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A level curriculum

This section provides professional guidance to support the planning and teaching of geography for 16-19 year old students studying A level geography. To access the GA online teaching resources for A level students, visit our Online Teaching Resources section. To access our A level publications, visit the GA online shop.



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Introducing geography A and AS levels

All geography A level specifications must meet DfE content requirements and Ofqual’s general regulations for A levels and for A level geography. All specifications share common features, such as aims and objectives, subject content and concepts and assessment components.

However, with considerable variation between specifications it is important for subject leaders to choose a specification which best meets the needs of students. The key features of geography AS and A level are as follows:

  • AS level geography is a standalone qualification ‘de-coupled’ from A level.
  • Core content amounts to 60% of AS and A level specifications. It comprises geographical skills and core themes. There are two physical and two human themes at A level and one of each at AS.
  • Core physical themes are water and carbon cycles and landscape systems.
  • Core human themes are global systems & global governance and changing place(s).
  • At least half non-core content addresses people-environment questions and issues.
  • There are a minimum two fieldwork days at AS and four days at A level. Headteachers must confirm in writing that these requirements have been met.
  • An independent investigation on any aspect of geography accounts for 20% of A level geography. A report of 3-4000 words incorporates primary fieldwork data and secondary research and is assessed by teachers.
  • AS level is 100% terminal exam, but the range of fieldwork-related knowledge and skills assessed includes physical and human geography, field research questions, observing and recording phenomena, devising and justifying practical approaches, applying existing knowledge and concepts to the field and coherent analysis of findings.


Creating a coherent A level curriculum

A coherent A level curriculum is underpinned by a clear rationale and principles appropriate to the school/college and its students (see curriculum planning section), where the long-term plan sequences the content and knowledge very carefully. At A level, particularly careful consideration needs to be given to how the curriculum will:

  • use more concrete concepts, examples and case studies to build progressive understanding of geography’s key concepts
  • build students’ geographical scholarship and independence
  • use appropriate approaches to teaching, learning and curriculum choices for post-16 students
  • promote progression from GCSE and towards further study or employment
  • provide opportunities to meet requirements for fieldwork (two days for AS, four for A level)
  • be co-teachable at AS and A level, if this is what the school requires. This is a particular challenge since the expected standards and modes of assessment are different.


Further information

A Level Content Advisory Board (2014) Report of the ALCAB panel on geography

Department for Education (2014) A and AS level content criteria

GA (n.d.) A level specification summary

GA (2015) Choosing an A level specification. A table aiding comparison between specifications to help schools choose one best suited to their needs.

Ofqual (2015) A and AS level assessment objectives

Ofqual (2018) Get the facts: AS and A level reform

Rawlings Smith, E. (2017) ‘Post-16 geography’ in Handbook of Secondary Geography. Sheffield: Geographical Association.

Rawling, E. (2016) ‘The geography curriculum 5-19: What does it all mean?‘, Teaching Geography, 41, 1, pp. 6-9.

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