Saturday, 12 September 2015

Describing Patterns and Using Locational Knowledge

A common question in the exam is to describe the pattern or distribution of something on a map. 

Many people lose marks on these questions due to poor exam technique. There are two things that can help you:

1. Make sure you know what distribution or pattern means and what words to use

Distribution = the way in which something is spread over an area

Pattern = they way in which something is arranged or sequenced

As you can see they are quite similar. You need to identify whether there is any overall arrangement or repeating sequence or shape to what you are looking at. Good words/phrases to use include:

              - Along the coast                                          - Sparsely distributed
              - Inland/interior                                            - Dense/clustered
              - To the north/south/east/west                      - A band/a cluster/a concentration
              - Vertically/horizontally                               - Stretches out/along/above/below/between

2. Make sure you are familiar with different regions of the world and of the UK

While you can just use general terms listed above, you will be able to say more if you can refer to different areas by their proper names.

Knowing the names of individual countries can be helpful for very large countries that cover whole regions (such as Australia) or for identifying anomalies (e.g. all the countries in Europe except….).

However, you should AVOID simply giving a long list of countries as this will not help you identify patterns. Therefore it is also helpful to know the names of regions of the world such as the ones in the images below:

You should also know the regions of the UK so that you can describe patterns and distributions on a national scale:


Figure 14 shows deaths from coronary heart disease for the top 26 countries worldwide in 2005.

Describe the pattern shown in Figure 14 (3 marks)


  • The countries with the most cases of CHD are the UK, Ireland, Finland and 3 other countries in Europe.  This is just listing countries, not describing the pattern.
  • New Zealand also has lots of people with CHD. This doesn't say anything about distribution.
  • There is a medium number of cases in the USA and Australia. Nor does this, and what about Canada?
  • No one has CHD in Africa, Asia and South America. This is incorrect, read the question more carefully.

  • The top countries for CHD are all in richer areas of the world such as Europe, North America and Australia. Japan is an anomaly as it is the only country in the top 26 in Asia. Good use of regions rather than just individual countries. Identifies anomaly.
  • There is a cluster of very high rates (120 and above) in eastern Europe with the remaining highest countries (the UK, Ireland, Finland and New Zealand being scattered across the globe. Good use of terminology, i.e. 'clustered' and 'scattered'
  • The lowest rates within the top 26 can be found in Japan and southern Europe. Uses regions not just individual countries.

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