Accessibility links

Geology A Level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

Geologists need a good grounding in physics and chemistry, and biology underpins the study of fossils, so if you are considering studying other sciences and would like to see different ways that they can be applied to the world around you (both in the laboratory and through fieldwork), then A Level Geology may be the subject for you. 

In your first year you will investigate the Earth from its meteorite origins through to the range of rocks found in its different layers and surface environments. You will study the immense forces that circulate rocky material through the inside of the Earth and move the surface plates around, leaving huge cracks and folds behind as evidence of past activity. You will discover how geologists need a multitude of different skills to accurately measure and describe features in the environment. Through field trips in Cornwall, further afield in the UK, and even abroad, you will develop these skills for yourself.

By the time you reach your second year you will be able to apply your basic knowledge and skills to many geological situations. You will use geological maps and cross sections to investigate the difficulties of finding and extracting resources, from water and gas to oil and metals. You will study how and where to construct dams and reservoirs, analyse and debate the problems of constructing roads, tunnels and coastal defences, and consider the comparative benefits of different sources of power from coal to geothermal sources.

In your second year you will also study the evolution of life on Earth and how geologists can use this knowledge to re-construct a geological timescale stretching back a billion years. The evolution of life has constantly reacted to changes in environment and climate so you will also study the causes and driving forces behind changes in Earth’s climate and the evidence we have for these changes, locked away beneath your feet. All this information is written in the rocks and you will learn how to read them!

Course content

Topics studied include Earth structure and tectonics, rocks and processes, the environment and geological engineering and palaeontology. Geological knowledge underpins important climatic and environmental research, the availability and exploitation of natural resources, and the monitoring of, and managing the impacts of geological hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. 

No prior learning in geology is required for this course.

There will also be a range of day trips throughout the 2 year course to allow students to see examples of what they have learned in the classroom, and also to learn essential fieldwork skills. Trips take in coastal sections around Cornwall and Devon. Plus a 3 day residential trip to the Jurassic Coast in early November and an optional foreign trip at Easter.

PLEASE NOTE: Where a physical disability may make access to fieldwork difficult then it is still possible to complete the course without having to take part in field activities. Please contact the college for more details.

Year 1

Unit 1 – Earth Structure and Global Tectonics (exam): A study of the Earth’s composition, structure and how it works including meteorites, earthquakes, plate tectonics and geological structures.

Unit 2 – Rocks: Processes and Products (exam): A study of different types of rocks and the environments in which they are formed including volcanic, oceanic and continental settings.

Unit 3 – AS Practical Skills (coursework): A mixture of work in the field and the lab, and integrated into the other modules.

Year 2

Unit 4 – Environmental and Economic Geology (exam): A detailed study of water supply, energy resources, mineral deposits and engineering geology including coastal defences, dam construction and tunnelling.

Unit 5 – Evolution of Life, Earth and Climate (exam): An extensive study of fossil evidence and other dating techniques to construct a history of the Earth, as seen in the rocks, to include evolution, changing climates and mass extinction events.

Unit 3 – A2 Practical Skills (coursework): Building on skills gained in the first year of study, this is a mixture of more advanced of work in the field and the lab, and integrated into the other modules.

Entry requirements

Minimum of 5 GCSEs grades A*- C including at least GCSE B in relevant science subjects (i.e. Core Science and Additional Science OR two separate science subjects, e.g. Physics and Chemistry), at least GCSE grade B in English and a GCSE grade C in Mathematics.


Your achievement in this subject is dependent upon excellent attendance, punctuality and effort. You will learn in a friendly atmosphere, using a variety of assessment methods:

  • You will be assessed through end of topic tests under timed conditions in class, regular homework questions and through completion of class activities. You will then be given detailed feedback on your progress.
  • Investigative skills and understanding are a vital part of the scientific process and you will be expected develop your practical proficiency throughout the course.
  • You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your tutor.
  • You will undertake mock examinations on each unit in advance of your final exams.
  • You will sit formal AS/A2 Level exams at the end of each year of study as well as completing coursework throughout the duration of the course. The A Level Geology course is modular, and all assessed units from both years of study contribute to the A Level qualification. For AS Level, only the assessed units from the first year of study contribute to the qualification

Future opportunities

The A Level Geology course is designed to lead to Higher Education. Geologists are required in the oil industry, mining, hydrogeology (water resources), civil engineering, public services, scientific research and education and are currently in great demand worldwide, so ultimate employment prospects are very good.

Further information

You will be expected to undertake at least 4-6 hours of independent study time per week. Throughout the year you will be able to access additional support through drop-in sessions, dedicated revision workshops, tailored 1-to-1 provision, as well as a variety of additional opportunities to stretch and challenge the most able students. We encourage you to proactively engage with the support available in order to reach your full potential.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Truro and Penwith College directly.

Last updated date: 15 June 2016

Key information