it easy to identify what you need to say when given a question that may seem broad.
2) Cut down on content and be organized.
There is a lot of stuff to know about religion. So be specific on the facts that you need to know, but don’t over-extend yourself to the point where it becomes useless and you become distracted from the syllabus. For example, I used the Excel book for studying the Dreaming. It was great, but had pages and pages of content. I knew so much about Aboriginal culture and the specifics of rituals, but I only needed it for a 5 marker, and I couldn’t fit what I knew. So be cut-throat with the stuff you need, and ensure that this is all organized.
3) Find interests.
Whilst the syllabus is really specific, there is a chance to find your own niche. If you can make some stand-out points on a certain religious practice, or find an interesting denomination, you can do really well. This is especially true for the religious depth studies. I studied Aisha as a significant person in Islam, and when discussing her ongoing impact, I talked about her role in feminism for Muslim communities today – for example a women’s branch of the Muhammadiyah is named after Aisha. This is a unique point that helped me stand out, whilst still being specific to the requirements of the syllabus.
4) Make mindmaps, or a varitation of.
My favourite. They are a great way to condense content down into the main points you need to discuss, especially for SOR. I had one for each section of the Religious Depth Studies, with three branches for each topic and several sub-points that I memorized. In an exam, these sub-points would define the structure of my paragraph. It’s a great visual organizer and makes it easy to learn.
Here is an example of what I mean. Mine were handwritten, so I had more explanation on these points, but you get the idea.
5) Memorize quotes.
Flashcards, flashcards, flashcards. I only picked about three quotes for each religious depth study branch – i.e. three for baptism, three for Martin Luther (not necessary but helpful) and three for bioethics to suit three examples. Make sure they are relevant and be able to explain the meaning of that teaching, then link it to whatever point you are making with an example. For example, “Thou shalt not kill” prohibits the slaughter of another human, as death is determined by God. This applies to abortion, which leads to the ruling given by the Catholic church banning abortion.
6) Be informed!
Keep involved in what is happening in the world regarding your religions. They can be used as examples or applications of faith and show the marker that you are really understanding content. For example, an example of interfaith dialogue is the conjoined statement on the Martin Place shooting given by all major religions in Australia.
7) Explore multiple choice.
The multiple choice can either be super easy or super difficult, giving obscure questions on minute points that you may have not known were relevant. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable – for example in my 2016 paper there were a couple of questions where I had absolutely no idea. In order to avoid this, look at as many past papers as possible and explore the topics they talked about.
8) Swear by marking guidelines!
The SOR marking guidelines are a hidden gem. They can be used as a study resource, because they give points that are super useful and scored high marks. Always refer to them when self or peer marking HSC papers, because they are a great starting point to what you need to include for that syllabus point.
9) Essays and plans – be flexible.
Planning is so important in exams. Especially in essays. For SOR, you can plan every possible type of essay or answer you need by having prepared paragraphs. I don’t suggest memorizing word-for-word, but have points memorized that you can loosely work off. This worked really well for me in both essays in the exam, and as a result, I felt like I could have written the depth study essay for any of the religions on any topic.
For the depth studies, I used my mindmaps and their points. And this is great because you can answer any question they throw at you by expanding or condensing your mindmap points. I wrote a really great essay in my HSC exam because I was able to mold my knowledge on those three areas to the given quote. Here was my plan:
“The world stands on three things: Torah, service of God and acts of loving kindness.” How does the teaching expressed in the quotation assist an adherent to live an authentically Jewish life?
- Living life through Torah
- Simplified through contribution of Maimonides
- 13 Articles of Faith and Mishneh Torah
- Fulfilling commandment of multiplying
- Showing faith through ritual practices and serving God; ie. Chuppah and Ketubah
- Acting towards others with loving kindess by improving the world and helping the community; ie. through medical advancements
It’s really all about interpretation for quote questions, because they are fundamentally judging you on the same criteria as given in the syllabus, so don’t panic if it’s not straightforward. You can also integrate some of these areas together to make a more seamless essay – i.e. Maimonides’ beliefs on marriage, or Maimonides’ contribution to ethics.
The same formula applies for Peace. I had a word document with my two religions, each containing about 3 main, explained points for each of principal teachings, inner peace and world peace. I could then expand or condense my points as needed. Better to memorize paragraph points than whole essays!
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