Advice for Geog 3 paper. Timing and Question choices

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Advice for Geog 3 paper.

You will complete 3 qs. One from section A, one from section B and one from section C.

In section A you will only have studied the Plate tectonics area (Option 1), therefore you must choose this.

In section B and C you have a choice of World cities and Contemporary Conflict And Challenges. You must do both – therefore if you answer the question on World cities in option B, you must answer the Contemporary Conflict and Challenges question in option 3 or vice versa.

The exam is marked out of 90 and lasts for 150 minutes, which equates to just over 1 mark a minute.

It is recommended that you first look at the essay question (option 3) and choose this one first. Do a rough plan of this in the first 5 minutes. Next complete one of the shorter option areas (A or B) and whilst working on this add any ideas to your plan. Then do the essay (option 3) – you must complete this fully(with a conclusion) to get more than 25/40. The last question to tackle will be the other shorter option area (either A or B).

You should aim to spend 1 hour on the option C question, and 45 minutes for each of options A & B.

Choose a question from option C and spend 5 minutes planning

Complete remaining question from option A or B (45 mins)

Complete option C question (1 hour)

Complete either option A or B question (45 mins). Add to essay plan during this time

  • Techniques for Option A & B questions

  • Question 1

The first question will be based on a piece of stimulus material (image, graph, text) and your answer will be based upon this. It is worth 7 marks.

To obtain 5 marks you need to extract 1 piece of information from the material and do something geographical with this (i.e. make a link to geographical theory, describe/explain a deeper geographical meaning, analysis).

To obtain 6 marks, do the above for 2 pieces of information, for 7 marks do the above for 3 pieces of information.

Question 01

Study Figure 1 which is an image of the seabed of the North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent land masses. Comment on the extent to which the features shown in the image support the theory of plate tectonics. (7 marks)

Mark scheme

Level 1 (1-4 marks)

Simple listing of features from the image such as MAR, constructive boundary, jigsaw fit, isolated mountains/volcanoes with no commentary or elaboration on any aspect. Simple statements re theory.

Level 2 (5-7 marks)

Commentary on the nature of the evidence as seen (as suggested in the nfa). Some sophistication of description, and/or evidence of geographical thinking.

Candidate A

One feature shown in Figure 1 that supports the theory of plate tectonics is that if you took the east coast of North America and placed it alongside the west coast of the British Isles and countries such as Spain and France on the west coast of Europe, they would fit together like a jigsaw and this shows that they were once joined together and this supports the theory to quite a large extent. (5 marks)

Another feature that supports the theory is that the mid-Atlantic ridge shows similar shape to the continental shelves of Europe and North America and this also supports the theory to quite a large extent because it shows a clear and related boundary between the European plate and the North American plate. (6 marks)

The mid-Atlantic ridge also supports the theory of plate tectonics to a large extent because the way it is formed is by a constructive, or divergent, plate margin with the two plates pulling away from each other forming a fissure volcano which creates new land when it erupts. This pulling away of the plates support the theory of plate tectonics to a large extent because that part of the theory is that the plates move in different directions to form different plate margins. (7)

The areas highlighted show how the candidate directly linked their answer to the question and gave a judgement “to what extent”

  • Question 2

The second question will be worth 8 marks. You will need to answer a written question, which may have more than one part. To access the higher levels ensure that you answer all parts of the question. Ensure your written work is clearly directed at the question (repeat phrases used in the question).
Question 02

Describe the characteristics of, and explain the formation of, minor forms of extrusive volcanic activity. (8 marks)

Mark scheme

Level 1 (1-4 marks)

Simple identification of landforms, with no detail of either characteristics or formation. Imbalanced. Only one landform – max Level 1

Level 2 (5-8 marks)

Detail of either characteristics or formation, possibly with some use of supportive material. The answer progresses through the level as more is added at this level. Full mark answers are balanced.

Candidate A

One minor form of extrusive volcanic activity is a geyser. A geyser is where a very hot burst of water is violently ejected from a hole in the ground, some reaching 50-75 feet in height, going off at regular intervals, for example Old Faithful which goes off every 65 minutes in Yellowstone National Park, USA.

They are formed when water underground has been heated to very high temperatures from geothermal activity and as it heats up it evaporates into steam. The steam then builds up pressure in the chamber and this results in the violent ejection.

Another minor form of extrusive volcanic activity are hot springs and these are pools of water that have been heated up by geothermal activity such as hot rocks. However the water does not boil.

