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A-Level Geography

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Why study Geography?

Exam board and specification codes: Edexcel (9GEO)

Geography enables students to engage critically with real world issues and places, and to apply their own geographical knowledge, understanding and skills to make sense of the world around them. Students will explore and evaluate contemporary geographical questions and issues such as the consequences of globalisation, responses to hazards, water insecurity and climate change.  

What is covered by the course?


For those planning to do the full  two year A-Level in Geography an outline of the topics is provided below.  Fieldwork is essential for students taking A-Level as primary data collected in Year 12 and in the Autumn term of Year 13 (along with a possible additional day’s fieldwork in London) is necessary to complete an Independent  Investigation (culminating in an assessed 3000 to 4000 word project). The current schedule of field trips include: 

Year 12 

One day in East London investing the impacts of gentrification.

One day on the south coastline investigating coastal management

Year 13

One day on the Isle of Dogs investigating regeneration.

One day at Epping Forest Field Studies Centre investigating water and carbon cycles.

The emphasis for this piece of work is very much on students working independently – from creating their own title, carrying out their own data collection and analysis, to taking responsibility for the writing up and presentation of the final project. Support is provided to students in developing the appropriate skills for primary data fieldwork and secondary data research.

Paper 1 Dynamic Landscapes

Paper 2 Dynamic Places

Written examination 2 hours, 15 minutes in May/June - 30% of the qualification

Written examination 2 hours, 45 minutes In May/June - 30% of the qualification

Topic 1 Tectonic Processes and Hazards

Topic 3 Globalisation

Topic 2 Coastal Landscapes and Change

Topic 4 Diverse Places

Topic 5 Water Cycle and Water insecurity

Topic 7 Superpowers

Topic 6 The Carbon Cycle and Energy Security

Topic 8 Migration, Identity and Sovereignty

Paper 3: Synoptic Investigation

Coursework: Independent Investigation

Written examination 2 hours, 15 minutes in May/June - 20% of qualification

Non Examined Assessment. Submitted in early February - 20% of the qualification

This paper examines three synoptic themes (Players, Attitudes and actions, Futures and uncertainties) covering content from across all topic areas above. The synoptic investigation is based on a geographical issue within a place based context.  

Students choose a question or issue for investigation which relates to one of the above topics. The coursework must then use primary data collected on fieldwork and include analysis, evaluation and presentation of this data. The written coursework will be 3000-4000 words.

Related university courses and careers?

Geography has been defined amongst the key 'facilitating' or 'hard' subjects in a guide compiled by the Russell Group (20 leading UK universities). Geographers have embraced new digital technologies and media in their field/laboratory work, making the knowledge and practical skills of the modern geographer very relevant to a wide range of employer needs. The employment stats for geography graduates are now better than for most other traditional academic subjects.

There are two main areas: human geography, which is concerned with people and cities, and physical geography, which is more scientific. Most general geography courses cover both areas in the first year before allowing students to specialise in the second and third years, culminating with a dissertation in the final year. Expect to look at people and places, culture in different regions, the way society and nature interact, and the vast array of different landscapes that adorn planet earth. Field trips are a common feature, and while several universities offer a year abroad, nearly all offer shorter residential trips away to explore the physical and social geography of towns and cities across the world. While physical geography degrees are tied closely to politics, economics and cultural studies, physical geography is classed as an environmental science, linked to the likes of geology and ecology.

Suggested reading for Sixth Form Geographers

This is a short selection of recommended books. Many of these will be directly beneficial to your AS and A2 studies. Others are of wider relevance and might give you some interesting insights into geography at University.


'Geography Review' is written for AS and A2 Geography students. It is up-to-date and relevant. You can subscribe in September (5 issues per year).

Physical geography

‘Into Thin Air’, by Jon Krakauer

This bestselling non-fiction book details the author’s experience of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others stranded by a rogue storm.

'Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded', by Simon Winchester

An excellent and very readable account of the largest volcanic eruption in recent history (1883), the tsunami it caused, and its repercussions which continue to the present day.

'A Short History of Nearly Everything', by Bill Bryson

This covers the whole of universe from the Big Bang onwards, so it isn’t just geography, but it is first-rate and a fantastic read. Great chapters on the ice ages, volcanic eruptions, the atmosphere, over-fishing, extinctions …

'Coastal Geomorphology', by John Pethick

An essential textbook for A-Level coastal landscapes and university.

Social / cultural geography

'Introducing Human Geographies', by Paul Cloke, Philip Crang and Mark Goodwin

A taster of some of the big ideas of human geography at university level – introductions to development, economic, political, historical and cultural geographies, and more.

‘Prisoners of Geography’, by Tim Marshall

If you’ve ever wondered why Putin is so obsessed with Crimea, why the USA was destined to become a global superpower, or why China’s power base continues to expand ever outwards, the answers are all here.

'Development as Freedom', by Amartya Sen

We are the richest society in history, yet thousands of people die from malnutrition and disease every day. What is development? Some tough economics reading in here, but excellent on the causes and effects of famines.

'No Logo', by Naomi Klein

A classic campaigning book on capitalism and the anti-globalisation movement, the age of the marketing brand and the Asian sweatshop. It makes uncomfortable reading for Nike wearers.

'The Death of Distance', by Frances Cairncross

An analysis of the wide-ranging impact of communication technology on society and business. Does the internet mean the death of distance?

'Brick Lane', by Monica Ali

The story of Nazneen, a young Bangladeshi woman who moves to East London. A best-selling and entertaining fictional insight into the human reality of migration. Students have the opportunity to see the area in which the character Nazneen lives during East London fieldwork.

Environmental issues

'Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed', by  Jared Diamond

From Greenland to Mexico, from Easter Island to Rwanda, Diamond argues that societies collapse when they neglect or mismanage their local environments. Avery powerful and wide-ranging book.

'The Global Casino: An Introduction to Environmental Issues', by Nick Middleton

Oceans, rivers, big dams, acid rain, natural hazards and more: a student oriented text which engages seriously with both the physical and social aspects of environmental issues.

'Environmental Change', by Andrew Goudie

How has the world changed in the past 20 000 years? What did the Sahara desert look like during the last ice age? What about the Amazon rainforest? The oceans? You will definitely be surprised by the answers.

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