• Geography A Level

TSR Wiki > Study Help > Exams and Qualifications > A Levels > A Level Subject Guides > Geography


Why Study Geography?

Geography is a very interesting and diverse subject. As a subject it interlinks with a variety of other academic subjects, e.g. economics, science, politics, environmental subjects, geology etc. Geography can open many doors for careers, as it brings out a lot of skills other subjects neglect. Through the study of geography you yourself will become a more diverse person with an open view of the world. As well as career options it is a very interesting subject. No one geography lesson will be the same and it is a constantly changing field, in a typical geography lesson you could cover anything from the structure of a city to mudslides in the Philippines.

Course Structure

All geography course will vary slightly, as there is a lot to cover. With the changing A level system as well there will be even more changes. However when I took my A level in 2007, with Edexcel B this is what I covered:

In AS level the following is covered:

River Environments and Coastal Environments (Unit 1) - This involved the study of river and coastal areas. With both topics you look at the ecosystems which live around them, and different types of protection. With coasts you will look at how some areas are more protected than others, and how some areas erode faster than others, e.g. the Holderness coastline. You will also look at a long stretch of coast, an example of which is the Jurassic coastline. With rivers a wide variety of different scenarios will be looked at; you will study a wide variety of case studies e.g. pollution, flooding etc.

Rural Environments and Urban Environments (Unit 2) - Involved studying both rural and urban areas. The urban area was broken down and case studies were applied from different aspects of the urban area, e.g. the inner city, the CBD, suburbs etc. You will learn about the quality of life in different parts of the world in varying cities. When studying the rural aspect you will look at quality of life in rural areas, and will look at a variety of case studies within them. You will look at the effect of tourism on rural areas, e.g. honeypot sites.

Independent Fieldwork aka Coursework module(Unit 3) - This is the last module of the AS year and you will study and submit a piece of fieldwork. You undertake fieldwork and write it up in a project format, it will be on something related to your course.

At A2 level the following is covered:

'Global Challenge'(Unit4) - This covers a wide range of topics, including Weather & Climate, Ecosystems, the Global Economy and Population & Migration.

In the Weather & Climate section you will look at different weather phenomenon e.g. hurricanes. You will look at the Global Circulation Model, and its impacts on the distribution of the world's biomes, e.g. most of the tropical rainforests are found equatorially, as it is hot and wet, due to low pressure and a higher concentration of heat energy from insolation (the Sun's rays).

In the Ecosystems section, you will study one ecosystem in detail, you will also look at ecosystem management, and consequently ecosystems under threat.

In the Global Economy module, you will look at the global economy (surprise, surprise); poverty, different markets (e.g. free markets, capitalism), trade routes, levels of development's (e.g. G8, MEDC's, NIC's etc at one end of the scale) and different policies (e.g. Agenda 21, Brown Agenda etc), and companies (e.g. MNC's, TNC's) etc.

And finally in the Population & Migration module, topics covered will range from different population models and theories, population structure, inputs and outputs, population density and dependency, birth controls and incentives from a wide range of countries, different types of migration and aid packages, migration models and laws.

Researching Global Futures (Unit 5) - This module is split into two parts: a coursework assessment and an exam.

(1)The coursework assessment involves you selecting one question from about 15 (though your education institute will probably choose what theme they want you to do so this will divide your choice of titles by about 3) and doing research towards it and then writing an essay including diagrams/tables etc. It is slightly similar to a university essay, so if you are looking at a degree in geography this is an excellent starting point.

(2)The second half of the module involves you studying material in either Resources, Natural Hazards, Pollution or Wilderness Environments. You then get given the generalisation point from the module specification of the topic that you are doing, and are expected to answer an essay question on it in exam conditions. E.g. For example, if you are doing the Natural Hazards module and you get told that the exam will ask you something from what generalisation 1 covers: the physical causes of natural hazards, then you can just focus on information to do with this and not worry about hazard prevention and mitigation (g.4) etc.

However in examination of this module, if you do the coursework for the winter season (in January) then the exam for this module has to be done in January also- the same goes for the summer exam season. If however you wanted to resit the examination, you could do this whenever BUT if you wanted to resubmit the coursework again, you HAVE TO take the examination again also. If this ends up happening to you, it is a pain in the neck because the generalisation of the topic that your exam will be on, will be completely different to the one done in the previous season, so you will have to work for this all on your own asides from the rest of your Geography studies. So moral of the story is to try to do well in both pieces the first time around; not think of resits as a fallback option!

Synoptic (Unit 6) - The synoptic assessment involves you studying pre-release material and drawing on material that you have covered and read around from the rest of your course: both the AS and A2 modules.

In Summer 2007, the synoptic paper was about Antarctica, with the main themes here being weather and climate and glaciation! (! because glaciation hasn't featured anywhere in the Edexcel B syllabus before!).

Whereas in January 2007, the synoptic paper was about redevelopment and regeneration in Leicester City Centre.

Therefore, to reiterate in summation, the synoptic tests your knowledge of the entire course, and it's up to you what you put into it that is of relevance and for comparison purposes.

The OCR course is made up of four modules. F761, F762, F763 and F764.

The first two will be studied at AS. These cover four major topics each, with centres choosing three each.


F761 is largely Physical Geography, with topics in Semi-Arid Environments, Glacial + Periglacial Environments, River Environments and Coastal Environments.

F762 is largely Human Geography, with topics in Managing Rural Change, Managing Urban Change, The Growth Of Tourism and The Energy Issue.

The latter two will be studied at A2.

F763 is a mixture of Physical and Human Geography and is called 'Global Issues', although each section can be taught separately. The 'Physical / Environmental Issues' topics are - Earth Hazards, Climatic Hazards & Ecosystems and Environments Under Threat. The 'Human / Economic Issues' topics are Globalisation, Population and Resources and Development and Inequalities.

F764 is a 'Geographical Skills' Exam.

The AQA course............

Study Help

There is an excellent section on TSR entitled geography and geology within the A level subject sub forum. It is currently not that active, but if you post there someone will generally get back to you within a few days. It does however have a few useful posts in it.


A wide variety of universities offer geography as a degree. There is the BSc geography which is mainly physically based, however both human and physical topics are studied in the first year. There is also Ba geography which is mainly human based, but again the first year offers both physical and human topics. This allows flexibility to change between the two degrees at the end of the first year. Some universities e.g. university of Leicester offer BSc physical geography and Ba human geography. This involves purely one aspect of geography. And for the 3 years you will study all physical or human geography respectively. There are also combined courses which many unis offer, e.g. geography and geology, geography and archaeology, geography and oceanography etc.

Geography can lead to a range of careers including teaching, research, work in environmental sectors, retail, and more.

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