A Level Geography

Course description

Geography challenges opinions, broadens the mind and sharpens key skills. Few subjects can boast the same breadth and contemporary relevance. Over the course of two years, A Level geographers will study a range of topics and develop a way of thinking that will enable to make the kind of informed and critical decisions demanded of 21st century citizens. An essential outcome of learning Geography is to be able to apply geographical knowledge and conceptual understanding to new settings: that is, to be able to ‘think like a geographer’. Thinking geographically is a uniquely powerful way of seeing the world and making connections between the human and physical environment.

In physical geography students will learn about the processes shaping our planet and the landforms within dynamic landscapes that result. They will examine earth’s life support systems – how water and carbon are cycled through the land, oceans and atmosphere – in the context of tropical rainforests and the Arctic tundra. In complete contrast, in human geography students will explore the relationships and connections between people, the economy, and society and how these contribute to creating places. They will look at global systems, including those that regulate and order trade, financial transactions and migration, which produce uneven geographies of winners and losers. The human course also examines spatial patterns of human rights issues and the geography of gender inequality.

In the second year of the course the students use their knowledge to unpick the debates surrounding contemporary challenges facing the world today such as climate change, natural hazards, management of the oceans and the future of food.

All students enjoy two fieldwork residential field trips (Sunday-Tuesday) designed to develop their practical and enquiry skills, in preparation for the Individual Investigation. They will also deepen their understanding of concepts they have studied by observing and experiencing them in reality. In recent years trips have run to Dorset, the Lake District and Southern France.

The content of the course is divided up, with different teachers covering material suited to their specialism – typically a physical / human split.


A genuine interest in the subject matter – i.e. a keenness to read widely, be aware of contemporary, topical issues in the news and to pursue areas of interest in a bit more depth – is a characteristic of the most successful Geographers.

We would expect most students taking Geography in the Sixth Form to have achieved at least a 7 in their GCSE to enable them to access the demands of the course, though this is not a prerequisite. On the very odd occasion we might consider taking a student who has not studied Geography in the 4th and 5th form, providing they can demonstrate the correct motivation and have a track record of academic success.

Geographers typically study a wide variety of other subjects: it can fit a Biology / Chemistry / Maths combination for a prospective Medic or scientist; equally, it can be combined with subjects such as Economics and Politics for a slightly different – but equally suitable – package. The unique feature of Geography is the breadth of skills it develops, and hence it can complement a wide range of subjects.

Assessment structure

  • Paper 1: Physical systems (1 hour 30 minutes exam) – 22%
  • Paper 2: Human interactions (1 hour 30 minutes exam) – 22%
  • Paper 3: Geographical debates (2 hours 30 minutes exam) – 36%
  • Individual Investigation (coursework) – 20%

Potential careers

Geography is a highly-valued A Level and studying Geography at university can unlock a wide variety of careers which is virtually unparalleled in its breadth. Geographers are always in demand as a consequence of the skills they have acquired and The Guardian (13th August 2015) recently billed it as the “must-have A level” for the following reasons: “Geography is a subject for our times. It is inherently multidisciplinary in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences… all these are not just intrinsically interesting and valuable. They also encourage ways of seeing and thinking that make geographers eminently employable, which is why, according to the latest information from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, only 5.8% of geography graduates were still job-hunting six months after they graduated, against an average of 7.3%”. So, beyond explicitly academic careers, be it management consultancy or investment banking; law or urban planning; geologist or politician; meteorologist or journalist; the world is your oyster if you are a Geographer!

Pupil testimonies

“I chose to do A-Level geography in sixth form because it can link to any other subject you take, my other two subjects are biology and chemistry and I constantly can draw knowledge from all three and combine it all together. Which I find far more interesting to make those connections. Geography also allows me to get a wider knowledge of what is going on in the rest of the world and makes me think a lot how privileged we all are and ways we can try do better for the rest of the world.”

Eliza (Hn)

 “I chose geography for sixth form because I enjoyed it at GCSE level and wanted to learn more about the subject. The A Level course so far has been similar to GCSE geography but more in depth and therefore more interesting.”

Ned (Bd)

 “I absolutely love geography and I think it might be my favourite subject. I particularly love learning about the physical geography of coastlines as I think it is both incredibly interesting and directly related to what I want to study in the future.”

Laura (W)

 “In A Level you take the theory you learnt at GCSE, expand on it and discuss your opinions with the class. I would really recommend it, so much so that I am going to study it at university.”

Claudia (O)

Contact for further information

Mr TAJ Rothwell, Head of Geography (tajr@wellingtoncollege.org.uk)

Link to the OCR specification