Religious Studies | Pearson qualifications

Religious Studies

Subject update | 14 November 2023

November 2023 update on GCSE Religious Studies Mark Scheme Level Descriptors

This provides an update on our final amends to our GCSE Religious Studies mark scheme level descriptors for Specifications A and B

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In September 2023, centres were informed that we were looking into amending the level descriptors within (d) evaluation questions in our GCSE Religious Studies mark schemes. I am now pleased to confirm that, following a period of consultation with stakeholders and Ofqual, these amendments have now been finalised

Why have these changes been made?

Following feedback from centres and a thorough analysis of student performance across past exam series, the level descriptors have been adapted in our (d) evaluation question GCSE mark schemes to ensure a more even distribution of marks across (d) questions. The amendments aim to provide a better experience for all students by improving accessibility, simplifying language, and clarifying expectations for students and teachers. 

When will these changes take effect?

These changes will take effect for first assessment from Summer 2024 and all
UK GCSE Religious Studies assessments will use the amended mark schemes.

What are the changes to the level descriptors?

We have simplified language to clarify expectations at each level whilst maintaining a focus on the established skills of analysis, logical chains of reasoning, judgements, and appraisal.

  • The ‘appraisal of evidence’ has been removed from our Level 2 and Level 3 criteria and is now only required to achieve Level 4. 
  • There is a clearer definition of what ‘analysis’ and ‘judgement’ look like at each level

The table below shows the finalised level descriptors:

Level Mark Descriptor

No rewardable response.

Level 1 1-3

A superficial analysis of the statement that uses undeveloped arguments, underpinned by isolated elements of understanding of religion and belief.

Judgements are asserted without clear links to the analysis. 

Level 2 4-6

A basic analysis of the statement that uses some developed arguments to discuss different points of view, underpinned by limited understanding of religion and belief.

This leads to simple judgements which have some links to the analysis, leading to a conclusion with limited justification.

Level 3 7-9

A good analysis of the statement that uses logical chains of reasoning to discuss different points of view, underpinned by a sound understanding of religion and belief.

This leads to reasoned judgements which are clearly linked to the analysis, leading to a partially justified conclusion.

Level 4 10-12

A sustained and coherent analysis of the statement that uses logical chains of reasoning to discuss different points of view, underpinned by thorough understanding of religion and belief.

This leads to reasoned judgements supported by the appraisal of arguments, leading to a justified conclusion that is consistent with the analysis.


‘Point(s) of view’ always means arguments for and against the statement. Where specified in the bullet points under the question, it may also include one of the following:

  • different views within the religion
  • non-religious views
  • philosophical arguments
  • ethical arguments.

How will this affect teaching?

As the content and skills required in this question remain unchanged, this should not affect your teaching or the way you prepare your students for their exams. Throughout the development, we have been focused on making changes to lead to the best student exam experience, whilst ensuring minimal disruption to teaching.

What further information and support will you be provided?

Support Details Booking link
An on-demand video training event with our chair of examiners who will discuss the amends.


Link to on-demand training available soon

Live event explaining the amends and examining example answers alongside the new level descriptors. 

(A pre-recorded version of this event will also be made available in advance for those who are unable to attend.)  

Thursday 14th December


Booking link


Link to pre-recorded training will be available soon

Interactive training module, reviewing example answers alongside the new mark scheme, allowing you to practice applying the new mark scheme. On-demand  Link to on-demand training available soon
Question and Answer event, reviewing frequently asked questions and allowing you the opportunity to ask any further questions regarding these amends.  

Tuesday 16th January


Booking link
We will publish a range of exemplar answers to help you understand how to apply the amended level descriptors.   To be published in upcoming subject updates  
From January, we are offering an additional mock marking service that will use the new mark scheme level descriptors. This paid-for service will be available from January 2024 Link to mock marking webpage

As always, you can contact me via email, telephone or by booking a 1-1 appointment to discuss these changes.

☎ Call: 0344 463 2535

✉ Email:

💻 Book a Teams meeting with me:

In addition to these amends to our level descriptors, we will also be making a
minor change to our question wording:

Changes to Question Paper:

All (d) questions will now use the instruction “in your answer you must” as opposed to “in your answer you should” to ensure candidates know that they need to address all the bullet points listed under the question. This is illustrated in the example shown below:

Question style (2016-2023) Question style (From June 2024)

In your response you should:

  • refer to [Catholic/Christian/Muslim/ Buddhist/Hindu/ Jewish/Sikh] teachings
  • reach a justified conclusion.

In your response you must:

  • refer to [Catholic/Christian/Muslim/ Buddhist/Hindu/Jewish/Sikh] teachings
  • reach a justified conclusion.

Changes to our published taxonomy (command words):

We are also working on updates to the specification to improve clarity. The definition of the command word ‘evaluate’ will also be updated to improve clarity and align better with these changes to the mark scheme, as shown below: 

Definition (2016-2023) Definition (From June 2024)

Interpret a given stimulus in order to consider different viewpoints and perspectives relating to the importance or significance of a particular aspect of a religion or belief. Deconstruct the information or issue at hand, by constructing logical chains of reasoning and making connections between the elements in the question. Arguments must be justified by the appraisal of evidence leading to a supported conclusion.

Analyse the statement provided, considering different points of views and creating logical chains of reasoning that are underpinned by understanding of religion and belief. Reasoned judgements should be made, supported by the appraisal of arguments and leading to a justified conclusion.

We will additionally be revising all documentation on our website that refers to our (d) questions and their associated level descriptors.  


If you have any outstanding questions that you would like to submit in advance of the Q&A event, please submit these using the form provided: 

Link to form

To download a PDF copy of this information, you can access the following:

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