This page provides a wealth of information for GCSE and A level student looking to continue their geography studies.
For tailored support with your GCSE and A level examinations, why not take a look at our sister site GEO (Geography Education Online)?
A level geography
Why choose geography at A level?
Geography is a fascinating subject about the environment, how places differ, how physical systems work and about how people interact with the world. Geography is about real-world events, their impacts and their different interpretations.
Geography looks at the ‘big ideas’ in the world and how people strive to make our world a better place to live in. We potentially face dramatic changes to our world through climate change. Learning about physical process such as the carbon cycle helps understand the role of energy use in influencing climate change and importantly, helps us make judgements on the arguments presented in the media.
The course teaches about how trade and economies operate in a globalised world and how to evaluate the choices being made about our future. In this way, geography is a rigorous academic subject which helps us, through the integrated nature of the discipline, to examine complexity and to think critically.
In addition, geography examines the awe-inspiring natural processes of our beautiful planet, helping us to appreciate and value its landscapes, oceans and ecosystems. By studying different places, we inevitably delve into issues of culture and identity. Why do some places embrace multi-culturalism, why do others maintain strong social division? Geography is about places; people live in places and in turn are shaped by them.
Geographers are valued in the workplace for their multidisciplinary approach to solving problems and for the range of data analysis at which they are adept. In geography, students are taught to interpret maps using GIS, data presented in graphs and as numbers, all valuable skills in any walk of life.
Anyone choosing to study geography at A level will be surprised by its wide appeal and amazed by its ability to both inspire and transform their life!
A level reading lists
Here are two A-level geography reading lists, separated by topics. These readings will help you get a feel for the places, issues and people you are studying. You should use it as part of your extra reading.
(Some of the titles may fit into several topics, so feel free to explore the reading lists outside your chosen topic).
To inform GCSE and A Level students about the basics of examining, OCR have produced a new set of factsheets, which cover some of the key stages involved in examining academic qualifications.
Why study geography at university?
A degree in geography not only opens up a broad range of potential career paths, but it also makes you a very employable graduate due to the large number of transferable skills that you will have acquired during your studies.
According to UCAS, geography is one of the broadest subject areas with one of the highest employability rates of all undergraduate degrees and some of the most varied career paths of any subject. Employers are attracted to the skills geographers bring, including communication and critical thinking, confident use of data, practical field experience, teamworking and of course spatial thinking, accompanied by expertise in Geographical Information Systems.
Increasingly, employers also value globally-minded staff, who understand inter-cultural differences and who see the opportunities these present for innovation.
In the 21st Century, socially and environmentally aware staff are vital to the success of organisations in the private, public and charitable sectors. Geographers look set to remain in high demand for decades to come.
Applying to study geography at university
- Read departmental web pages – information about staff research projects and publications may be more revealing than polished outlines of teaching content. They all must cover core concepts and methods of analysis, but the teaching will be strongly influenced by the research expertise of individual staff members – so the precise topics, techniques and geographical areas covered will vary considerably between institutions.
- Think about whether ‘research-intensive’ or ‘teaching-intensive’ Universities are best for you. Teaching-intensive will give you slightly more contact hours and staff are perhaps more likely to be available to help students with coursework (e.g. because they are spending less time on research). Research-intensive will expose students to more cutting-edge research and analysis in the course of teaching and learning – but students need to be quite independent and motivated.
- The best route in is good grades. However, some universities have more places available than applicants and will be flexible on entry offer/tariff if they are reassured that the applicant is well motivated and has potential (English and Maths GCSE grades are sometimes looked at to judge potential if A-Levels are below par). Make certain that your personal statement is coherent and grammatical, but don’t spend hours on it. Personal statements only come into play if, you do not have A level Geography, or your predicted grades are below the standard entry tariff or you are applying to one of a handful of ‘elite’ universities.
- Make certain that you go to open days, and just as importantly visit the town/city, as well as the campus and Geography department. Speak to staff, current/former students and other applicants. Get a feel for what it will be like to live and study there for three years. You need to be happy and comfortable to get the most out of your time there.
Practical information on how to apply to study geography at university, such as entry requirements and key dates, can be found on the UCAS website.
Where can studying geography take me?
Studying geography at university opens up a broad range of potential career paths.