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Geography A Level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

You will make links between such varied geographical concepts through three synoptic themes embedded in the subject content. These three synoptic themes are:

  • Players: Who are the different players involved in geographical issues and decisions? Why do some players have greater influence than others?
  • Attitudes and actions: Why do attitudes to geographical issues vary so greatly? How does this influence actions?
  • Futures and uncertainties: There are contrasting approaches when making decisions about geographical issues that will affect people in the future. The outcomes of choices made today are uncertain for a range of reasons.

These over-arching themes will allow you to achieve a holistic understanding of Geography. Throughout the course, you will develop confidence in geographical skills (including fieldwork), which are embedded in teaching and learning. The assessment of your geographical skills will be integrated with the assessment of your knowledge and understanding of Geography.

Michael Palin (former President of the Royal Geographical Society) has written that “Geography explains the past, illuminates the present and prepares us for the future. What could be more important than that?” Inspired by your understanding of the importance of Geography as one of the key disciplines relevant to understanding the world’s changing places and peoples, you will also develop a sense of achievement as you grow as a critical, independent thinker and as an informed and engaged citizen.

Course content

Paper 1 - (2 hour externally-assessed written examination; 30% of the A Level)

To prepare for Paper 1, you will study the following topics:

Tectonic Processes and Hazards - Understanding of the causes of tectonic hazards is key to both increasing the degree to which they can be managed, and putting in place successful responses that can mitigate social and economic impacts and allow humans to adapt to hazard occurrence.

Coastal Landscapes and Change - Coastal landscapes are increasingly under threat from both physical processes and human activities, and there is a need for holistic and sustainable management of these areas.

The Water Cycle and Water Insecurity - Water plays a key role in supporting life on Earth. Changes to the most important stores of water are a result of both physical and human processes. Water insecurity is becoming a global issue with serious consequences and there is a range of different approaches to managing water supply.

The Carbon Cycle and Energy Security - A balanced carbon cycle is important in maintaining planetary health. Changes to the most important stores of carbon and carbon fluxes are a result of physical and human processes. Reliance on fossil fuels has caused significant changes to carbon stores and contributed to climate change resulting from anthropogenic carbon emissions.

Climate Change Futures - Climate and climate change provide a context for developing an understanding of the links between the water and carbon cycles and the role of feedbacks within and between the two cycles. Future climate change poses a serious threat to the health of the planet and there are a range of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Paper 2 - (2 hour externally-assessed written examination; 30% of the A Level)

To prepare for Paper 2, you will study the following topics:

  • Globalisation - Globalisation and global interdependence continue to accelerate, resulting in changing opportunities, inequalities and cultural impacts. Recognising tensions in communities and pressures on environments will help players implement sustainable solutions.
  • Regenerating Places - Urban and rural regeneration impact variably on people. The relative success of regeneration and rebranding for individuals and groups depends on the extent to which lived experience, perceptions, and attachments to places are changed.
  • Superpowers - Superpowers and emerging superpowers have a very significant impact on the global economy, global politics and the environment. The spheres of influence between these powers are frequently contested, resulting in geopolitical implications.
  • Health, Human Rights and Intervention - Traditional definitions of development are based largely on economic measures but have been increasingly challenged with both human health and human rights being seen as significant measures of the progress of a society. The impact of geopolitical interventions on both human health and human rights is variable and contested, which can lead to inequalities and injustice.

Paper 3 - (1 hour 45 minute externally-assessed written examination;  20% of the A Level)

Paper 3 will provide you with a resource booklet containing information about a geographical issue within a place-based context. This issue will be rooted in topics studied for Papers 1 and 2. To prepare for Paper 3, you will develop your ability to draw synoptically on knowledge and understanding from different parts of the course.

Coursework: Independent Investigation

(3,000-4,000 word internally-assessed and externally-moderated written report; 20% of the A Level)

The coursework requires you to define a question for independent investigation, relating to any aspect of Geography contained within the specification. Your investigation will incorporate fieldwork data (collected individually and/or as part of a group) and research and/or secondary data. Your fieldwork may be either human, physical or integrated physical-human. You will use both quantitative and qualitative data to support your investigation as appropriate to the particular environment and/or location. Your report will evidence independent analysis and evaluation of data, presentation of data findings and extended writing.

You may also choose to take a stand-alone AS Level in Geography, which includes a selection of topics from the A Level course (without the coursework component).

Entry requirements

The basic requirement is five GCSEs at grade C. GCSE Geography, whilst very useful, is not a requirement (although the AS/A Level Geography builds on the understanding developed at GCSE, avoiding unnecessary repetition. It also ensures that learners new to the subject are appropriately supported). A keen interest in the world’s changing places and peoples is essential.


Your high level of achievement in AS/A Level Geography will depend on excellent attendance, punctuality and effort. You will learn in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, using a variety of assessment methods:

  • You will be assessed regularly on written work that is conducted either as homework or under timed conditions in class. You will be given clear feedback on your progress and achievable targets for further improvements.
  • Discussions and presentations are a vital part of our assessment process and you will be expected to contribute to these.
  • You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your lecturer.
  • You will undertake mock examinations in advance of your final examinations.
  • You will be formally examined on each topic that you study. The three externally-assessed written examinations are sat at the end of the second year (although you will sit the two externally-assessed AS Level written examinations at the end of the first year to ensure progress). The papers may include short open questions, open response questions, calculations (calculators may be used), resource-linked questions and extended writing questions. Coursework in the second year is compulsory.

Future opportunities

A qualification in Geography is highly valued by many universities and employers alike. This is well-documented on the Royal Geographical Society website. Geography is also an excellent subject to complement many other courses, such as Environmental Studies, Geology and Sociology.

Further information

We encourage all students to read widely within Geography, especially those who wish to study the subject at undergraduate level. To support this, we offer extensive and varied “further study” resources relating both to and beyond the specification. We also offer annual field study visits to Iceland, Toronto and Swaziland for valuable curriculum enrichment.

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

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