How hard is GCSE Geography?

How hard is GCSE Geography?

Power means happiness; power means hard work and sacrifice. 

Beyoncé Knowles

You will be hard pressed to find someone who wants to work hard to get a positive outcome.  ‘Hard’- work is more about what you are willing to put in. That will determine the difficulty of any subject that you may choose at GCSE. In this blogpost, we aim to go through some key questions that will help you to determine whether GCSE Geography is the ‘right’ subject for you. So, if you are a parent or a conscientious student in Year 8 or Year 9 continue reading.

What does Geography offer?

Geography is the study of the Physical and Human Environment. There are wide range of topics that are covered at GCSE. Regardless of which Geography Specification (2016) you will study, you will need to be able to demonstrate the following:

–    Knowledge of locations, places, processes, environments and different scales

–    Geographical understanding of:

o    concepts and how they are used in relation to places, environments and processes;

o    the interrelationships between places, environments and processes

–    Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate geographical information and issues and to make judgements.

–    Select, adapt and use a variety of skills and techniques to investigate questions and issues and communicate findings.

In Physical Geography, you will cover topics such as: Weather & Climate, Coasts, Rivers, Glaciation, Ecosystems, Deserts, Rainforests.

In Human Geography, you will cover topics such as: Changing urban environments and cities, global development, energy management, water management and resource management.

With the new specifications (2016), you will also need to conduct human and physical geography fieldwork. In this, you will learn about the different fieldwork methodologies, how to present and analyse data you will collect. This will help you to learn how to apply a variety of fieldwork skills and techniques.

Where can I get advice?

Your Geography teacher will be able to give you the most up to date and detailed advice about studying the subject. If you explore what the course offers and then take any questions you have to make a more informed choice.

The Careers Office will be able to give you advice on what options will help you in the near future. You should keep one eye on your potential A-Level choices, as well as, what you might be considering to study at university.

Your parents have your best interests at heart. Involve them in your decisions and they can give you a more broader perspective on future careers.

Talk to your friends about what you are considering taking for GCSE. Be open minded and see what they are thinking and how it ties in with what they want to do in the future. Remember, you need to make a decision that works best for you.

How can I choose the right option?

There are many ways to approach this important question. Here is a list of things that will help you to make a more informed decision:

  • Make a list of all the things you enjoy in that subject and a list of the things you do not. Do the same with the subjects which you are also considering as an option and then compare this list. The list that has the most ‘positives’ overall is probably the best option for you to take.
  • Find your test results and reports in Y8 & 9. Work out your marks in Geography, how do they compare to your other subjects? How will this tie into something that you want to study later?
  • Talk to your peers in the year above studying the subject, particularly those who are doing well in the subject. Ask you Geography teacher to recommended someone to talk to about it with you.
  • Download the specification and look at the content of the syllabus. Would you enjoy studying those specific topics? What skills will you require to do well in this subject? How do they compare to what you have already learned?

Enjoy what you do the most as this will help you the most when you are finding it the hardest. Remember, you are committing to choosing something to study for two years. You can’t drop out. Geography is regarded as a ‘facilitating’ subject and it will put you in a better place for when you go on to study at A-level and universities regard the subject highly.

Is there coursework?

With the new GCSE specifications in 2016, there are no coursework (previously known as Controlled Assessment) requirements. Therefore you do not have to write a research report on a topic of your choice. However, you will have to learn how to setup a field work investigation in both the human and physical geography context. All the new GCSE Specifications have a Skills Paper which will be based on the fieldwork you will do during your studies.

What field studies trips are there on offer?

Have a look at the trips that are on offer. Currently, at GCSE, it is compulsory to go on human and physical field trip. This may be in your local area, somewhere nationally or perhaps if you are lucky enough your school may also offer additional field trips which go beyond what the course requires.

Where can I get help for GCSE Geography?

Your teachers are your first point of call. You should ask them questions in the class. If this is not possible, seek them out at break or lunchtime and ask them for help. Geography teachers are highly qualified to teach their subjects. They will help you to understand in a different way if possible. If you have dyslexia or any other difficulties, make sure that you talk to your teachers about it so that they can prepare materials for you, particularly when it comes to your exams.

How useful is GCSE advice on online student forums?

There are some students forums where you can post to get advice. Advice from these forums is based on students currently studying, not studying or studying it at A-Level. In most cases, it is pitching the value of one subject against another based on their personal experiences. In some cases, advice is being given based on their friend’s experience and not their own. Remember, each individual’s circumstances, from which school they go to, their experiences with teachers (which will vary), the course they are doing, where they have got their advice from will vary from your personal circumstances. Ultimately, you need to make a decision on your circumstances. Seek support from your teachers and parents first before you start consulting other sources.

Beyond GCSE

In some schools and colleges, you may be able to pick up Geography having not done it at GCSE. However, this will not be easy, as the courses presume GCSE knowledge and unless you are a self-motivator you may find the concepts and theories being covered challenging.


Overall, for any subject you may be studying, you will need to put effort into your work to get the best results. Geography has an excellent balance between science and the humanities subjects, so it will complement both Science based choices, as well as, History or a Language. Geography is also considered a rigorous subject to study and will be considered highly by universities.

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