While Geography isn’t exactly the ‘Kim Kardashian’ of HSC Subjects, it’s an amazing course. Geo students rock up to exams with the best equipment (coloured pencils and magnifying glasses), and we get to go on some really cool excursions (my class went kayaking :)). While Geography is fun, it’s also a challenge. I mean, think of a subject that combines the harsh logic of mathematics with the analytical mind of English?? Yep, that’s Geo. But if you’re striving to ace this challenge, then this article is for you! Having just completed the HSC and achieving a Band 6 in Geo, I’m going to share with you the must-knows and tips to snag that Band 6.
Every Geo student knows it. The infamous multiple-choice section composed of nothing but skills. The bane of all Geo students. Geo skills can range from easy marks like ‘read the bar graph’ to ridiculous questions like ‘estimate the time of day from this photograph’. The struggle is real.
The golden rule weapon against Geo skills is practice. Practice these skills early, to give yourself time to learn and fill any gaps in your knowledge. Practice these skills consistently, rather than cramming the night before. Treat Geo skills like Maths. Learn from your mistakes, and practice! During exams, use a magnifying glass, it makes life so much easier. Remember your unit conversions (cm to m to km), and always – I repeat – always leave time to double check your answers just to be sure. I snagged an extra 4 marks during a Geo exam just because I read the maps wrong the first time.
Throughout Year 12, I had made a ‘Book of Mistakes’ for my Geo Skills. Whenever I got a skills question wrong, I’d type down the mistake on a google doc, and by the end Year 12, I had amassed an entire document full of my silly mistakes. And right before my trials, I simply read the document as a form of calm, passive study.
From the Great Barrier Reef to the Perisher Blue Ski Resort, the key to Band 6ing Geo relies heavily on contemporary examples. So, with every essay and short-answer response, you must integrate these examples to maximise your marks!
Sounds easy enough, right? While your case studies are pretty rigid, remember that you’re also able to choose your own contemporary examples as well, particularly in topics such as Mega Cities/World Cities and Global Economic Activity that don’t demand a set case study. With this, my main tip for all Geo students, is to be selective with your evidence. While it’s good to have a wealth of examples drawn from your case studies, remember to be specific and detailed with your evidence. Be sure to integrate the appropriate evidence, and one that gives weight to your argument. Very often, Geo students fall into the trap of introducing superficial evidence (for example, just mentioning the GBR without going in depth). To tip into the Band 6, you need that extra detail!
Also, don’t forget to integrate syllabus terminology with your examples, like vulnerability, resilience, spatial distribution, and weathering. Your responses should smoothly tie these syllabus terms with your evidence. For example, instead of stating the GBR as evidence of a vulnerable ecosystem, give reasons as to why it’s vulnerable or bring in events such as coral bleaching that demonstrate vulnerability. I recommend that you should be integrating evidence with your theory notes throughout the year, so that this process becomes second nature. If you do this, you’ll have the markers begging to give you an A.
The final hurdle in HSC Geo is the dreaded essay writing. You have to complete two out of three essay questions drawn from the three topics. My first tip in approaching essay writing in Geo, is to choose your two strongest topics and focus only on those for essay writing! Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the 3rd topic though, as you’ll still need it for short answer, but by focusing on those two, you’ll save so much energy (which you can invest in other topics like skills).
Unlike other subjects, Geo essay writing is straightforward and succinct. The course doesn’t demand the depth of analysis found in subjects like English or Modern History. So, as long as you know your theory in detail and you’re able to back it up with examples, you can answer virtually any question they’ll throw at you. With that, if you’re gunning for that Band 6, remember that in essays, no waffling! Geo essays are really meant to be 800-900 words. Any waffling will detract from your argument and cost you marks. To avoid waffling, you should practice your essay structure. PEEL paragraphs were my go-to, and in the lead up to the HSC, I had written PEEL paragraphs for every dot-point in the syllabus. By knowing your structure, you’re providing detail, without the unnecessary waffle – ensuring that you tip into the six.
Here are some last words of advice that are crucial to all Geo students!
Acronyms! Try to make up some acronyms for the syllabus dot-points to help you. For example, BEESTOP for the factors influencing global economic activity, and BIIP, for the management strategies criteria.
Don’t repeat the question when answering short answers, just answer it right away, and add an example!
Pay strong attention to any numerical-based skills, like area and grid references, latitude and longitude, distance. They’re prone to mistakes, so don’t forget to double check!