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Link your answer to the
question - remember the
Golden Rule (see top of
page 17).
Use precise geographical
terminology - credit is given
for a good geographical
Write in logical, well-
planned paragraphs.
Do not regurgitate well-
rehearsed answers - you
must adapt and apply
knowledge and
u nderstand i ng.
Avoid sweeping,
generalizacions, e.g. the
South of England is rich
and the North is poor.
Avoid phrases using
Communication is not just
about good handwriting- you
must help your teacher or the
examiner to see howyou are
a nsweri ng the question.
For essays
Structure the answerin
Practise writing briei
punchy introductions and
Include some keywords
from the question in everY
Use maps and diagrams.
Essays musl contain facts.
data, information
do not
use vague and trivialized
media comment.
Read to the end of each
question sentence and
underline the command
Write an essay plan but do
it quickly in exam
For structured questions
Use all the resources
Be prepared to use
geographical skills.
Practise map skills.
Understand the difference
between human and
physical factors.
Develop techniques for
analysis of trends in data
and distributions on maps.
Read all the words in the
question and underline
the command words.
Be specific and precise.
ln the AS syllabusyou will be
I a rge ly a n swe ri ng stru ctu red
questions. ln A2 you will need
both. Remember: the content
does not change
just the way
you use it.
a question
The first five minutes in the exam hall are the most important too man5r candidates interpret the
question title poorly and so structure their answers incorrectly. Thcre is very little in the content of
A-level Ceography that is diflicult to understand. But how to use this information in the heat of the
exam hall or even for a homeworh exercise is much more diflicult. Sections Trn'o and Three of this
book will help you to interpret A-levei questions.
Thinking about the question
Long questions lihe essays and the linal sections of
structured questions are always carelully chosen.
Usually the basic topic or theme is broad, but one or
two helrn'ords in the title narrow the question's
scope. It is these words that are often missed by
students. Look at this quote from arr A-level
factual information in most essays was
very good. There is, however, considerable
evidence to suggest that candidates are Iailing
to spot the command words
explain, outline ...] of the questions. Many
essays seem to be written as if the candidate
was being asked lbr everything they know on a
topic. The best essays are more selective and
recognize that the title deiermines r,l'hat is
going to be relevant to the essay and what is
Deconstructing a question
Look at the way this question has been deconstructed using the
keyword approach. You must do this for every long question,
Focus: this is not
abour shopping
centres in general
but about their
'rapid growth'
- ------------>
you musc grve
evidence for this.
Topic: the CBD
must be defined
and discussed
this is the major
One extremely useful technique in making sure you are aware of
what the question wants from you, is to underiine what you think
are the keywords or phrases of the title. These include:
Command words
these words teil you what the examlner
wants you to do with the information in your essay; there are
many command words, each with a distinct meaning which you
should learn (look at the next page, Cornrnand words, which Iists
the most commonly used command words).
Theme/topic this is what the question is about; students often
see this n ord
it could be
'periglaciation' *
write out everything they know about the topic. Remember: the
examiner r,r'ill always try to narrow the theme down in some wav
and you must spot hor,u
this word or phrase is rrery important; it wiil show you
how the broad geographical theme is to be narrowed for the
words like 'socioeconomic'
are focus
Topic: specific detail is needed on our-of-
cown shopping centres
they must be
defined in your introduction.
'The rapid growth af out-of-town
shopping centres is causing the decfine
of the CBD.' Drscuss this statement with
reference to one or more Britt'sh cities.
Command word: 'Discuss' suggesrs thar
there are arguments for and against the
- you mus! give both sides.
Focus: this is noc a
discussion of the CBD
but an essay about
whether they have
Focus: the title is directing you
to use case scudies from
Britain; no credic would be
given ifyou used a European
or US example.
Exam hints
I Choose the right question for you:
have you done a similar question?
do you prefer broad 25-mark essays or more structured questions?
2 If the question has a broad title then be specific
this usually means relating
your answer to detailed case studies.
3 If the question is structured (a, b, c ...)then mahe surc you do all the parts.
4 Remember the Golden Rule
the person marking your response should be
able to spot the keywords from your answer.
When faced with any question, the first thing you should do is identify the keywords of the essay
title. These will include the theme of the question but also the command words. Command words
tell you what the examiner wants you to do with the information. The table below gives some of
the more commonly used command words.
word Explanation
Exolain the reasons for -
here the marks are
given for explanation rather chan description.
Account for che changes in che UK's urban policy
from 1 960 to the present.
Analyse ldentifl, the main characteristics and rate the
factors with respect to importance.
Analyse the economic effects of regional policy in an
area ofyour choice.
Assess Examine closely with a view to measuring or
'weighing up' a particular si[uation - strengths/
weaknesses; for and against.
Assess the success ofcoastal management using one
named case study.
Comment on This calls for a statement to be assessed; you
need to put both sides ofthe argument.
Comment on the view that desertification is caused
by human rather than physical factors.
Compare ldentifr similarities and. differences berween two
or more things.
Compare the impact of urbanization of LEDCs and
Contrast ldentiSz the differences between two or more
Contrast the effects ofearthquakes and volcanoes
on the developed and developing world.
Define Cive a clear meaning; the length of your answer
will deoend on the number of marks allocated.
Define river discharge.
Describe Say what something is like: identifl, trends Describe the diagram below.
Discuss Similar to dssess - usually comes at che end of
a quote.
'Clobal warming is a myth.' Discuss
Evaluate See assess.
Evaluate che success offlood management schemes.
Emmine Boch description and explanation Examine the atcempts by governments to control
population growth.
Explain Give reasons why something happens. Explain the relationship between river discharge and
sediment load.
This calls for you to put both sides of an
How far is it true to say that inner-city decline is due
to economic rather than social factors?
lllustrate Use specific examples to suPPort a statement. lllustrate the ways debt makes development difficult
in some LEDCs.
Cive evidence to support your statements. What is the most important factor influencing the
location ofthe iron and steel industry?Justifiyour
List State che factors, with no explanation or
List the ways a river erodes.
Outline Describe and explain, with the greater emphasis
on description.
Outline the effects of counterurbanization on one
named village.