A-level Geography/A2 AQA Geography

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AQA A2 Geography[edit]

  • The A2 section of AQA GCE Geography comprises of two units:

Unit 3: Contemporary Geographical Issues Unit 4A: Geographical Fieldwork Investigation OR Unit 4B: Geographical Issue Evaluation

UNIT 3: Contemporary Geographical Issues (GEOG3)

  • 2 hour 30 minutes exam
  • 90 marks available
  • Choice of 6 topics:

- Plate Tectonics and Associated Hazards (P) - Weather and Climate and Associated Hazards (P) - Ecosystems: Change and Challenge (P) - World Cities (H) - Development and Globalisation (H) - Contemporary Conflicts and Challenges (H)

NB: At least 3 topics must be studied; one from the physical (P), one from the human (H) and a further topic.

Subject Content

Option 1: Plate Tectonics and Associated Hazards

Plate movement

Earth structure, plate tectonics theory: convection currents and sea-floor spreading. Evidence: continental drift and palaeomagnetism. Destructive, constructive and conservative plate margins. Processes: seismicity and vulcanicity. Associated landforms: young fold mountains, rift valleys, ocean ridges, deep sea trenches and island arcs. Hot spots associated with plumes of magma and their relationship to plate movement.


Variations in the type and frequency of volcanic activity in relation to types of plate margin and types of lava. Forms of intrusive activity – dykes, sills, batholiths. Minor forms of extrusive activity – geysers, hot springs and boiling mud. Major forms of extrusive activity – types of volcanoes. Two case studies of recent (ideally within the last 30 years) volcanic events should be undertaken from contrasting areas of the world. In each case, the following should be examined:

  • the nature of the volcanic hazard
  • the impact of the event
  • management of the hazard and responses to the event.


The causes and main characteristics of earthquakes: focus and epicentre; seismic waves and earthquake measurement. Tsunamis – characteristics and causes. Two case studies of recent (ideally within the last 30 years) seismic events should be undertaken from contrasting areas of the world. In each case, the following should be examined:

  • the nature of the seismic hazard;
  • the impact of the event;
  • management of the hazard and responses to the event.

Option 2: Weather and Climate and Associated Hazards

Major climate controls

The structure of the atmosphere, the atmospheric heat budget, the general atmospheric circulation, planetary surface winds, latitude, oceanic circulation and altitude.

The climate of the British Isles

Basic climatic characteristics: temperature, precipitation and wind. Air masses affecting the British Isles. Origin and nature of depressions. Weather changes associated with the passage of a depression. Origin and nature of anticyclones. Associated weather conditions in winter and summer. Storm events: their occurrence, their impact and responses to them. One case study from within the last 30 years should be undertaken.

The climate of one tropical region (tropical wet/ dry savanna or monsoon or equatorial)

Basic climatic characteristics: temperature, precipitation and wind. The role of sub-tropical anticyclones and the intertropical convergence zone. Tropical revolving storms. Their occurrence, their impact, management of the hazard and responses to the event. Two case studies of recent (within the last 30 years) tropical revolving storms should be undertaken from contrasting areas of the world.

Climate on a local scale: urban climates

Temperatures: the urban heat island effect. Precipitation: frequency and intensity, fogs, thunderstorms, and their relationship to urban form and processes. Air quality: particulate pollution, photochemical smog and pollution reduction policies. Winds: the effects of urban structures and layout on variations in wind speed, direction and frequency.

Global climate change

Evidence for climatic change over the last 20 000 years. Global warming – possible causes. Possible effects: on a global scale, on the chosen tropical region (above) and on the British Isles. Responses to global warming: international, national and local.

Option 3: Ecosystems: Change and Challenge

Nature of ecosystems

Structure of ecosystems, energy flows, trophic levels, food chains and food webs.

Ecosystems in the British Isles over time

Succession and climatic climax: illustrated by one of lithosere, psammosere, hydrosere or halosere. The characteristics of the climatic climax: temperate deciduous woodland biome. The effects of human activity on succession – illustrated by one plagioclimax such as a heather moorland.

The biome of one tropical region (savanna grassland or tropical monsoon forest or tropical equatorial rainforest)

The main characteristics of the biome. Ecological responses to the climate and soil moisture budget – adaptations by vegetation and animals. Human activity and its impact on the biome. Development issues in the biome to include aspects of biodiversity and the potential for sustainability.

