Geography: it’s the must-have A-level.
Geography is highly valued by universities as an A Level choice, and combines well with both arts and science subjects. It can be a facilitating subject - that is a subject most likely to be required or preferred for entry to degree courses. Choosing facilitating subjects will keep more options at the university-level; geography opens doors to other degrees such as business and administrative studies, law, engineering and technology, and the other social physical sciences.
Geography was also found to be the most relevant A Level subject in teaching students about climate change (YouGov/RGS 2020).
A Level geography
A Level geography offers a selection of new, interesting topics not covered at GCSE level, and allows you to go into greater depth in some key elements previously studied. It covers both the physical and human environments and the complex interaction of processes that shape our world. It will also, importantly, show the applied side of the subject - how human intervention affects the environment and how people adapt and mitigate the effects of processes on their environment.
There is plenty of room for discussion and extended research, which will help you become an independent thinker and learner. By the time you get to your exams, you will be able to show your understanding of a range of opinions and be able to illustrate your answers with case studies from local, national and international examples.
You will learn in a wide variety of ways, using maps, GIS skills, data analysis, photos, videos, and podcasts, as well as attending lectures and study days. You will be encouraged to frame your own questions using higher level thinking skills and show your grasp of complex issues through report and essay writing. Fieldwork will be an essential part of your A Level course.
The four key geographical themes outlined below are compulsory which, when combined with fieldwork, accounts for 60% of the course. The additional 40% is flexible and varies depending on the exam board chosen by teaching staff.
Water and carbon cycles
You will study the physical processes which control the water and carbon cycles between land, oceans and the atmosphere, all of which are critical mechanisms in supporting life on Earth.
Listen: Forests and the carbon cycle
Global systems and global governance
In a globalising world, people, places and environments are increasingly connected leading to the rapid global movement of goods, people, technology and ideas. A Level studies focus on the consequences of a highly interconnected world and the efforts to regulate it - labelled ‘global governance’.
Listen: How is globalisation changing the countryside?
The connections and relationships between people, the economy, society and the environment help to explain why places are constantly changing. Through the study of local locations it will become apparent how flows of people, resources, money, ideas and government polices can change the nature of places.
Watch: Geographical lates: climate talks
Fieldwork will be an essential part of your A Level course - you will be required to complete an independent non-examined assessment (NEA). This provides an excellent opportunity to conduct a fieldwork study in relation to physical and human processes.
A minimum of four days of fieldwork is required at A Level. You may even get to go on a residential trip to experience a very different environment to the one where you live. You may visit an area that is known for its coastal, river or glaciated scenery, or carry out enquiries relating to issues in your local environment. You will have the flexibility to identify your own topic for your NEA. The write up of your study will provide an excellent insight into producing a concise university-style dissertation.
Gaining relevant skills
Studying A Level geography provides you with a variety of valuable skills and knowledge that can be transferred and used across other subject areas and in everyday life.
Building arguments requires a high level of English skills at this level. In addition maths skills are also obtained to an advanced standard with a clear focus on statistical testing. Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) develops confidence in ICT. Researching, presenting, referencing, critical thinking, map-reading and scientific reasoning skills will all be honed along with the ability to work both independently and collaboratively.