A Level Geography

HEAD OF DEPARTMENT: Mrs E Barnard BA (Hons) (Manchester) PGCE (IIE)
Email: ebarnard@stedmundscollege.org

This information can be also found in the download to the right of this page.


“Geography at St Edmund’s College offers a stimulating insight into politics, economics, sociology, natural systems and world issues.” Please find below a breakdown of the course. Further information can be found in the full specification, which is available on the AQA A level Geography webpage. Assessment for all three components is completed at the end of Rhetoric II. Students also complete internal examinations at the end of Rhetoric I, which consist of three out of the six topics.


  • Written internal exam: 1 hour
  • 33% of internal grade


Coastal Systems and Landscapes


  • Two written internal exam: 1 hour each
  • 66% of internal grade


Changing Places

Contemporary Urban Environments


  • Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • 120 marks, 40% of A-level


A – Water and Carbon Cycles

B – Coastal Systems and Landscapes

C – Hazards


• Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes

• 120 marks, 40% of A-level


A – Global Systems and Global Governance

B – Changing Places

C – Contemporary Urban Environments



  • 3,000–4,000 words
  • 60 marks
  • 20% of A-level
  • marked by teachers
  • moderated by AQA

Across each of these components, students will be assessed on the following objectives:

  • AO1: Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of places, environments, concepts, processes, interactions and change, at a variety of scales (30–40%).
  • AO2: Apply knowledge and understanding in different contexts to interpret, analyse and evaluate geographical information and issues (30–40%).
  • AO3: Use a variety of relevant quantitative, qualitative and fieldwork skills to:
  • investigate geographical questions and issues
  • interpret, analyse and evaluate data and evidence
  • construct arguments and draw conclusions (20–30%).


The course is broadly split into human and physical geography, referring to processes and concepts relating to both social and environmental sciences  respectively. Within each of these broad spectra a range of geographical issues and topics are covered. The course is designed to be synoptic, meaning that students should be able to establish and articulate links between the core and optional topics.


Core Topic: Water and Carbon Cycles

This focuses on the major stores of water and carbon at or near the Earth’s surface and the dynamic cyclical relationships associated with them.

This section specifies a systems approach to the study of water and carbon cycles. The content invites students to contemplate the magnitude and significance of the cycles at a variety of scales, their relevance to wider geography and their central importance for human populations.


Optional Topic: Coastal Systems and  Landscapes

This focuses on coastal zones, which are dynamic environments in which landscapes develop by the interaction of winds, waves, currents and terrestrial and marine sediments. The operation and outcomes of fundamental geomorphological processes and their association with distinctive landscapes are readily observable. In common with water and carbon cycles, a systems approach to study is specified.


Optional Topic: Natural Hazards

This optional section of our specification focuses on the lithosphere and the atmosphere, which intermittently but regularly present natural hazards to human populations, often in dramatic and sometimes catastrophic fashion. By exploring the origin and nature of these hazards and the various ways in which people respond to them, students are able to engage with many dimensions of the relationships between people and the environments they occupy.



Core Topic: Changing Places

This section focuses on people’s engagement with places, their experience of them and the qualities they ascribe to them. Students acknowledge this importance and engage with how places are known and experienced, how their character is appreciated, the factors and processes which impact upon places and how they change and develop over time.

Study of the content must be embedded in two contrasting places, one to be local and a contrasting place, likely to be distant.

Core Topic: Global Systems and Governance

This focuses on globalisation – the economic, political and social changes associated with technological and other driving forces which have been a key feature of global economy and society in recent decades.

Increased interdependence between peoples, states and environments have prompted attempts at a global level to manage and govern some aspects of human affairs. There is particular emphasis on international trade and access to markets and the governance of the global commons.

Optional Topic: Contemporary Urban Environments

This optional section focuses on urban growth and change which are seemingly ubiquitous processes and present significant environmental and social challenges for human populations. The section examines these processes and challenges and the issues associated with them, in particular the potential for environmental sustainability and social cohesion. Students have the opportunity to appreciate human diversity and develop awareness and insight into profound questions of opportunity, equity and sustainability.