Ecosystem issues on a local scale: impact of human activity

Changes in ecosystems resulting from urbanisation. Urban niches. Colonisation of wasteland: the development of distinctive ecologies along routeways (e.g. roads and railways). The planned and unplanned introduction of new species and the impact of this on ecosystems. Changes in the rural/urban fringe. Ecological conservation areas. One case study should be undertaken.

Ecosystem issues on a global scale

The relationships between human activity, biodiversity and sustainability. The management of fragile environments (conservation versus exploitation): two contrasting case studies of recent (within the last 30 years) management schemes in fragile environments should be undertaken.

Option 4: World Cities

The global pattern: millionaire cities, mega cities and world cities.

Economic development and change related to urbanisation. Contemporary urbanisation processes Urbanisation: characteristics, causes and effects. Suburbanisation: characteristics, causes and effects. Counter-urbanisation: characteristics, causes and effects. Re-urbanisation: characteristics, causes and effects. Planning and management issues. Contrasting case studies within countries at different levels of economic development to demonstrate the above.

Urban decline and regeneration within urban areas

Characteristics and causes of urban decline. Urban regeneration: gentrification, property-led regeneration schemes, partnership schemes between local and national governments and the private sector.

Retailing and other services

The decentralisation of retailing and other services – causes and impacts. One case study of an out of town centre retailing area. The redevelopment of urban centres – impacts and responses, including one case study of an urban centre that has undergone redevelopment.

Contemporary sustainability issues in urban areas

Waste management: recycling and its alternatives. Transport and its management: the development of integrated, efficient and sustainable systems.

Option 5: Development and Globalisation

Development – economic, demographic, social, political and cultural changes associated with development; the development continuum. Globalisation – factors and dimensions: flows of capital, labour, products and services; global marketing; patterns of production, distribution and consumption.

Patterns and processes

Newly Industrialised countries (NICs): their initial growth, with particular reference to the “Asian Tiger” economies. Further growth of NICs, with particular reference to China. Globalisation of services, with particular reference to India. Growth in the 21st century – the impact of new markets and new technologies (for example in Brazil, Russia and oil-producing countries).

Countries at very low levels of economic development

Characteristics and issues – quality of life, debt, social problems.

Global social and economic groupings

The concept of the North/South divide, and its relationship to the development continuum. Reasons for the social and economic groupings of nations, with particular reference to the European Union. The consequences of the groupings of nations

Aspects of globalisation

Transnational corporations (TNCs): characteristics and spatial organisation. Reasons for the growth and the spatial organisation of transnational corporations (TNCs). Case study of one TNC should be undertaken. Social, economic and environmental impacts of TNCs on their host countries, and their countries of origin.

Development issues within the world (each to be studied with reference to contrasting areas of the world)

“Trade versus aid”. “Economic sustainability versus environmental sustainability”. “Sustainable tourism, myth or reality”.

Option 6: Contemporary Conflicts and Challenges

The geographical basis of conflict

Nature and origin of conflict: identity (nationalism, regionalism, localism), ethnicity, culture; resources including territory; ideology. Patterns of conflict: national, regional, local. Expression of conflict: non-violent, political activity, debate, terrorism, insurrection, war. Conflict resolution.

Conflict over the use of a local resource(e.g. land, buildings, space)

The reason for the conflict, and the attitudes of different groups of people to the conflict. The processes which operate to resolve the conflict. Recognition that some people benefit, whereas others may lose, when the outcome is decided.

The geographical impact of international conflicts

The social, economic and environmental issues associated with major international conflicts that have taken place within the last 30 years. The examination of one or more case studies. For example, in the early 21st century, this could include an examination of international conflicts such as those in:

  • Gaza and the West Bank in the Middle East
  • Afghanistan
  • the Darfur region of Sudan.

The challenge of multicultural societies in the UK

Reasons for the development of multicultural societies. The geographical distribution of cultural groupings. Issues related to multicultural societies.

Separatism within and/or across national boundaries

The nature of separatism. Reasons for separatism. Consequences of separatism.

The challenge of global poverty

The global distribution of poverty. Causes of poverty. Addressing poverty on a global scale, including the work by international agencies such as the United Nations.

The issue: “No development without security, and no security without development”.