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Geography A-Level at Burnham Grammar School

Course description

Geography at AS Level allows students to study several of the topic areas covered at GCSE Level, but in far greater depth. The „Global Challenges‟ unit covers a diverse range of topics, including globalisation, migration, natural hazards and climate change. Students will address a broad variety of questions, using contemporary examples to inform their understanding. Students can expect to answer questions such as these, either through independent research or presenting in groups: In an increasing interconnected and interdependent world, with increasing flows of information and people, should rates of migration be curbed? Is climate change part of a natural cycle, and how much are humans to blame?

In addition to this, students get the opportunity to conduct both human and physical fieldwork at AS Level, which is based on a week-long residential to Liverpool. Students investigate how both urban and rural areas are being rebranded (including Liverpool), as well as how „crowded coasts‟ are being threatened, protected and managed (including Blackpool and Formby Point sand dunes).

At A2 Level, students are able to study a wide range of fascinating issues that face our „Contested Planet‟. The six topics covered include: „Energy Security‟, „Water Conflicts‟, „Biodiversity under Threat‟, „Superpower Geographies‟, „Bridging the Development Gap‟, and „The Technological Fix?‟. A further requirement at A2 Level is to complete an independent research task, which enables students to study a human or physical topic of particular interest to them in depth. There is also an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Iceland and experience all of the different aspects covered in A Level Geography.

As a department, we pride ourselves on the breadth of opportunities that we offer. In addition to the residential trips above, students are given the opportunity to attend lectures given by leading academics at Eton College, which are run by the Environmental Society there. We have also organised visits to universities to watch lecture series and conferences, enhancing students‟ understanding of the course. Students are given the opportunity to join our Ambassador Programme, which enables Sixth Form students to coach and mentor pupils in the lower year groups, as well as promoting the subject to the wider student body. Our international school partnerships in China and Nigeria highlight the global connections that we have, and many students in the school have the opportunity to engage in partnership activities. We subscribe to „Geographical‟ magazine as well, which means students have access to current and relevant case studies.

Course content

There are two exams at AS Level. Unit 1 (Global Challenges) is worth 60% of the AS mark (30% of the final A Level). This unit is comprised of two topics: „Going Global‟ and „World at Risk‟. This exam tests both short-answer and data response questions, alongside two longer essay questions. Unit 2 (Geographical Investigations) is worth 40% of the AS grade (20% of the final A Level). Students‟ research one physical („Crowded Coasts‟) and one human („Rebranding Places‟) topic, based on the fieldwork visit to Liverpool. This exam requires students to answer two questions, each divided into three parts, which require longer responses.

There are also two exams at A2 Level. Unit 3 (Contested Planet) accounts for 60% of the A2 mark (30% of the final A Level). Students will select two topics from five and write two data stimulus based essays. The five questions to choose from are based on five of the six topics studied in Unit 3. The sixth topic will be examined in a question of three parts, and will be based on pre-released material, which will be available to students‟ eight working weeks before the exam. Unit 4 (Geographical Research) is worth 40% of the A2 grade (20% of the final A Level). Unit 4 is also based on pre-released materials, but students will have chosen a particular focus to study in the final months of the course. This will be assessed through one long essay question.

Entry requirements

You must achieve at least 368 GCSE capped points (i.e. your best 8 subjects) for entry to the Sixth form. You must also achieve a C grade in English Language GCSE and Mathematics GCSE alongside meeting the entry criteria for each individual subject. Option 4 is conditional upon achieving 400+ GCSE capped points. 

GCSE points: A*= 58, A= 52, B= 46, C= 40, D= 34

Subject Specific

GCSE Grade B in Geography


  • Unit 1 AS „Global Challenges‟ exam paper, 1 hour 30 minutes, 90 marks (30% of A Level)
  • Unit 2 AS „Geographical Investigations‟ exam paper, 1 hour 15 minutes, 70 marks (20% of A Level)
  • Unit 3 A2 „Contested Planet‟ exam paper, 2 hours 30 minutes, 90 marks (30% of A Level)
  • Unit 4 A2 „Geographical Research‟ exam paper, 1 hour 30 minutes, 70 marks (20% of A Level)

Future opportunities

You develop a wide range of skills during the A Level Geography course, including the ability to present, analyse, interpret and evaluate a wide range of issues. In addition to this, you will gain skills in conducting fieldwork and be able to apply your understanding in a range of different contexts. You develop knowledge and understanding of a variety of human, physical and environmental processes that are profoundly relevant to life in the 21st Century. The Edexcel specification is issues-based and allows students to have a balance of human, physical and environmental topics, which will help to equip them for life in further education and employment.

Geography can be studied at a large number of universities, either as a single honours degree or a joint honours degree. Most university programmes of study include the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in another country. Geography is a broad based academic discipline, which is well regarded by employers. Geographers have one of the highest rates of graduate employment because of the range of transferable skills you develop in the subject. Some careers that geographers can go into include working in: the development sector; local or national government; the international business world; travel and tourism; Geographical Information Systems; planning/surveying the built environment; teaching; and further research/study.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Burnham Grammar School directly.

Last updated date: 28 April 2015

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