Competence in geographical skills should be developed during study of the course content, in an integrated way and not as a separate theme or topic. While the relative balance of quantitative and qualitative methods and skills will differ between each of the core elements and the options, students must be introduced to a roughly equal balance of quantitative and qualitative methods across the specification.

Qualitative Data Quantitative Data
Students should be able to use and interpret a range of source material, including interviews, textual and visual sources.

They should understand the opportunities and limitations of qualitative techniques such as coding and sampling, and appreciate how they create particular geographical understanding of human communities.

Students need an understanding of digital and geo-located data, descriptive statistics of central tendency and dispersion, inferential statistics, measurement errors, and sampling.

understanding of the ethical implications of representing geographical data about human communities.

Cartographic Skills Graphical Skills
* Atlas maps.

* Weather maps – including synoptic charts (if applicable).

* Maps with located proportional symbols.

* Maps showing movement – flow lines, desire lines and trip lines.

* Maps showing spatial patterns – choropleth, isoline and dot maps.

* Line graphs – simple, comparative, compound and divergent.

* Bar graphs – simple, comparative, compound and divergent.

* Scatter graphs, and the use of best fit line.

* Pie charts and proportional divided circles.

* Triangular graphs.

* Graphs with logarithmic scales.

* Dispersion diagrams.

Statistical Skills ICT Skills
* Measures of central tendency – mean, mode, median.

* Measures of dispersion – range, inter-quartile range and standard deviation.

* Inferential and relational statistical techniques to include Spearman’s rank correlation and Chi-square test and the application of significance tests.

* Use of remotely sensed data (as described above in Core skills).

* Use of electronic databases.

* Use of innovative sources of data such as crowd sourcing and ‘big data’.

* Use of ICT to generate evidence of many of the skills provided above such as producing maps, graphs and statistical calculations.


All students are required to undertake fieldwork in relation to processes in both physical and human geography. Students must undertake four days of fieldwork during their A-level course. Fieldwork can be completed in a number of ways: locally or further afield, on full days or on part days. Schools and colleges will be required to confirm that all A-level geography students have been given an opportunity to fulfill this requirement.

At AS Level the students will visit Stratford in east London to complete a study on how the place has changed and developed over time.

Students are required to undertake an independent investigation for the full A Level of 3,000—4,000 words. The fieldwork for this is carried out on the Isle of Arran and may be based on either human or physical aspects of geography, or a combination of both.

Rhetoric I

 Trip Destinations: Stratford, East London

Clacton-On-Sea, Essex

Trip Duration: One day in each place

 Key areas of investigation:

* People’s lived experience of Stratford

* The character and identity of Stratford

Rhetoric II—A Level

 Trip Destination: Isle of Arran, Scotland

Trip Duration: Five days (four nights)

 Key areas of investigation:

* The impact of change on Arran’s settlements

* Coastal processes and landforms

* Land use management in contrasting river basins

* Coastal processes and management


There is no expectation that students purchase any of the below books; they are all stocked in the department and in the College library. In addition to the key texts for this course students are expected to subscribe to the Geography Review magazine and to make use of the ‘wider reading’ section of the Geography Department VLE area.

In order to achieve the best grades in Geography, it is essential that students have an excellent understanding of the human and physical world at a range of scales.  Understanding of places and processes is paramount and, for this, wider reading and research is the most effective tool.

A/AS Level Geography for AQA Student Book

Authors: Ann Bowen, Andy Day, Victoria Ellis, Paul Hunt, Rebecca Kitchen, Claire Kyndt, Garrett Nagle, Alan Parkinson, Nicola Walshe, Helen Young
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

AQA A-level Geography Fourth Edition

Authors: Malcolm Skinner, Paul Abbiss, Phil Banks, Helen Fyfe, Ian Whittaker
Publisher: Hodder Education

AQA Geography A Level and AS Physical Geography Student Book

Authors: Simon Ross, Tim Bayliss, Lawrence Collins, Alice Griffiths
Publisher: Oxford University Press

 AQA Geography A Level and AS Human Geography Student Book

Authors: Simon Ross, Tim Bayliss, Lawrence Collins, Alice Griffiths
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Geography Review Magazine

Authors: Various
Publisher: Philip Allan