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Planning a geography A level course

This page provides advice for choosing an A level specification that meets the needs of your school, along with guidance on creating a coherent A level curriculum using your chosen specification.


Choosing an A level geography specification

All geography A level specifications must address the same DfE content requirements and Ofqual’s general regulations for A levels and for A level geography, and all specifications have common features, such as aims and objectives, subject content and concepts and assessment components. However, there is also considerable variation between specifications and it is therefore important for subject leaders to choose a specification which best meets the needs of candidates in each school. The GA Secondary Phase Committee have provided some advice to help:

  • Be open to change – don’t base the decision solely on sticking with the Awarding Organisation that your department has always used.
  • Involve the whole department in the decision.
  • Identify a list of ‘must haves’ before choosing your specification – then rank individual specifications against your criteria.
  • Consider what is appropriate for you, your students and your department ethos.
  • Ask your current A level students to consider which specification would be best – make use of student voice.
  • Look at the available assessment material and consider whether or not you like the style of assessment.
  • Look at other aspects of the Awarding Organisation package including subject support, resources and post-results services.
  • Look at the case studies and examples which are required by each Awarding Organisation (and understand the difference between the two!).
  • Telephone the Awarding Organisation and ask the subject specialist any queries that you have.
  • Devote a department meeting to discussing which specification would be best – provide an overview and give other teachers time to read and digest before discussing the options.
  • Once you have decided upon a specification have a look at the other specifications to see if there are overlaps and therefore adaptable resources.
  • Talk to other subject leaders to see what they are doing and to share planning.
  • Go online to share ideas and resources and to ask questions.


Further information

GA – A level specification summary

GA – choosing an A level specification. A table aiding comparison between specifications to help schools choose one best suited to their needs.

AQA – Geography A level specification

Edexcel – Geography A level specification

Eduqas – Geography A level specification

OCR – Geography A level specification


Creating a coherent A level curriculum

A ‘coherent’ A level curriculum is one which is underpinned by clear rationale and principles appropriate to the school and its students (see curriculum planning section) and 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 reading

Rawlings-Smith (2017) Post-16 geography, Chapter 19, Handbook of Secondary Geography.

Rawling (2016) ‘The geography curriculum 5-19: What does it all mean?’, Teaching Geography


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