Scheme of assessment

Find past papers and mark schemes, and specimen papers for new courses, on our website at

This specification is designed to be taken over two years.

This is a linear qualification. In order to achieve the award, students must complete all assessments at the end of the course and in the same series.

GCSE exams and certification for this specification are available for the first time in May/June 2018 and then every May/June for the life of the specification.

All materials are available in English only.

Our GCSE exams in Geography include questions that allow students to demonstrate their ability to:

  • draw together their knowledge, understanding and skills from across the full course of study
  • provide extended responses.

Aims and learning outcomes

Courses based on this specification should encourage students to:

  • develop and extend their knowledge of locations, places, environments and processes, and of different scales including global; and of social, political and cultural contexts (know geographical material)
  • gain understanding of the interactions between people and environments, change in places and processes over space and time, and the inter-relationship between geographical phenomena at different scales and in different contexts (think like a geographer)
  • develop and extend their competence in a range of skills including those used in fieldwork, in using maps and GIS and in researching secondary evidence, including digital sources; and develop their competence in applying sound enquiry and investigative approaches to questions and hypotheses (study like a geographer)
  • apply geographical knowledge, understanding, skills and approaches appropriately and creatively to real world contexts, including fieldwork, and to contemporary situations and issues; and develop well-evidenced arguments drawing on their geographical knowledge and understanding (applying geography).

Assessment objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all GCSE Geography specifications and all exam boards.

The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives.

  • AO1: Demonstrate knowledge of locations, places, processes, environments and different scales (15%).
  • AO2: Demonstrate geographical understanding of: concepts and how they are used in relation to places, environments and processes; the interrelationships between places, environments and processes (25%).
  • AO3: Apply knowledge and understanding to interpret, analyse and evaluate geographical information and issues to make judgements (35%, including 10% applied to fieldwork context(s)).
  • AO4: Select, adapt and use a variety of skills and techniques to investigate questions and issues and communicate findings (25%, including 5% used to respond to fieldwork data and context(s)).

Assessment objective weightings for GCSE Geography

Assessment objectives (AOs) Component weightings (approx %) Overall weighting (approx %)
Paper 1 Paper 2 Paper 3
AO1 7.5 7.5 0 15
AO2 11 11 3 25
AO3 8.5 8.5 18 35
AO4 8 8 9 25
Overall weighting of components 35 35 30 100

Assessment weightings

The marks awarded on the papers will be scaled to meet the weighting of the components. Students’ final marks will be calculated by adding together the scaled marks for each component. Grade boundaries will be set using this total scaled mark. The scaling and total scaled marks are shown in the table below.

Component Maximum raw mark Scaling factor Maximum scaled mark
Paper 1: Living with the physical environment 88 x1 88
Paper 2: Challenges in the human environment 88 x1 88
Paper 3: Geographical applications 76 x1 76
Total scaled mark: 252

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPaG)

Spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) will be assessed against the following criteria:

Level Performance descriptor Marks awarded
High performance
  • Learners spell and punctuate with consistent accuracy.
  • Learners use rules of grammar with effective control of meaning overall.
  • Learners use a wide range of specialist terms as appropriate.
3 marks
Intermediate performance
  • Learners spell and punctuate with considerable accuracy.
  • Learners use rules of grammar with general control of meaning overall.
  • Learners use a good range of specialist terms as appropriate.
2 marks
Threshold performance
  • Learners spell and punctuate with reasonable accuracy.
  • Learners use rules of grammar with some control of meaning and any errors do not significantly hinder meaning overall.
  • Learners use a limited range of specialist terms as appropriate.
1 mark
No marks awarded
  • The learner writes nothing.
  • The learner’s response does not relate to the question.
  • The learner’s achievement in SPaG does not reach the threshold performance level, for example errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar severely hinder meaning.
0 marks