Boiling mud is another minor form of extrusive volcanic activity and this is formed in much the same way as hot springs. However the hot rocks heat up the water when mixed with sediment creating a mud but the temperature exceeds 100C causing it to boil.

One other form of extrusive volcanic activity are fumeroles. These are areas where the gases have heated up to very high temperatures and escape out of cracks in the ground and a good example of this is Solfatara near Mount Vesuvius in Italy where the sulphur has been super heated to form a sulphurous gas. (8)

Areas highlighted show the candidate discussed 4 different aspects (you do not need to cover everything, 3 would be sufficient) and mirrored the language used in the question. For each feature there is clear description, with located example, followed by explanation.

Candidate B

Extrusive volcanic activity is when volcanic activity is expressed on the surface of the Earth. The most common form of extrusive volcanic activity is volcanoes. They are formed when rising magma erupts on the surface of the Earth and cools and solidifies. When this process has repeated many times lava builds up to form a volcano. These may be very tall and conical shaped if the type of lava erupted is andesitic or rhyolitic which are very viscous due to its high silica content and cannot travel far before solidifying. Lahars can also be produced which occur when lava meets a water source such as a river and mixes with the water to produce fast flowing mudflows.

Bubbling mud is also an extrusive landform. This occurs when steam heated by magma rises to the surface of the Earth due to its low density through cracks and fissures in rocks. Upon reaching the surface it mixes with sediments that produce mud that bubbles due to its very high temperature. Sometimes large quantities of rising steam may produce geysers, such as Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Geysers are huge jets of water that rise for tens of metres into the air before returning back to Earth, due to some form of compression under the surface. (5)

One located example, described and explained obtains the 5 marks.

  • Question 3.

The third question is worth 10 marks. To get higher marks (8-10 marks) it is important to structure your answer and use categories to separate information. Ensure all parts of the question are covered, mirroring terms used in the question to ensure the examiner can clearly see how your answer links to the question. Precise detail is important (place specific, facts, geographical terms etc)

Question 03

In what ways does volcanic activity* vary in relation to the type of plate margin along which it occurs? (10 marks)

*Plural, therefore use categories to differentiate the reasons why volcanoes differ

Mark scheme.

Level 1 (1-4 marks)

Simple statements of variation of volcanic activity between plate margins. No specific detail or elaboration provided; or activity at one margin discussed well.

Level 2 (5-8 marks)

Specific statements of a range of variations. Elaboration that demonstrates good understanding of the interrelationships between type and frequency of volcanic activity at plate margins. May be use of case studies to support.

Level 3 (9-10 marks)

A fully developed answer, with good elaboration of a range of variations between plate margins. A rounded answer with a full comparison (most of features given in table above) of the two main types of plate margin. Good use of case studies, though not a requirement.
Candidate B

Volcanic activity can occur at convergent or divergent plate margins, but it can also occur at hotspots in which no plate margin is involved. At convergent margins two plates which are moving together can be either both oceanic plates or one continental and the other oceanic. In the case of one continental plate and one oceanic plate, volcanic eruptions are very violent and emit andesitic or rhyolitic lava. These types of lava are very viscous due to its high silica content. This is because the lava rises from the subduction zone through continental lithosphere which has a low density and is filled with air spaces containing gases which become incorporated into the lava. This very viscous lava often blocks off vents of volcanoes and when the pressure building up in the vent is eventually released, the top of the volcano can be blown off leaving a huge crater, such as in the 2002 eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily. When the two plates involved are oceanic, explosions tend to be less violent than this as the melted lithosphere which forms the lava is denser and so contains fewer gases.

At divergent boundaries where plates are moving apart from one another, basaltic lava is erupted between the gap. This type of lava is not very viscous due to its low silica content. This is because no subduction of crust is involved so the lava is not made of melted lithosphere but has risen from the mantle itself. The low viscosity of this lava causes it to flow very far before cooling and solidifying. This forms shield volcanoes with very gentle slopes and a much wider base than more conical shaped volcanoes involved with convergent plate margins. The low viscosity of the basaltic lava also causes vey gentle eruptions, so shield volcanoes have a low explosivity. (9)

Balance between the 2 types of margin (green)

Criteria of differences (red) – lava, nature of eruption.

Option C Question (40 marks)

The extended essay question is either a straight question or is more often based upon a quote which you need to interpret and respond to. Where possible give at least 2 contrasting examples and ensure you show balance – recognise both sides of an argument (although they do not need to have equal weight). Answers should include a range of facts and place locations, although avoid “dumping” all facts; ensure they are relevant to the question and support/exemplify the point being made. To access the highest marks you need to show flair – this is your own research/twist on ideas which would not be taught in a lesson.

