Pupils choosing GCSE courses are often encouraged by schools to include courses which will enable them to achieve the Ebacc as part of their Key Stage 4 education. This means that in addition to English, maths and science, you will choose a modern foreign language and either geography or history. In addition to these subjects, you will have additional option choices which may include arts, technologies, additional languages, additional humanities subjects and vocational subjects.
Geography helps you to make sense of the world around you. It is hands on, it is relevant and it is fun!
GCSE geography courses are a good mix of topics such as urban issues, world development, extreme environments, rivers, and hazards – to name but a few. The course will give you the chance to get to grips with some of the big issues which affect our world, and understand the social, economic and physical forces and processes which shape and change our world.
GCSE geography is designed to allow a large number of topics to be studied and to provide an insight into a variety of the most important and relevant geographical issues. This diversity also allows all students to find topics they are interested and engaged in. A selection of these are described below:
Urban issues and challenges
Cities and urban areas are some of the most dynamic regions of the world. For the first time, a majority of the global population now lives in towns and cities, with the UN predicting this will increase to 75% by 2050 - highlighting the importance of studying these settlements. This topic looks at reasons why urban areas emerge and develop unevenly within and between countries and the challenges and opportunities that this creates.
Podcast: Sustainable urban communities and young people
Globally, there are large variations in economic development and standards of living between countries. This topic looks at the reasons for, and consequences of, having a ‘global development gap’ in addition to why such divides occur nationally such as the UK’s north-south divide.
Podcast: How does international aid work?
The demand for food, water and energy is rising across the globe, yet the supply of all of these resources is limited which can create conflicts. Technological advances allow new strategies to be used which can increase the supply of some resources, however these can be controversial such as genetically modified crops.
39 ways to save the planet: Super rice
Global ecosystems - ranging from hot arid to cold tundra environments - all have distinctive characteristics, which have lead to distinctive adaptations within their plant and animal communities. Whilst these environments all provide economic opportunities such as using rainforests for logging, farming or energy, they are extremely fragile environments which require sustainable management.
Podcast: What makes the Arctic unique?
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, but it is still a highly dynamic body continually undergoing changes. These changes result in the creation of a variety of hazards that pose a threat to both humans and the environment. Some of these hazards you will have already felt the effects of in the UK, such as climate change and weather hazards, whilst others occur in geographically distinct regions such as tectonic hazards and tropical storms.
Podcast: How do graphic novels help understanding of natural disasters?
The distinctive landscape of the UK has been gradually formed over millions of years by coastal, glacial and fluvial (river based) processes, which continue to act today. A number of physical and human factors affect the processes of erosion, weathering, deposition and transportation.
Podcast: A Search for Magic in the Landscape with Jini Reddy
Martin from Kent about GCSE geography
There are so many ways of learning in geography. It is very practical, with opportunities to learn new skills such as modern computer based mapping (called GIS), map skills, interpreting photographs, fieldwork skills, presenting, role play and debating techniques. You will improve your literacy through your report writing and written work, and make practical use of your numeracy skills when you interpret data and construct graphs. Fieldwork, or working outside the classroom, is a really important part of geography. Whether you go locally or get the chance to travel further away, it will be a brilliant opportunity to experience some of the things you have learnt about in class, see things differently and of course have fun.
Your teacher will be able to tell you more about the specific GCSE course offered in your school. Don’t forget to ask about what sort of topic you might cover in your controlled assessment and where you will do your fieldwork. There has never been a better time to study geography so make the choice to go places with geography by taking geography at GCSE.
Studying GCSE 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. Key skills and knowledge gained are listed below:
Read a letter from Michael Palin, our former president
Why is geography increasingly popular, influential, and valued?
You will study issues that are extremely relevant to the challenges the world is facing today both environmentally and in wider society. This equips you with valuable knowledge for future studies.
Geographers uniquely tackle and investigate big issues across a variety of scales. You will also learn how to bring together perspectives from multiple disciplines.
Fieldwork is an enjoyable opportunity to explore new environments, improving your understanding of topics as they come to life. Fieldwork provides you with useful skills in collecting, understanding and later communicating data to different audiences.
Working in teams during fieldwork and in the classroom will help develop your communication and collaboration skills.
You will develop an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the UK’s economic, social and environmental geography.
You will gain strong research and analytical skills, helping you to produce convincing arguments and to communicate ideas effectively, which is particularly useful in all other essay-based subjects.
Geography is practical and will give you opportunities to learn new skills such as computer-based mapping (GIS), map skills, interpreting photographs and fieldwork skills. It will make practical use of your numeracy skills when you interpret data and construct graphs.
Geography gives you the opportunity to gather, analyse and present data in a variety of ways so you will also develop your visual communication skills using maps, graphs, diagrams and images to problem solve.
Greg Dow is a Research Manager at the Blizard Institute of Queen Mary University of London.
Farhasaad Shahid is a Communications Associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, and is based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Patrick Rickles is Head of Business Intelligence and Spatial Data Science at HM Courts and Tribunals Service, based in London, UK.
Emma Rawlings Smith is a Transport Planning Consultant for AECOM in Birmingham.
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