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AQA GCSE geography Exam

Introduction

GCSE geography is divided into three papers.

The first paper is ‘Living with the physical environment.’ It is a written exam of one hour and thirty minutes, accounting for 35% of the GCSE. The paper is divided into four sections: the challenge of natural hazards, the living world, physical landscapes in the UK and geographical skills.

The second paper is ‘Challenges in the human environment.’ It is a written exam of one hour and thirty minutes, accounting for 35% of the GCSE. The paper is divided into four sections: urban issues and challenges, the changing economic world, the challenge of resource management and geographical skills.

The third paper is ‘Geographical applications.’ It is a written exam of one hour and fifteen minutes, accounting for 30% of the GCSE. The paper is divided into three sections: issue evaluation, Fieldwork, Geographical skills.

There are four assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of GCSE Geography below, with requisite assessment details and objectives.

Paper 1: living with the physical environment

This unit is concerned with the dynamic nature of physical processes and systems, and human interaction with them in a variety of places and at a range of scales. The aims of this unit are to develop an understanding of the tectonic, geomorphological, biological and meteorological processes and features in different environments, and the need for management strategies governed by sustainability and consideration of the direct and indirect effects of human interaction with the Earth and the atmosphere.

Section A: the challenge of natural hazards

In this section, students are required to study all the themes.

  • Natural Hazards
  • Tectonic Hazards
  • Weather Hazards
  • Climate Change

Section B: the living world
In this section, students are required to study Ecosystems, Tropical rainforests and one from Hot deserts or Cold environments.
Ecosystems

  • Tropical Rainforests
  • Hot deserts
  • Cold Environments

Section C: Physical landscapes in the U.K

In this section, students are required to study UK physical landscapes and two from Coastal landscapes in the UK, River landscapes in the UK and Glacial landscapes in the UK.
UK physical landscapes

  • Coastal landscapes in the U.K
  • River landscapes in the U.K
  • Glacial landscapes in the U.K

Paper 2: Challenges in the human environment

This unit is concerned with human processes, systems and outcomes and how these change both spatially and temporally. They are studied in a variety of places and at a range of scales and must include places in various states of development, such as higher income countries (HICs), lower income countries (LICs) and newly emerging economies (NEEs). The aims of this unit are to develop an understanding of the factors that produce a diverse variety of human environments; the dynamic nature of these environments that change over time and place; the need for sustainable management; and the areas of current and future challenge and opportunity for these environments.

Section A: Urban issues and challenges

In this section, students are required to study all the themes.
Urban population

  • Urban growth
  • Urban change
  • Urban sustainability

Section B: the changing economic world

Variations is economic development

  • The global development gap
  • LICS and NEES
  • The U.K economy

Section C: the challenge of resource management

Resource management

  • Food
  • Water
  • Energy

Paper 3: Geographical applications

The Geographical applications unit is designed to be synoptic in that students will be required to draw together knowledge, understanding and skills from the full course of study. It is an opportunity for students to show their breadth of understanding and an evaluative appreciation of the interrelationships between different aspects of geographical study.

Section A: Issue evaluation

This section contributes a critical thinking and problem-solving element to the assessment structure. The assessment will provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate geographical skills and applied knowledge and understanding by looking at a particular issue(s) derived from the specification using secondary sources. The issue(s) will arise from any aspect of the compulsory sections of the subject content but may extend beyond it through the use of resources in relation to specific unseen contexts.

A resource booklet will be available twelve weeks before the date of the exam so that students have the opportunity to work through the resources, enabling them to become familiar with the material. Students will not be allowed to take the original resource booklet into the examination room but will be issued with a clean copy in the exam. Sources could include maps at different scales, diagrams, graphs, statistics, photographs, satellite images, sketches, extracts from published materials, and quotes from different interest groups.

Assessment will consist of a series of questions related to a contemporary geographical issue(s), leading to a more extended piece of writing which will involve an evaluative judgement. Students will apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate the information and issue(s) in the pre-release resources booklet and the question paper. They will also use geographical skills to set the issue(s) in context and to examine conflicting viewpoints about the issue(s).

Students will develop a critical perspective on the issue(s) studied, consider the points of view of the stakeholders involved, make an appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages, and evaluate the alternatives.

The exam will also require students to consider physical and human interrelationships and to make reasoned justifications for proposed solutions in terms of their likely impact on both people and the physical environment.

Section B: Fieldwork

Students need to undertake two geographical enquiries, each of which must include the use of primary data, collected as part of a fieldwork exercise.

Fieldwork must take place outside the classroom and school grounds on at least two occasions.

The two enquiries must be carried out in contrasting environments and show an understanding of both physical and human geography. In at least one of the enquiries students are expected to show an understanding about the interaction between physical and human geography.

Students’ understanding of the enquiry process will be assessed in the following two ways:

  1. Questions based on the use of fieldwork materials from an unfamiliar context
  2. Questions based on students’ individual enquiry work.

For these questions students will have to identify the titles of their individual enquiries. Students will be expected to:

  1. Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate information and issues related to geographical enquiry 2
  2. Select, adapt and use a variety of skills and techniques to investigate questions and issues and communicate findings in relation to geographical enquiry.

Assessment details

Assessment Objectives

The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives:

  • AO1 Demonstrate knowledge of locations, places, processes, environments and different scales (15%)
  • AO2 Demonstrate geographical understanding of: concepts and how they are used in relation to places, environments and processes; the interrelationships between places, environments and processes (25%)
  • AO3 Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate geographical information and issues to make judgements (35%, including 10% applied to fieldwork context(s)
  • AO4 Select, adapt and use a variety of skills and techniques to investigate questions and issues and communicate findings (25%, including 5% used to respond to fieldwork data and context(s)).
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