Your essay should have a clear structure – use paragraphs and categories such as economic, social, environmental etc. If you are asked for a judgement in your conclusion, ensure that you support your viewpoint with the key evidence from the essay as the following candidate did for the question “With reference to examples, assess the degree to which the level of economic development of a country affects planning and management in urban areas.”

. e.g - I think that a country’s economic development has a huge impact on the way it is able to plan and manage urban areas. The examples of Dharavi and Cairo show how LEDCs struggle when it comes to management of their urban areas. India’s attempt was successful but it wasn’t on a grand scale. Cairo’s management was funded almost entirely by foreign aid.

However, an anomaly came in the form of Curitiba. The city became one of the most functional in the world despite Brazil’s fairly moderate level of economic development. This could easily have been an MEDC development in the way in which it was carried out and managed. This shows the managers almost have the biggest impact, and not just the level of development. They were almost on a par with the New Islington development in terms of offering much more beyond the basic human needs, whilst also creating a sustainable environment. However, it is clear from these examples that MEDCs have a much easier time when it comes to the planning and management of urban areas.

Mark scheme for the essay questions

Assessment criteria

Level 1

1-10 (mid 6)

Level 2

11-20 (mid 16)

Level 3

21-30 (mid 26)

Level 4

31-40 (mid 36)

Knowledge of content, ideas and concepts

Basic grasp of concepts and ideas; points lack development or depth.

The answer is relevant and accurate. Reasonable knowledge. Imbalanced theories

Sound and frequent evidence of thorough, detailed and accurate knowledge

Strong evidence of thorough, detailed and accurate knowledge

Critical understanding of the above

(Knowledge directed at the qs)

Incomplete, basic.

Reasonable critical understanding of concepts and principles with some use of specialist vocabulary (twice).

Sound and frequent evidence of critical understanding of concepts and principles, and of specialist vocabulary.

Strong evidence of critical understanding of concepts and principles and of specialist vocabulary.

(uses phrases from the qs – direct link between qs and answer))

Use of examples/ case studies to support argument

(Must be relevant to the qs)


(no need for this)



Examples show imbalances.

(lack of detail/depth in examples)


Examples are developed, balanced and support the argument.


Examples are well developed and integrated.

(more than 1 case study put together into a theme)

Fully integrated

Evidence of synopticity:

Connections between different aspects of the subject

Thinking like a geographer’

No evidence


Some ability to identify, interpret and synthesise some of the material.

Limited ability to understand the roles of values, attitudes and decision-making processes.


Some ability to identify, interpret and synthesise a range of material.

Some ability to understand the roles of values, attitudes and decision-making processes.


There is a high level of insight, and an ability to identify, interpret and synthesise a wide range of material with creativity.

Evidence of maturity in understanding the role of values, attitudes and decision-making processes.

(people respond/perceive an issue in a different way)

Quality of argument – the degree to which an argument is constructed, developed and concluded

Language is basic; arguments are partial, over simplified and lacking clarity.

No sense of focus of task.

Arguments are not fully developed nor expressed clearly, and the organisation of ideas is simple and shows imbalances. Some sense of focus of task.

Explanations, arguments and assessments or evaluations are accurate, direct, logical, purposeful, expressed with clarity and generally balanced. Clear sense of focus of task.

Explanations, arguments and assessments or evaluations are direct, focused, logical, perceptive, mature, purposeful, and are expressed coherently and confidently, and show both balance and flair. (own research)

Discuss the view that the impact of earthquake hazards depends primarily on human factors.

Candidate A

Earthquakes are an example of seismic activity created by plate boundaries. They can be caused by the subduction of oceanic crust which is densest at 2.9 g/cm3 under continental crust which weighs 2.7g/m3 at destructive plate boundaries. Earthquakes can also occur along conservative plate boundaries such as that shared by the Pacific and North American plates which move at 5-9 cm/year and 2-3 cm/year respectively causing the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake along the San Andreas fault alongside which lies the San Gregorio and Hayward faults. Earthquakes have different impacts dependent on the location of their foci, the point at which they originate from underground, the presence of land in the surrounding areas, but also the human factors such as land use, population density and the use of earthquake proofing technologies to limit earthquake impacts.

The Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 was created due to an earthquake along the 3 plate junction where the Philippine, Pacific and Eurasian plates all meet. The 15-20 m slip along a 1600km slip plane created an earthquake measures at 9.1 on the logarithmic Richter scale making it one of the most intense earthquakes in history. It caused a tsunami wave which resulted in the deaths of 180000 people according to a UN report, though other sources suggested it reached 300000. The Kobe earthquake which devastated the port of Osaka Bay resulted in 6300 deaths and 35000 serious injuries. This earthquake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale meaning that it was less powerful as each step up the scale is a 10 fold increase in power and a 30 fold increase in intensity. The impacts in terms of death were vastly different as a result of the lower reading on the scale and therefore it can be argued that natural factors such as the origin of the earthquake and its force are important factors in determining the impact of earthquakes.

Further, the differing locations of the foci of the earthquakes were another natural factor that causes a difference in the impact of the two earthquakes. The Boxing Day tsunami could not have occurred if the foci of the earthquake had not been 160km south west of the Sumatran city of Banda Aceh in the Indian Ocean. If it had been further towards the land then the tsunami waves are unlikely to have been able to reach 28m in height and thereby cause the devastation they did when encroaching 800m inland. Although sizeable damage would have been inflicted by an event of its size if located under or nearer to land, this is not possible due to the location of the plate boundaries which are entirely a natural occurrence. Similarly, the foci of the Kobe earthquake was 20km off Osaka Bay and subsequently its shockwaves led to great damage resulting in 20% of the buildings in Kobe’s CBD becoming unusable. If it had been further out to sea, the power of the seismic waves may have depleted due to the distance travelled and so less damage inflicted.

One could argue however that these points do not have merit due to the human use of the land that is known to be in the locale of the earthquake zones. If no one inhabited Sumatra there would not have been deaths, nor would there have been the 6300 in Kobe had it not been so densely populated. Simply by living one could argue that human factors are causes of impacts, especially when assessing fatalities.

Further, the human factors can be criticised for not doing enough to limit impacts or earthquake hazards especially events such as death as a result of not enough fresh water being supplied following water contamination of drinking water following the tsunami. Despite generous donations of $0.96 billion from the USA and $0.84 million from Australia, as well as £300 million raised by UK based charities, the provision of food for 1.3 million by the World Food Programme was not sufficient as many died from water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Similarly in Kobe, the 5 hour delay in mobilising the self defence force meant that only 200 soldiers were immediately mobilised, possibly resulting in further preventable deaths. The Japanese authorities realised that more needed to be done and by 21st January, 4 days after the event, 30000 troops were in action. For some however, it was too late.

Land use in the two areas, a further human factor, was another cause of further deaths. The idyllic coastal resorts of the many islands that were destroyed by the tsunami in Thailand and Sri Lanka resulted in the deaths of 9000 foreign tourists. If an alternative land use had been present such as agriculture, this number is likely to have been lower. In Kobe the population density and close proximity of buildings in the cramped and crowded CBD is arguably another factor that resulted in an increased death toll. Indeed, 64 high rise buildings were destroyed by the earthquake, and only 19 were planned to be rebuilt under tighter planning laws that enforce wider thoroughfares and more open space to limit the impact of subsequent earthquakes in this sense. The 630m section of the Great Hanshin Expressway that collapsed could be blamed solely on human factors as some thought that engineers hadn’t done enough to reinforce the supporting columns. After being rebuilt by October 119, the Expressway had been strengthened.

Prevention methods are also human factors that can be utilised to limit the impact of earthquake hazards. For example, Kobe has new planning legislation which ensures that buildings are reinforced suitably and many are designed to crumble inwards to prevent a domino effect of falling buildings occurring. Springs, cables and moving foundation techniques are used in the construction of all new buildings to minimise the risk of collapse. Homes in the Nagata district, where 60% of those over 60 who died as a result of weak wooden framed houses with heavy slate tiles, have been rebuilt to prevent further damage. Finally in Japan, September 1st is National Earthquake Day when children are educated on how to minimise the risk of injury following an earthquake and are taught to use earthquake packs containing radios, torches and first aid kits.

To prevent a death toll in the Indian Ocean as in 2004, 25 sensors have been embedded into the sea floor to relay information back to 26 National Tsunami Centres to create an early warning system similar to that in the Pacific. Sensors take readings at 15 minute intervals to detect tsunami activity and limit the impact is such an event were to occur again.

In conclusion therefore, human factors play a sizeable part in the impact of earthquake hazards. However, one cannot ignore the root cause of such events as being natural and the strength of them cannot be altered by any human factors. (1137 words)

K – 4; C/U – 4; C/S – 4; Syn – 4; Q – 4 (down) = 38 marks

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