“Geography is the subject which holds the key to our future” – Michael Palin
There has never been a better or more important time to study A level Geography. Dealing with vital issues such as climate change, migration, environmental degradation, social issues and natural hazards, A level Geography is one of the most relevant subjects you could choose to study. Students enjoy the wide range of the material they cover in geography, the insights it can provide into the world around us and the highly contemporary nature of the issues it tackles.
The A level Geography course is split into human and physical geography, although there is a significant amount of overlap between the two sides of the course. Human topics such as globalisation and regeneration are very good for generating debate and allowing students to apply their knowledge to a worldwide context. Physical geography looks at topics such a natural hazards and look at how hazards occur, what can be done to predict them and the management that is in place if one occurs.
To study A level Geography, you need to have an enquiring and open mind. Geography is a study of the world around us and you need to be aware of issues worldwide, not just in the UK. You need to be able to debate issues such as migration and to think about them from political and social perspectives as well. Your opinion is important, but you also need to think about debates from someone else’s perspective. Reading newspapers and articles to keep your subject knowledge up to date is vital.
Mathematical skills are required and the ability to interpret graphs and analyse them is fundamental, along with basic maps skills. There is a lot of information and new vocabulary to learn, so you’ll need a good memory! You will learn case studies on specific topics and you will develop the skill of writing longer answers clearly and succinctly.
Paper 1: Physical geography (30% of the overall grade)
Tectonic Processes and Hazards: Plate tectonics, hazard vulnerability and management.
Coastal Landscapes and Change: Coastal landforms and processes, coastal erosion, sea level change and management.
The Water Cycle and Water Insecurity: Processes within the hydrological cycle and water insecurity and conflict in the 21st Century.
The Carbon Cycle and Energy Security: Planetary health and climate change, social and environmental impacts of energy demand.
Paper 2: Human geography (30% of the overall grade)
Globalisation: Causes, acceleration and impacts.
Regenerating places: Local and contrasting place study, need for regeneration and management, evaluation of success.
Superpowers: Evolution, impacts and spheres of influence of superpowers and emerging nations.
Global development – Health and human rights: Uneven development and human rights, political and military intervention
Paper 3: Synoptic paper (20% of the overall grade)
The synoptic investigation will be based on a geographical issue within a place-based context that links to two or more of the topics above.
Independent Investigation (20% of the overall grade)
The independent investigation involves producing a written report of 3000–4000 words, in relation to a defined question or issue of your own choosing, which relates to the compulsory or optional course content. The investigation incorporates fieldwork data (collected individually or as part of a group) and your own research and/or secondary data. The report will evidence independent analysis and evaluation of data, presentation of data findings and extended writing.
Fieldwork: There is a four night residential field trip to Wales and a one day field trip to East London.
There are three exam papers at the end of the course in year 13.
In addition students submit a 3000-4000 word assignment based on any topic of their choosing as long as it relates to the course. This assignment is worth 20% of the overall grade.
Geography is a highly respected academic A level, and according to the Royal Geographical Society, geography graduates have some of the highest rates of graduate employment. Geography is great for any kind of career that involves the environment, planning, or collecting and interpreting data. Popular careers for people with geography qualifications include: conservation, sustainability, waste and water management, environmental planning, surveying, tourism, town or transport planning and weather forecasting. The army, police, government, research organisations, law and business world also love the practical research skills that geographers develop. Because geographers learn about human and population development, geography can be useful for jobs in charity and international relations too.