So-called Christian A-levels fail to prepare pupils for the modern world and mainly involve rote-learning and 'unthinking memorisation', according to academics.
The International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) is offered in up to 50 schools around the UK but, although claimed to be comparable to GCSEs and A-Levels, they are not recognised by the university admissions group UCAS or Ofqual, the government's Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation.
The research paper, published by Professor Michael Reiss of University College London's Institute for Education and Dr Jonny Scaramanga last month, said that exams are based largely on fill-in-the-blank question with one science paper asking: 'True happiness can only be found...'
The response required is 'through faith in Jesus Christ'.
Scaramanga, who went to a school that taught a similiar programme for three and a half years and has since campaigned strongly against them, told Christian Today because almost all the exams revolved around rote-based learning and fill-in-the-blank questions that demanded a very limited range of correct answers, there was no evidence pupils were understanding what they learned – a claim the schools denied.
'Students that have been given this education have been disadvantaged,' Scaramanga, who now campaigns with Humanists UK, told Christian Today.
The paper cites an example from a Geography exam where students are asked to complete the sentence: 'After nine generations of history, God decided to destroy mankind and Earth because of man's...'
The correct answer is 'unrepentant wickedness' but other options such as 'sinfulness' which demonstrate understanding are marked wrong.
'This incentivises unthinking memorisation,' the paper, seen by Christian Today, says.
'Some students might conclude that learning consists only of recall, and remain unaware of gaps in their own understanding.'
The researchers conclude: 'If readiness for university involves the development of skills of analysis, creativity and evaluation, the ICCE seems unlikely to constitute suitable preparation.'
The paper also points out that no distinction is made between religious knowledge and subject-specific knowledge so in an English exam, 30 per cent of questions related to 'The Bible of Evolution'.
The academics said: 'Religious lessons are integrated into every academic subject. Most tests also contain at least some questions of a religious nature. This means that a student's knowledge of the Bible, or of fundamentalist doctrine, affects their test scores in such unrelated disciplines as science and geography.'
But Nigel Steele, a spokesperson for the ICCE, said: 'The paper grossly misrepresents the ICCE qualification – its rationale, its breadth and its outcomes – and we would welcome the opportunity to refute its serious allegations in detail.
'Scaramanga and Reiss are addressing a problem that doesn't exist. There is no evidence whatsoever that ICCE graduates are ill-prepared for university. We have well-documented proof of the very significant success of ICCE graduates including the many achieving firsts, prizes and distinctions.'
Steele went on to point to a list on the ICCE website that details the universities pupils have gone on to attend.
'The lead author, Jonny Scaramanga, far from being a neutral academic researcher, is much better known for his online attacks as a campaigner against faith schools,' Steele continued. 'His campaign is part of a wider agenda that seeks to rid the UK educational system of the historic Christian faith upon which it was founded. Another example of this was seen only yesterday at a CofE school in Kent.'