Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Should I Take Geography A-level?

Michael completed his Geography A-level 2 years ago and went on to study at University. Geogarific asked him to look back on his time at college to give us an insight into his experience, and give new students some helpful tips on how to make the most of it.

Mike and his classmates on an AS Geography field trip

Why did you decide to study Geography at A-level?
I chose to study geography as it is a good precursor to the kind of degree I wanted to do. It also provides an invaluable balance between fieldwork, independent study and essay writing.

What other subjects did you study and did they complement each other?
I studied Geology and Biology alongside Geography. Geology and Geography have an obvious cross over; this allowed me to interchange knowledge between the two subjects providing greater depth to my understanding of the physical processes that shape the Earth.
I complimented Biology and Geography together when I studied a halosphere ecosystem for my A2 research project. I collected data about the biology behind the ecosystem, used statistical skills to understand the data before providing an interpretation fortified with my geographical understanding.

What was the best thing about the course?
The best parts about the course for me, were routed in the flexibility of the course and the option to do independent work. The AQA Geography course is made up of modules, which you and your teacher get to pick. These modules allowed my class to tailor our course to suite what we wanted, providing an enjoyable and fulfilling experience during my A-levels.

The independent work developed skills crucial for problem solving and being able to complete project work on all levels. These are generally skills I still use and develop today and were invaluable when applying for university.

And the worst?
The course has an intense focus on essay writing. This in some ways is rather helpful, as report writing is required in all walks of life. However it can be quite limiting as the essays focus more on particular aspects of the course preventing students from being able to display a wider understanding.

If you could go back, what would you do differently?
If I had to go back I would do very little differently. My biggest change would probably be towards the level of effort I put into the first year. That would have saved me a lot of time and stress during my second year.

What advice would you give a new A-level Geography student to get the best grade?
My advice would be to start practising the essay work early. Case studies can be hard to remember so getting a head start can be crucial. During my revision I put a lot of effort into learning facts and figures, using diagrams where necessary to help visualise the information – seeing what you need to describe can sometimes make the whole process easier.

What did you do after A-levels and did your Geography help?
Following my A-levels I was accepted to study an Integrated Masters of Science degree in Geology at the University of Southampton. Geology is the study of past environments utilising present processes as a key to the past. My geographical knowledge has come in useful when making interpretations as I can relate what I am seeing recorded in the strata to current environments studied during my A-level.

The human side of geography has aided my understanding of economic geology and the drivers behind it. I can relate changes to the various markets back to the processes shaping our population and the economies they drive. This skill has benefited me in both my course and my attendance of conferences.

Report work is an important part of my degree, my independent project work during A-level gave me a head start in my current work. Allowing me to move past the planning stages and through the bulk of the work with relative ease and no worry.

Thank you to Mike for his time and participation

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