calendar-icon Jun 12, 2023

Post By Benjamin K

Should I take A Level Geography?

A Level Geography is an engaging and rewarding subject, providing students with a holistic appreciation and understanding of the processes shaping the world around them, while at the same time getting them to think critically about them. Divided into two sub-disciplines, human and physical geography, students will use various contemporary case studies, or real-life examples, to help bring geographical concepts to life, while encouraged to draw connections between human processes and the physical world, and vice versa.

Common themes studied in physical geography include the carbon/water cycle and how humans are impacting them; natural hazards, including earthquakes and volcanoes; and coastal landforms. Meanwhile, common areas studied in human geography include globalization; place-making and city planning; superpowers and global governance; and global migration. Thus, there is a wide array of subject areas within the course that will equip students with an understanding of their modern world and how to make it more sustainable or livable for future generations.

The key difference between GCSE and A Level Geography is the independent, critical thinking that is encouraged. Instead of simply explaining geographical processes and outcomes, students are expected to question the significance of them or their relative success. For example, a possible GCSE essay question would be: "Explain factors contributing to increased globalization." Meanwhile, the equivalent question at A Level would be: "Evaluate the factors contributing to increased globalization." The word "evaluate" highlights an expectation that students should be able to prioritize different factors to argue which is the most important, in their opinions. While it can take some time to adjust to the demands of an A Level Geography essay, students can quickly grasp the structure required to do well in their exams.

Despite the various exam boards offering Geography, the key content and structure remain very similar. The form of assessment is consistent, with either 2 or 3 exam papers (normally three) and almost always a coursework component. Within the exam papers, students will be assessed through a variety of short answer, resource, and essay questions. These exam papers are less time-pressured than the GCSE equivalents but do give more weight to essay writing, so it is important that students get sufficient practice in these.

A key component of most syllabuses is the coursework or NEA (Non-Exam Assessment). This is an exciting opportunity for students to investigate an area of geography they have studied that appeals most to them and apply it to a relevant case study, often with a personal connection to the student. The NEA is normally covered at the end of year 12, with students usually required to do some independent work for it during their summer holidays. Common examples of NEA topics include students investigating the success of regeneration (urban renewal) in an area close to them or the impact of coastal defenses on a beach in proximity to them. This work will help demonstrate to students that geographical processes really are affecting the world around them.

Geographers vary in their profession, from those designing our cities to those engaging in diplomacy. They are also protecting our world from the dangers of climate change and evacuating those vulnerable from volcanic eruptions. A study in A Level Geography opens many doors to possible career paths as a consequence of its multidisciplinary nature. Famous geographers (those holding geography degrees) include Theresa May, Prince William, David Attenborough, and Mother Theresa.

For further details on A Level Geography, prospective students should find out the exam board offered by their school and read through the corresponding syllabus.




Cambridge IAL:
*no coursework component

Edexcel IAL:




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