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Geology AS/A2 Level at South Downs College

Course description

Geology is the subject to study if you have ever marvelled at landscapes or wondered how natural substances such as minerals, rocks and fossils have formed.

It is a practical and investigative earth science which includes a number of field trips. These will provide you with valuable skills and will complement other subjects, like Geography and Biology.

It is also very suitable if you are concentrating on Humanities or Arts subjects but you would also like a science qualification.

Course content

AS level – 3 units.

You will study 2 main topics – Global Tectonics (30% of AS marks) and the Rock Cycle (50% of AS marks).

In Global Tectonics, you will learn about the nature of the earth’s interior and investigate plate tectonics. You will discover how plate boundaries and movements are linked to the patterns of earthquakes and volcanic activity around the world. You will also examine a range of geological structures from diagrams, photos and fieldwork.

The Rock Cycle allows you to investigate the processes that form the 3 main groups of rocks – igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. The nature of volcanic eruptions and the resulting hazards will be studied. You will take part in fieldwork and practical exercises to help you to identify a range of rocks and minerals.

The third component is Practical Skills in Geology 1(20% of AS marks); this is effectively coursework and is made up of a practical/fieldwork and an evaluative task.

A2 Level – a further 3 units.

Environmental Geology (30% of A2 marks) covers 4 main topics of applied geology – water supply issues; energy resources such as oil, coal and gas; metallic mineral deposits eg their types and occurrence; and engineering geology eg problems caused by dam construction, tunnelling and road building.

Evolution of Life, Earth and Climate (50% of A2 marks) enables you to investigate a wide range of invertebrate fossils. You will discover how such organisms evolved and adapted to different environments. You will use fossil evidence to interpret how extinct creatures, including dinosaurs, lived and became preserved. The study of climate and sea level changes throughout geological time will make you appreciate analogies with present day concerns!

As in AS, the third component (20% of A2 marks) is Practical Skills in Geology 2, with a further 2 practical and evaluative tasks to complete.

Entry requirements

A minimum of five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including English Language and usually Mathematics.


AS level – two written exams, both involving short, structured questions and a short piece of writing.

The first paper (1 hour) is taken in January of the first year. The second paper (1_ hours) is sat in May. There is also a third skills paper, involving two pieces of practical/ fieldwork and investigative tasks (worth 20% of the AS marks) which is taken at various stages in the first year.

A2 level – two written exams and one skills paper (20% of A2 marks) i.e. the same format as in the AS year, but involving A2 topics.

You will also sit the first A2 paper in January of the second year.


Financial information

Fieldwork and visits are an integral part of the course and may incur some charges.

Future opportunities

A good A level pass in a range of subjects will assist you to progress to higher education or appropriate employment.

Geology is a science subject, so it can be used for a wide range of degree courses or you can seek employment in such activities as Mining and Exploration, oil and water companies, engineering, volcanology or hazard management, to name a few.

Further information

Essential books, equipment and geological specimens will be provided by the College.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact South Downs College directly.

Last updated date: 05 May 2016

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