GCSE Geography exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

Geography concept image

Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on GCSE 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 GCSE Geography, direct from the people who make the exams.

AQA logo byline
AQA logo byline

Fieldwork - why and how?

Do make sure that, when you’re reviewing fieldwork for both physical and human geography, you’re able to address key themes such as:

  • why did you look into that particular geographical issue?
  • why were the methods you used appropriate?
  • why was it better to present your data the way that you did?
  • what did your results tell you about your investigation?
  • if you were to make changes to your investigation, how would these changes have an impact on your overall conclusion?

It’s important that think about these types of questions and not just say where you went and what you did.

Some questions may make links between different parts of your investigation, such as the extent to which data collection methods helped you reach valid conclusions.

Make sure you know the titles of your physical geography and human geography investigations.

Take care with questions that test your geographical skills

  • If a question asks you to use a figure (image, graph, map, data etc.), make sure you refer to it in your answer. You can use phrases such as ‘I can see from figure 1 that…’ or ‘figure 1 shows that…’’ and take care to be accurate and specific.
  • If a question asks you to calculate a value, double-check your working to make sure you haven’t made any errors.
  • Be accurate when rounding numbers.
  • Take care when reading your paper not to miss questions that require you to fill in a table or graph or annotate an image.
  • Take a pencil, a ruler and a calculator into the exam with you and use them when you’re completing diagrams or drawing straight lines.
  • The best way to do this is to practise lots of these types of questions when you’re revising.

Use accurate geographical information in case studies and examples

Take time when you’re revising key facts and figures and select the information that’s appropriate to the question being asked. Don’t just tell the examiner everything you know about your case study; stop and think ‘does this help to answer the question?’

Also, remember that you can use information from a case study or example in any question in the exam, even if the question doesn’t specifically ask for it. If you feel that it would help you in your response, use it.

Answer the question being asked

Make sure you’re answering the question properly by paying attention to the command words and the context. For instance…

  • “Explain” means to give reason(s).
  • “Assess” means to give an informed judgement.
  • “Justify” means to give reasons why you support a particular decision or opinion. 
  • If the question uses the phrase ‘…to what extent…’ make sure that who address this, such as ‘…I agree with this statement to a large extent because…

In Section C of Paper 1 and Paper 2, make sure you only answer the right questions for the optional units you’ve studied.

Take time to think about your response to 6 and 9-mark questions

  • Recognise the importance of taking time to think and plan answers to 6 and 9-mark questions.
  • Think about your overall decision if appropriate (e.g. do you agree or disagree? How much do you agree?). In this type of question it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree; the important thing is to use clear evidence to back up your view.
  • Consider what information might help you show the examiner the reason for your decision. It’s important that you can confidently say why you’ve come to that particular conclusion.
  • Don’t spend too much time writing an introduction to your answer, but always remember to include a conclusion. However, your answer should be well organised and structured, and written in a logical way.
  • If you’re not sure what the question is asking, cross out the words you don’t know and see what’s left – can you recognise key words, or case studies or concepts that you can write about?
  • When writing answers to 4, 6 and 9-mark questions, use sentences, not bullet points. Include facts from named examples or case studies if asked to do so in the question. But, if you can’t remember an example or case study, you can still earn marks for answering the question in more general terms, using evidence to back up each point.


When you’re revising, don’t forget to spend some time making sure you’re familiar with the pre-release booklet. Practise questions where you need to use information from different pages in the booklet.

Always have a go at the 9-mark decision-making question and make sure that your answer supports your opinion. The best answers to these questions use information from different sources in the booklet, but with detailed development in your own words.

Use geographical terms

  • Become familiar with the geographical terms and know how to define them. Build up a glossary of words for each topic.
  • Create revision cards, mind maps, flow diagrams and mnemonics to help you learn processes and difficult concepts. 

If you’re not sure … have a go

  • Don’t worry about questions you’re unsure about. The important thing is that you come back to them and have a go at an answer.
  • If the question is multiple-choice, eliminate the answers you know are wrong and choose your answer from the ones you have left.
  • If you’re unsure about the information from a case study, or the correct case study to use, think about it, plan how you might respond and try to write the best answer you can.
  • Remember, to get your marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar, you need to attempt the questions that have these marks added to them. You can spot these by looking for [+SPaG (3 marks)] next to the question.

Be aware of timing

For all 3 papers, the number of marks available is roughly equivalent to the number of minutes in the exam. Therefore a 9-mark question should take no longer than 9-10 minutes to complete. Don’t spend too long on the earlier questions and run the risk of running out of time later.

Ask a question in the Geography and earth sciences study help forum
Your question will be posted in the Geography and earth sciences study help forum
Awesome! Your question has now been posted. View your post here
  1. Please choose where you want to post your question.
    Please choose your study level.
    Please enter what your question is about.
    Please enter your question.
    Your message must have two characters or more.

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!