Exam Support

Lessons to be learned from the summer's GCSE exams - Paper 1 analysis

Vicki Woolven

7th September 2023

In this blog I am going to highlight the key points from the Paper 1 examiner report for AQA GCSE Geography.

Have a read of the previous post that summarises overall performance - https://www.tutor2u.net/geogra...

Section A – The Challenge of Natural Hazards

General comments

  • Low tariff questions were well answered, but the average marks for the higher tariff questions was lower than in 2022
  • Understanding of physical processes was variable20% of students missed the ‘complete the graph question’
  • Some students didn’t develop their own ideas and relied too heavily on the resource (e.g. effects of climate change)
  • Some struggled to work out the median with an even number
  • Good understanding of how wealth links to death toll

6-marker on tropical storm mitigation

  • Good engagement with this question – but evaluation limited
  • Good understanding of prediction and protection methods
  • Some students back up their points with their own examples
  • Best answers had evaluation throughout, not just at the end

9-marker on plate boundary processes

  • Average mark was low Level 2 – many lower achieving students didn’t attempt this at all
  • Some students only described what the diagrams showed but didn’t understand the processes to be able to develop this
  • Lots of misconceptions – confusion over what happens at different plate boundaries and overly simplistic ideas
  • Most students understood which direction the plates moved and what processes followed
  • Some students could describe what was happening but didn’t use the correct terms, e.g. subduction
  • Some students talked about impacts and responses – not credit-worthy
  • The best answers showed a secure understanding of plate tectonic theory (and up-to-date)

Section B – The Living World

General comments

  • Students answered low tariff questions well
  • Limited case study detail/accuracy
  • Misconceptions of some key geographical terms
  • Maths based questions were answered well
  • Clear understanding of food webs and balance
  • Occasional explanation when not required
  • Lots of students couldn’t give an example of a small-scale ecosystem

6-marker on deforestation

  • Not answered as well as expected – reliance on source material and weak development
  • Lots of copying of the text
  • Lots of focus on negative environmental impacts and positive economic impacts – environmental side was argued better, particularly bringing in loss of biodiversity, greenhouse effect and flooding
  • Some good evaluation by higher scoring students

9-marker on economic opportunities in hot deserts or cold environments

  • More students talked about hot deserts in their response
  • A lot of students just used the economic opportunities in the question stem and didn’t develop
  • Some misconceptions – e.g. some talked about the challenges of fishing in the desert!
  • Some application of case study but usually generic responses
  • Some talked about semi-arid areas rather than hot deserts, e.g. the Sahel
  • The best answers talked about the economic opportunities and then linked to the multiplier effect
  • Top students talked about overcoming the challenges to allow development to take place – which gave the discursive evaluative element

Section C – Physical Landscapes of the UK

General comments

  • Quality of answers varied a lot in this section – particularly the 4 and 6 markers
  • Low tariff questions were well answered – particularly photograph and map skills
  • Sequencing of landform development showed good knowledge but specific processes were not expressed well
  • Key terminology linked to specific processes of erosion, deposition and transportation was poorly used
  • Knowledge of hard engineering strategies was good
  • A small number of weaker students attempted to answer all three sections

Coastal landscapes - general comments

  • Only half of students identified the erosional process (despite it being the only one in the options) – many said longshore drift
  • A lot of students didn’t understand what weathering was
  • Most students could work out the distance on the OS map
  • Most students were able to identify erosional features from the photograph
  • Lots of students struggled to explain spit formation and got confused with other landforms – often showing a poor understanding of longshore drift and lacked specific processes

Coastal landscapes - 6 marker on coastal management strategies

  • Most students made a good attempt here – the average mark was well into Level 2
  • Most students recognised the different types of hard engineering
  • Some students talked about soft engineering – not relevant to the question
  • Most students could talk about a range of costs and benefits, and used evidence of cliff collapse further down the coast to back up points (good use of photograph)
  • Some inclusion of own case study knowledge

River landscapes - general comments

  • Students showed confusion between types of erosion
  • Lots of students left the transportation question blank
  • Some students struggled to estimate area on the OS map, and also to identify important features such as saltmarsh
  • Some students confused physical factors that increase flood risk with human factors – so this answer was poorly answered – mostly Level 1 answers, lots of students also didn’t manage 2 factors as required

River landscapes - 6 marker on river management strategies

  • Misunderstanding of text boxes – confusion between the cost of the flood scheme and the cost of flood damage
  • Lots of key information from the text was ignored and not developed by looking at the impacts of the scheme
  • Some students just wrote about flooding generally, rather than management
  • Lots of reference to basic points about the economic cost, time and noise, rather than the long-term gains of the scheme
  • Better answers talked about the groups who would benefit from flood protection, and environmental impact
  • The best answers were discursive and evaluative with examples of named flood management schemes

Glacial landscapes - general comments

  • This was answered poorly compared to the Coasts and Rivers options (although some of this was because some students answered the whole paper so some students answering this section had never studied it!)
  • Knowledge of specific terminology of processes and landforms was limited
  • Map skills question was answered well
  • A high proportion of students failed to describe the ribbon lake and its valley and used the map poorly
  • Most students struggled to explain the processes involved in corrie formation – although the sequencing was okay – a lot of students talked about water erosion rather than ice

Glacial landscapes - 6 marker on tourism in glaciated upland areas

  • Average mark was mid Level 2 – lots of vague answers that relied too heavily on the text
  • Lots of description of pros and cons of development but not really exploring specific conflicts
  • Conflict when discussed was quite basic, e.g. erosion and pollution
  • Better answers used case study knowledge of the Lake District to develop ideas about specific conflicts
  • Some good discussion of how economic activities can bring in valuable economic revenue which can be put towards conservation strategies, and ideas around sustainable tourism

Vicki Woolven

Vicki Woolven is Subject Lead for Key Stage 4 Humanities at tutor2u. Vicki previously worked as a Head of Geography and Sociology for many years, leading her department to be one of the GA's first Centres of Excellent, and has been a content writer, senior examiner and local authority Key Practitioner for Humanities.

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