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Why Geography?

We live in a world of amazing beauty, infinite complexity and rigorous challenge. Geography is the subject which opens the door to this dynamic world and prepares each one of us for the role of global citizen in the 21st century.

To study geography is to have an appreciation of how places and landscapes are formed, how people and environments interact, what consequences arise from our everyday decisions, and what a diverse range of cultures and societies exist and interconnect. Geography is a subject which builds on personal experiences, helping you to formulate questions, develop intellectual skills and find answers to issues affecting your lives. It introduces you to distinctive investigative tools such as maps, fieldwork and the use of powerful digital communication technologies.

Geography opens your eyes to the beauty and wonder around you and acts as a source of inspiration and creativity. More than this, it ensures that you fully appreciate the complexity of attitudes and values which shape the way we use and misuse the environment. Through geography, people learn to value and care for the planet and all its inhabitants.

In our ever changing and uncertain world, geographers, with this diverse set of skills are becoming more and more valued. It can lead on to a broad set of career options including experiencing and working in or with other countries. Geography is relevant, up-to-date and is an exciting subject to study. So many of the current world problems boil down to geography, and we need the geographers of the future to help us understand them. We know you are up to the challenge.

Summary of content

The WJEC GCE AS and A level in Geography encourages learners to apply geographical knowledge, theory and skills to the world around them. In turn this will enable learners to develop a critical understanding of the world’s people, places and environments in the 21st Century.

The subject content focuses on the dynamic nature of physical systems and processes in the real world, and on the interactions and connectivity between people, places and environments in both time and space. The core themes are divided into separate physical and human themes. The non-core content draws on both physical and human geography and also people-environment interactions. All themes integrate geographical skills, scale and specialised concepts.


AS - Unit 1 - Changing Landscapes

Written examination: 2 hours

24% of qualification;  96 marks

This unit is divided into two sections:

SECTION A – Changing Landscapes

In this section there is a choice between either Coastal Landscapes or Glaciated Landscapes.

  • 1.1: Coastal Landscapes

This optional theme involves the study of coastal landscapes developed by the interaction of winds, waves and currents and the sediment supply from terrestrial and offshore sources.

  • 1.2: Glaciated Landscapes

This optional theme involves the study of glaciated and formerly glaciated landscapes shaped by valley glaciers and ice sheets, bearing erosional and depositional imprints of the passage of glacier ice in a range of features. The impact of human activity as a factor causing change within glaciated landscape systems will also be studied.

SECTION B – Tectonic Hazards

The questions in this section focus on physical and human geography and the interrelationships between people and environment.  This theme is based on a study of the structure of the Earth and the processes operative within the asthenosphere and lithosphere. These processes and their distribution are closely related to tectonic activity at plate boundaries. Tectonic hazards include primary hazards of volcanic and seismic events and secondary hazards resulting from both.

AS - Unit 2 - Changing Places

Written examination: 1 hour 30 minutes

16% of qualification; 64 marks

This unit is divided into two sections:

SECTION A – Changing Places

This section is compulsory.

  • 2.1 Changing Places

This compulsory theme focuses on places and their dynamic characteristics. While Wales and especially the place(s) where the student lives / lived and / or studies are the context for study, appropriate examples from different regional and national contexts may be used, both in class and in field studies.

SECTION B – Physical and Human Fieldwork Investigation

This compulsory section involves the assessment of physical and human geography fieldwork. Details of geography fieldwork, the six stages of enquiry and geographical skills are given in full in Section 2a and 2b of the specification.

A2 - Unit 3 - Global Systems and Global Governance

Written examination: 2 hours

24% of qualification; 96 marks

This unit covers the following core themes.

SECTION A – Global Systems

This section is compulsory.

  • 3.1 Water and Carbon Cycles

This compulsory theme is based on the physical processes which control the cycling of both water and carbon between land, oceans and the atmosphere.

SECTION B – Global Governance: Change and Challenges

This section is compulsory.

  • 3.2 Global Governance: Change and Challenges

The focus of 3.2.1 to 3.2.5 is processes and patterns of global migration, a global flow which has historically had a major impact on most countries. Technological developments have accelerated migration over time, giving rise to a shrinking world. This brings opportunities and challenges to different localities.

The focus on 3.2.6 to 3.2.10 is the global governance of the Earth’s oceans. Global flows that cross oceans include container shipping, oil tankers, broadband networks and illegal movements of people and goods. The oceans also function as a global commons for waste.

SECTION C – 21st Century Challenges

The assessment in this section will focus on learners’ ability to draw together elements from across the course. Application of knowledge and understanding of appropriate specialised and such key concepts as place, space, scale, sustainability and resilience will all be relevant.

A2 - Unit 4 - Contemporary Themes in Geography

Written examination: 2 hours

16% of qualification; 64 marks

This unit covers the following areas of study in contemporary themes:

SECTION A –Tectonic Hazards

This section is compulsory.

  • 4.1 Tectonic Hazards

This compulsory theme is based on a study of the structure of the Earth and the processes operative within the asthenosphere and lithosphere. These processes and their distribution are closely related to tectonic activity at plate boundaries.

SECTION B – Contemporary Themes in Geography

This section is based on four optional themes. Two optional themes must be selected for study.

  • 4.2 Ecosystems

This optional theme addresses ecosystems. It has been argued that human well-being depends on the services provided by ecosystems (from The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment).

  • 4.3 Economic Growth and Challenge: India or China or Development in Sub- Saharan Africa

This optional theme addresses either India or China, two countries with increasing influence globally. It covers the study of the contemporary geography of either India or China and reasons for their emergence as a superpower.

In Sub-Saharan Africa development is influenced by a complex interplay of a variety of physical, economic, political, social and cultural factors that can operate to both promote and hinder the development process. The process of development often results in negative environmental impacts, including desertification, which constitutes a major challenge for many Sub-Saharan African countries.

  • 4.4 Energy Challenges and Dilemmas

This optional theme covers the classification and distribution of energy resources and the physical factors determining their supply. Reasons for the growing demand for energy are explored, together with the issues associated with the management of energy supplies.

  • 4.5 Weather and Climate

This optional theme begins with a global perspective on how the world’s atmospheric systems lead to a variety of distinctive climatic types. It then focuses on the UK to explore how contrasting air masses and variable weather systems lead to one of the most changeable climates in the world.

A2 - Unit 5 - Independent Investigation

Non-exam assessment

20% of qualification; 80 marks

This unit requires a single independent investigation by each learner and involves, but need not be restricted to, fieldwork. The learner must define their research area and their own title. This independent investigation must be based on a question or issue defined and developed by the learner individually to address aims, questions, and / or hypotheses. Learners must support their research area and its context through further literature and background material using secondary data. Appropriate collection, selection and presentation of the learner's own field (primary) data, incorporating appropriate geographical skills must form the basis of the subsequent analysis.

Check out the appendices in the full specification at WJEC for details of the skills you will be developing and examples of fieldwork investigations to give you an idea of what your own original research might be based upon.

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