A-level Geography exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

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Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on A-level Geography

To help you make the most of your remaining revision time, we’ve worked with exam board AQA to create a series of exam advice articles.

In each of these features, you’ll find advice and easy-to-follow tips written by one of AQA’s subject matter experts.

Read on to get the inside track on A-level Geography, direct from the people who make the exams.

AQA logo byline
AQA logo byline

Tip #1. Know each question type

There’s a range of styles of question in the exam, and it can vary by which section of the paper you’re in. Make sure you know how to approach the different types. For example, some 6-mark questions will ask you to use a resource and your own knowledge. But, if you aren’t asked for your own knowledge, you need to focus on a detailed analysis of the resource in front of you. Remember that 9-mark questions are only in section C.

Ask your teachers if they’ve seen our Notes and Guidance on the Assessment Objectives document on the ‘assess’ page of our website. This should help them support you to understand how to approach the paper.

Tip #2. Become familiar with command words

Engage with the command words in questions. For example, responses to questions that ask ‘to what extent’ should make it clear how much you agree or disagree with the question or statement posed (eg ‘I agree to a large extent that …’).

Tip #3. Understand the links within and across units

Look for questions that require links within units – for example, comparing the impact of volcanoes and earthquakes. You would have studied these separately, but may well be asked to use both to reach a conclusion in the exam. Identify questions that require you to make links between the different units. You could be asked to make links between elements of core units (eg from Global Systems and Global Governance to Water and Carbon) or from an optional unit to a core unit (for example, from Hazards to Changing Places).

These links will come in either 9 or 20-mark questions and require you to consider theory and/or examples from both units in order to reach an overall conclusion.

Tip #4. Answer the question using appropriate evidence

Practise creating geographical debates in your responses – especially in 9 and 20-mark questions.

There’s rarely an expected answer that the question is looking for, and it’s therefore very important that you use evidence to create a debate and/or come to a clear conclusion as to what you believe the answer is. Ensure, where appropriate, that there’s a balance of discussion and use of evidence to reach this conclusion. Using data from specific examples should allow you to demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of concepts, processes and interactions, in particular case study data. Specific examples and case study evidence should underpin your response throughout.

Avoid writing everything you know about your case studies and examples. A-level questions are designed to make you apply this knowledge to different scenarios. It’s important that you’re accurate in your use of elements of theory, case study data etc. Your examiners are all geographers who know the examples you’re using, so it’s important to avoid making silly mistakes. For example, people often say Haiti is in Africa. This also applies to spelling geographical terminology accurately, such as using capital letters on place names.

Tip #5. How to approach 20-mark essays

Don’t forget that the 20-mark questions make up half the marks on each paper, so performing well in these is the key to overall success. To do well in these, you should follow the guidance above and try to plan your responses, to ensure you’re focused on your argument and what will support it.

Remember you’re being marked on these 6 areas:

  • knowledge and understanding of place(s) and environments
  • knowledge and understanding of key concepts and processes
  • awareness of scale and temporal change
  • analysis and evaluation in the application of knowledge and understanding
  • links between knowledge and understanding to the application of knowledge and understanding in different contexts
  • your conclusion - applied to the context of the question

The distinction between ‘analysis and evaluation’ and ‘evaluative conclusion’ is that the conclusion should be overall judgement related to the steer of the question, as prompted by command words like ‘to what extent…’ and ‘assess the extent to which…’ It’s really important that you reach a clear and rational conclusion based on the content of your response.

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Good luck from AQA

AQA believes everyone has the potential to achieve, and we make sure our qualifications give all students the opportunity to show what they can do and progress to the next stage of their lives.

Our subject experts worked with The Student Room so we can reach as many students as possible with advice on how to approach your revision and exams. We wish you well in the weeks ahead, and don’t forget to look after yourselves too: eat well, sleep well and tell someone how you’re feeling if there are days when things don’t go so well or you don’t feel so good.

 Good luck!