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The number of students studying geography GCSE in 2020 has continued to rise, with 255,344 candidates sitting the exam in English schools; a 1.7% increase on the candidate numbers from 2019¹. This is the ninth successive annual increase in candidate numbers for Geography GCSE, making it the sixth most popular subject.

The Society will publish full data released by the Joint Council for Qualifications showing the total number of students who sat geography GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (265,169 in 2019) when it is released.

Commenting on geography’s sustained growth in popularity at GCSE Professor Joe Smith, the Society’s Director, said:

“There has never been a better time to study geography. It gives young people a vital overview of the world's people, places, and environments; combines the natural and social sciences; explores key issues and inter-dependencies at different scales, and, has 'part-STEM' status in higher education. No other subject can claim such a unique place on the curriculum.

Since 2010 candidate numbers have risen every year for GCSE geography. The Society is particularly pleased to see that this growth has come disproportionately from groups of pupils who previously were less likely study geography, namely Black, Asian and minority ethnic students, those with prior disadvantages, and young people studying in comprehensive schools.

“The post-pandemic world will contain additional uncertainties alongside a competitive job market – so knowing where a geography A Level or university degree can take you is important. The good news for students considering their next steps today is that geography courses have high completion rates and positive student feedback.

“Geographers are also sought-after employees with above average graduate employment and salary prospects. In short, it is a subject that is not only relevant to the real world, but also one you are more likely to enjoy, secure a job through and earn a reasonable wage with.”



Notes to editor

  • ¹ Based on Ofqual figures for candidates sitting geography GCSE in English schools; data for 2019 (251,121) and 2020 (255,344). Link to results table here.

  • For further media enquiries please contact the Society’s Press Officer, Lucy Preston, on +44 (0)77 1478 3126 or

  • The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830, our Royal Charter of 1859 is for 'the advancement of geographical science'. Today, we deliver this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. We aim to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. We hold the world's largest private geographical collection and provide public access to it. We have a thriving Fellowship and membership and offer the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer’.