Philosophy & Religion (Buddhism) A-level


Western philosophy includes discussions on the arguments for and against the existence of God, religious experience, the nature of the mind and body and what implications this has for a possible life after death. In Ethics, you will compare and contrast different ethical theories and apply them to ethical dilemmas such as euthanasia, business and sex. You will also study the philosophy of ethical language and the role of the conscience in moral decision making.
You will explore Buddhism which is considered by many to be an eastern philosophy rather than a religion. You will look at teachings on the nature of reality and human life, wisdom, morality and meditation.

What will I study in Philosophy & Religion (Buddhism) A-level?


  • Arguments for the existence of God - cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments as attempts to prove the existence of God.
  • Arguments against the existence of God - the problem of evil, the challenge of atheism and the claim that God may be a psychological construct of the human mind.
  • A study of miracles and religious experiences. What are they and can they provide evidence for the existence of God.
  • A study of religious language - is it possible to speak about God and what can be said about him?


  • A study of three ethical theories - natural moral law, utilitarianism and situation ethics.
  • The application of ethical theory to a range of ethical issues including abortion, euthanasia, animal experimentation and sexual ethics.
  • A study of meta ethics. What do we mean when we say an action is good or bad? Does objective morality exist?
  • Questions surrounding free will.  Are we free to act as we choose?

A study of Buddhism 

  • A study of the life of Siddhartha Gautama. What do Buddhist scriptures say about key events in the life of the Buddha and what can be known?
  • A study of key debates in religious concepts - What is the nature of reality? Why do people suffer? And can Buddhism offer the solution to human suffering?
  • An exploration as to how Buddhism has changed as it spread around the world - From Mahayana, Pure Land and Zen Buddhism in the East to secular Buddhism in the West.
  • How religious believers practise their faith - exploring Buddhist practices such as meditation, ethical living and social activism.


Entry Requirements

There are no special requirements to take this course and no expectation that you have studied full course RE GCSE. However, because the examinations are essay-based, a good standard of written communication is required.

How will I learn?

We use a variety of teaching methods and expect you to get involved, you will be expected to participate in discussion and problem-solving activities, as well as read, take notes and write essays.

How will I be assessed?

Paper 1: Paper 1: A study of Religion (Buddhism)

2 hours. 33.3%

2 essays out of a choice of 5.

Paper 2: Philosophy of Religion

2 hours. 33.3%.

2 essays out of a choice of 5.

Paper 3: Religion and Ethics

2 hours. 33.3%.

2 essays out of a choice of 5.

Any trips?

Trips are an important way to bring to life the ideas discussed in the classroom. The best way to learn about the ideas of religious believers, is to listen to members of that religion. This can include visiting a Buddhist vihara to try some meditation, or discussing theological issues with local clergy. We also offer a range of opportunities to explore how philosophy, ethics and religion can be taken beyond A level, with talks from local universities and annual webinars from Chester University. We are keen to offer an optional overseas trip and may run a trip to  Auschwitz, exploring key debates surrounding God, evil and the Holocaust.

Are there any costs involved?

There will be a small charge for course booklets to cover reprographic costs.


Can I take A level philosophy, ethics and religion if I did not take GCSE religious studies?

You do not need to have studied GCSE religious studies to be able to take this A level. The philosophy and ethics modules are quite different from GCSE, and so most of the content covered in these topics will be new to all students - whether they have studied GCSE or not.

The Christianity topic does assume some prior knowledge about Christianity, so if you have not taken GCSE  Religious Studies, it would be worth doing some of the Christianity background reading in the Flying Start summer task to ensure you're up to speed for the A level. However, the Buddhism pathway assumes that the module is new to all students, and so no prior knowledge is needed.

Which pathway should I choose?

Both pathways explore the same topics: a study of the founder and holy books, core beliefs, how the religion is practised and how the religion has changed over the past 100 years or so. However, due to the nature of the two religions Christianity is much more focussed on God, and contains a detailed study of the Bible. In contrast, Buddhism does not really have a God figure, so this religion focuses much more on the nature of reality and the problem of suffering. Another key difference is the language used. Christianity uses mostly Latin terms, and so some students find this easier to understand, whereas Buddhist terms come from Pali and Sanskrit, so there can be a lot of key terms to learn.

Can I swap pathways if I don't like it?

Within the first few weeks, we'll remind you once more of the differences between the two pathways. Ultimately, you'll sit exactly the same exam. The philosophy and ethics topics are exactly the same on both pathways. The one & only difference is the religion that you study - either Buddhism or Christianity.

We will need you to be on the correct pathway within the first few weeks of Yr1 though.  If you're still unsure, a member of staff will be happy to chat to you about the different pathways at enrolment.

What can I do with an A level in philosophy, ethics and religion?

Philosophy ethics and religion provides direct preparation for a wide range of degrees: philosophy, theology, divinity and religious studies, amongst others. There are more that have some overlap such as anthropology, oriental studies and liberal arts degrees, However, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking, evaluative skills and close analysis of texts, the course provides a good foundation for a wide range of humanities degrees. In fact, the most popular degree course Cirencester College students progress on to is Law. However, if university is not for you, then you will develop a number of transferable skills such as the ability to discuss and debate, to consider the viewpoints of others and to be able to present your ideas in a coherent manner.

Available As

A Level
[56 UCAS pts. available]

Add to Application

What can I do after I have taken this course?

Available As

A Level
[56 UCAS pts. available]

Add to Application