CIE A Level Geography – Revision Notes & Study Resources

Well done, you’re so close – soon you’ll be taking your CIE A-Level Geography exams! As the exam season gets closer, students often start to feel anxious whilst thinking about how much ground they have to cover to do well in the assessments. But don’t worry, there’s no need to panic! We’re here to help get you on track to ace your exams. The first and most important step will be writing the most thorough and balanced revision plan out there. Go through your topics and plan and time the upcoming weeks so that you have sufficient room to cover all of the content you need to. Once you have this well-structured plan, all that’s left to do is follow it and before you know it, you’ll be walking away with your Geography A-Level certificate! To help you do that here’s all you need to know and how we can help you.

A-Levels are overall very standardised examinations. The core content remains largely similar regardless of the exam board – after all, a volcano is a volcano no matter who grades your exams! However, there are small differences between exam boards that you need to keep an eye out for. When it comes to the CIE Geography exams, unlike with other boards there is no fieldwork investigation component. This means that you will be focusing on the end of year exams only and not working on any coursework throughout the year. It also means that more is at stake percentagewise in your exams and you need to be prepared for that.

About the Board

Technically, the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CIE) board is one of the oldest exam boards in the country. It was originally founded as a division of the University of Cambridge in 1858. It remains under the university auspices and continues to offer secondary school certifications. The CIE A-Level Geography course is a ‘linear’ subject meaning that students take all exams at the end of the academic year and not throughout it. If you are taking the full A-Level, however, you do have the option of staggering your exams throughout the two years of study.

How long will the course take to complete?

The CIE board specifies that the AS Level Geography course is designed for approximately 180 guided learning hours, and that the A-Level Geography course is designed for around 360 guided learning hours. This means that the AS Level will take one year to complete, and that the A-Level will take two years to complete. It is up to you which you choose, but you are advised to think in the long term when making these choices as many universities, jobs and apprenticeships will require a minimum set of A-Levels from you (and geography could be one of them).

Is any prior knowledge required?

The CIE board strongly recommends for students taking the CIE A-Level Geography course to have previously completed the Cambridge IGCSE Geography course (or equivalent). However, this is a recommendation and not a strict requirement.

What will I study?

As geography is a very large academic field, it is generally split into two branches: physical geography and human geography. During either your AS or A-Level Geography course you will cover bits of both. For the physical component of your AS Level Geography course, you must cover hydrology and fluvial geomorphology; atmosphere and weather; and, rocks and weathering. Meanwhile, for the human component of your AS Level Geography course, you must cover population; migration; and, settlement dynamics.

If you opted to take the full A-Level you will cover all of the above topics and you will also select two of the following physical geography topics: tropical environments; coastal environments; hazardous environments; and, hot arid and semi-arid environments. You will also select two of the following human geography topics: production, location and change; environmental management; global interdependence; and, economic transition.

What is the examination process like?

You have three options to choose from when taking CIE A-Level Geography. The first is that you take just AS Level Geography and take all of your exams at the end of the academic year. In this case, you will sit two written exams, each lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes and each counting for 50% of your AS Level Geography grade.

The second is that you take A-Level Geography, but that you take the AS batch of exams at the end of the first year of study, and the rest of the assessments at the end of the second academic year. In this case, you would sit the same first two exams as those taking AS Level Geography, except that they will only count for 25% of your final grade each. Then after studying for another year, you would sit two more papers (Advanced Physical Geography Options and Advanced Human Geography Options) each 1 hour and 30 minutes long and each also counting for 25% of your final A-Level Geography grade.

The third option is that you take A-Level Geography and that you only get assessed at the end of the two academic years (like with most other exam boards). In this scenario, you will take all four of the required written assessments at the end of two years of study. They will be structured in the exam same way and once again each will count for 25% of your final grade.

Study Tips

It is ideal for you to take a few hours each day to revise for your CIE Geography exams. We advise that it be three to four hours per day. This is the amount of time considered optimal as it is the perfect balance between working long enough so that you get to enter the deep learning stage, but not working so long that you get to the burnout stage. If you are easily distracted, you are also advised to stay away from the internet and television during revision hours. Try keeping those activities as a reward for the end of revision sessions and you’re likely to see yourself becoming more efficient.

You should be reading through your textbooks in detail but reading alone is definitely not enough. Instead try coupling reading sessions with time spent writing flashcards and creating mind maps. That way you’ll engage actively with your content and not only will you spice up your revision sessions but you’re more likely to retain the information you need to in order to ace your exams. Don’t forget to do some timed practice papers by using past exam papers. This will go a long way in helping you learn how to manage your time during an exam. At A-Level Geography we are rooting for you to get the very best scores in your exams! But we’re not just here to cheer, we also have plenty of engaging preparation material waiting for you. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!