All you need to know about taking a Geography GCSE!

4 mins
April 20, 2022
Did you know that continents shift at about the same rate as your fingernails grow? Or that ninety per cent of Earth's population lives in the Northern Hemisphere? Or that Australia is wider than the moon? Well, these are the sorts of facts that you could learn by studying for your Geography GCSE.

Geography is a fascinating subject, not only will you learn about physical landscapes, but you'll also learn about how people can affect those landscapes and about the systems we can put in place to make our world more sustainable. 

So how do you know if geography is right for you? In this article, we're going to try to answer any questions you may have. First up…

Is geography GCSE hard? 

Geography falls under the field of humanities, so if you like humanities, other GCSE options you might be considering taking are History, law or religious studies. Thankfully Geography has a pretty high pass rate among the humanities subjects. 

Having said all that, for your Geography GCSE you do have to memorise some facts and they come in the form of case studies. So…

What is a case study? 

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject; in geography the subject of the case study is usually either an event, a place or a phenomenon. Understanding and being able to use case studies proves that you can apply the theories you're learning to the world around you. When revising and memorising case studies you need to keep in mind the five W's: 

  • What happened?
  • When did it happen?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Why did it happen?
  • Who was affected by it happening?

How to revise for geography GCSE?

The best way of knowing how to revise for an exam is to understand its structure; there's no point in memorising a whole load of key terms when really you should be focusing on essay structure. So let's have a look at the format - the Geography GCSE is usually split into 3 assessed parts. Let's take the exam board AQA as an example:

  • Paper one, living with the physical environment - this paper explores the natural side of geography, looking at physical processes and characteristics. It makes up 35% of your GCSE grade.
  • Paper two, challenges in the human environment - this paper focuses on the human elements of geography; economic disparity, urban challenges, resource management and similar topics. This paper also makes up 35% of the final mark.
  • Paper three, geographical applications - this section of the GCSE is about applying geographical knowledge to experiment and going through the process of carrying out fieldwork to generate meaningful results. It makes up the final 30% of the grade.

Is History or Geography better for GCSE?

This one is a tricky one and entirely down to personal preference and what you want to do later on in life, whether it be in higher education or the working world! 

Some students have said that the volume of content for both GCSEs can be fairly hard to manage (with History, you have to memorise dates, whereas in Geography, you have to memorise case studies). However, they have gone on to say that the exam format in History is a little more challenging as it's more about technique and a well-balanced argument. In contrast, geography just requires you to get a lot of facts across. 

History has the wow factor when it comes to applying for universities and A-levels - academics will undoubtedly be more impressed with top marks in History than geography. This is due to how difficult the subject is perceived to be and how your essays need to be structured in order to be successful. If History is the subject for you, then the idea of going to sectors/industries like politics, law, journalism, publishing, and academia are probably all up your street too.

On the other hand, geography probably has closer links to the current job market. If you love the idea of protecting, maintaining and sustaining the world around you, then there are loads of jobs available and the jobs market is only set to grow as new technology becomes available. 

Our advice is to look at your future career and how much time investment you can afford to revise for each optional subject. You might struggle with maths and want to dedicate as much time as you can to that, or you want to take the creative route with your GCSE options, so try to take these things into account when firming up your options. 

What jobs can a geography GCSE get you?

While no single GCSE can guarantee you a job, getting a high grade in your geography GCSE can take you to many places. Achieving a high grade shows you've mastered skills within data like collection, evaluation and planning. As the Geography GCSE covers physical and human geography, you'll gain an appreciation for big issues (and industries) like sustainability and clean energy.   

Below we've listed a load of roles that might interest you. While each role might require some further study, a Geography GCSE is a great starting point for all of these:

  • Astronomer
  • Cartographer
  • Commercial/residential surveyor
  • Environmental consultant
  • Geographical information systems officer
  • International aid/development worker
  • Landscape architect
  • Logistics and distribution manager
  • Market researcher
  • Nature conservation officer
  • Planning and development surveyor
  • Political risk analyst
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Social researcher
  • Sustainability consultant
  • Tourism officer
  • Town planner
  • Transport planner

A GCSE in Geography could also be useful for apprenticeships in surveying, horticulture, agriculture, environmental or land-based engineering or BTEC's in sustainability or environmental conservation.

How can we help? 

While we don't currently have any resources suited solely to helping you get an excellent grade in your geography GCSE, we do have a whole range of work experience opportunities that we're sure you'll enjoy. If you've completed your Geography GCSE and are thinking what's next? Then why not check out our sustainability work experience programme? It covers the various career paths available in sustainability and there's a whole load of quizzes and activities in there too!

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