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National curriculum requirements

Key Stage 1

By the end of Key Stage 1 students should be able to

  • use simple fieldwork and observational skills to study the geography of their school and its grounds and the key human and physical features of its surrounding environment.

Key Stage 2

By the end of Key Stage 2 students should be able to

  • use fieldwork to observe, measure, record and present the human and physical features in the local area using a range of methods, including sketch maps, plans and graphs, and digital technologies.

Geography programmes of study: key stages 1 and 2

Key Stage 3

By the end of Key Stage 3 students should be able to

  • build on their knowledge of globes, maps and atlases and apply and develop this knowledge routinely in the classroom and in the field.

  • interpret Ordnance Survey maps in the classroom and the field, including using grid references and scale, topographical and other thematic mapping, and aerial and satellite photographs.

  • use Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to view, analyse and interpret places and data.

  • use fieldwork in contrasting locations to collect, analyse and draw conclusions from geographical data, using multiple sources of increasingly complex information.

Geography programmes of study: key stage 3

Key Stage 4

At Key Stage 4 students should have opportunities to experience:

  • different approaches to fieldwork undertaken in at least two contrasting environments*.

  • fieldwork which includes the exploration of physical and human processes and the interactions between them*.

  • the collection of primary physical and human data*.

  • working with qualitative and quantitative data and data from both primary and secondary sources [including] fieldwork data; GIS material; written and digital sources; visual and graphical sources; and numerical and statistical information.

  • the use of data to include its collection, interpretation and analysis, including the application of appropriate quantitative and statistical techniques.

  • the use of data to include the effective presentation, communication and evaluation of material.

  • the ability to identify questions and sequences of enquiry to write descriptively, analytically and critically.

  • communicating their ideas effectively, to develop an extended written argument, and to draw well-evidenced and informed conclusions about geographical questions and issues.

* These requirements need not all be addressed in each piece of fieldwork.

Assessment of fieldwork at Key Stage 4

  • must include assessment of students' own experiences of fieldwork as well as including assessment of fieldwork in unfamiliar contexts which may be based on exemplar data.

  • will be assessed through examination only.

  • will comprise 15% of the total assessment weighting (of which 5% is allocated to skills and 10% allocated to application).

  • will assess the following areas of knowledge, skills and understanding:

  • understanding of the kinds of question capable of being investigated through fieldwork and an understanding of the geographical enquiry processes appropriate to investigate these.

  • understanding of the range of techniques and methods used in fieldwork, including observation and different kinds of measurement.

  • processing and presenting fieldwork data in various ways including maps, graphs and diagrams.

  • analysing and explaining data collected in the field using knowledge of relevant geographical case studies and theories.

  • drawing evidenced conclusions and summaries from fieldwork transcripts and data.

  • reflecting critically on fieldwork data, methods used, conclusions drawn and knowledge gained.

Geography: GCSE subject content


AQA GCSE Geography (page 24)

Cambridge iGCSE Geography (page 23)

Edexcel A GCSE Geography (page 27)

Edexcel B GCSE Geography (page 26)

Edexcel iGCSE Geography (page 15)

Eduqas A GCSE Geography (page 21)

Eduqas B GCSE Geography (page 18)

OCR A GCSE Geography (page 15)

OCR B GCSE Geography (page 19)


Key Stage 5

At Key Stage 5 students should have opportunities to experience:

  • fieldwork which meets the minimum requirements of 2 days of fieldwork at AS, and 4 days of fieldwork for A level.

At A level students must:

  • undertake fieldwork in relation to processes in both physical and human geography, but the fieldwork which is part of the individual investigation may be either human, physical or integrated.

  • define the research questions which underpin field investigations.

  • research relevant literature sources and understand and write up the theoretical or comparative context for a research question.

  • observe and record phenomena in the field and devise and justify practical approaches taken in the field including frequency/timing of observation, sampling, and data collection approaches.

  • demonstrate practical knowledge and understanding of field methodologies appropriate to the investigation of core human and physical processes.

  • implement chosen methodologies to collect data/information of good quality and relevant to the topic under investigation.

  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the techniques appropriate for analysing field data and information and for representing results, and show ability to select suitable quantitative or qualitative approaches and to apply them.

  • demonstrate the ability to interrogate and critically examine field data in order to comment on its accuracy and/or the extent to which it is representative, and use the experience to extend geographical understanding.

  • apply existing knowledge, theory and concepts to order and understand field observations.

  • show the ability to write up field results clearly and logically, using a range of presentation methods.

  • evaluate and reflect on fieldwork investigations, explain how the results relate to the wider context and show an understanding of the ethical dimensions of field research.

  • demonstrate the ability to write a coherent analysis of fieldwork findings in order to answer a specific geographical question and to do this drawing effectively on evidence and theory to make a well-argued case.

Students at A Level should undertake an independent investigation (the NEA) that involves, but need not be restricted to, fieldwork. The independent investigation must:

  • be based on a question or issue defined and developed by the student individually to address aims, questions and/or hypotheses relating to any of the core or non-core content.

  • incorporate field data and/or evidence from field investigations, collected individually or in groups.

  • draw on the student's own research, including their own field data and, if relevant, secondary data sourced by the student.

  • require the student independently to contextualise, analyse and summarise findings and data.

  • involve the individual drawing of conclusions and their communication by means of extended writing and the presentation of relevant data.

Geography: GCE AS and A Level subject content


AQA A Level Geography (page 29)

Edexcel A Level Geography (page 67)

Eduqas A Level Geography (page 41)

OCR A Level Geography (page 49)


A Student Guide to the A Level Independent Investigation