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Exam prep: your last minute guide to Geography

By Olivia Grivas on 28 July 2016HSIEExam adviceHSCNSWblog

Sharpen your coloured pencils guys, because tomorrow is the Geography exam! No need to panic, I know this is a natural stress but there’s no reason to be vulnerable and every reason to be resilient as we’re going to have a look at some contemporary management strategies!

So what do we need to do before tomorrow to make sure we go into that exam like a dominant world city and not demised like a small town?

Here are my top tips on how to get your geo mark moving from decayed to renewed (sorry, couldn’t resist).

1. Skills

Almost everyone has done it, the question says aspect of the slope and you do gradient. The tragedy is real.

Whilst it may seem like skills escalate from reading a key (sweet) to a ternary graph (shudder) in a matter of seconds it’s important not to get caught out. All of the skills you need to know are written in the syllabus on page 15 and 16. Grab a copy and give it a skim! Make sure you know all of those cheeky tricks they could throw in to be sure you don’t get caught out.

While we’re on the topic of skills, for the multi section always double check your answers towards the end of the exam just to be sure you’ve read the question properly or have circled the correct letter. I once scraped in 3 extra marks in the last 2 minutes of a Geo paper because I realised I hadn’t measured the size of a circle that applied to the next 3 questions with my ruler, I’d just guessed the size on how it looked and had got it wrong.

2. Essays

When it comes to the Geography exam, we’d be lying if there wasn’t a good technique to use when it comes to writing the essays. Technically it’s a personal preference as to which essay writing technique works for you but considering your not so humble author topped the state in Geo in 2014, if you don’t have a strong opinion I’m sure my ideas wouldn’t go too astray.

Personally I belong to the camp that you have 2 essays to write from a choice of 3. We all know one is going to be for each topic. But if you have two hard and fast favourite geo topics from Ecosystems at Risk, Urban Places and People and Economic Activity, why bother memorizing essay after essay for all three?

Just pick two and focus on nailing those!

This is not to say you throw one of the topics out the door, because you still need them for short answer. But what I’m saying is put your attention and time into two topics and chances are you’ll have better essays.

I know this point is a little controversial so if you like all 3 equally go forth and conquer all three you little overachiever! (Just don’t write all 3 essays in the exam… I’m not joking this is a real mistake people make.)

3. Case Studies

Whether it’s Pyrmont, inter-tidal wetlands or viticulture, Geo loves a good real life example. That’s why with every essay and long short answers you have to make sure you tie in all the case studies you’ve learnt. And if you’re really trying to maximise those marks, add in some statistics or super specific knowledge.


The question asks for resilience: I give a sweet definition of resilience. You know what’s resilient? My case study of the grey mangroves in the intertidal wetlands in Careel Bay.

Here are some reasons 1, 2, 3. A cheeky name drop of the fact their roots are called pneumatophores and their seeds propagules. Add in they’re usually found in the intertidal zone along tropical and subtropical coastlines between 25 degrees N and 25 degrees S and they drop 600 tonnes of leaf material per square kilometre every year.

By now BOSTES will be practically dying to hand you a band six. At Atomi we recommend you make one page divided into three and write all the good stats and examples for each topic on the page, then go forth and memorise.

4. Syllabus name drop

Other than name-dropping stats and little specific pieces of info, you’re going to want to name drop any word used in the syllabus. It may seem obvious but a lot of people forget that there’s a syllabus especially when they’re deep in exam mode.

Even if the question doesn’t ask for it specifically, words like vulnerability, resilience, erosion, weathering, succession, economic and cultural authority, dominance, dependence, literally any of the urban dynamics of change, gentrification, ecological sustainability, etc is a surefire way to boost marks.

Geography markers love it when they can see you know your way around the syllabus so it really pays to keep reminding them that you do.

So some final words of wisdom for tomorrow:

  • Don’t forget to double check your skills answers
  • Nail down those essays and don’t forget to link in some case studies and
  • Name drop the syllabus like it’s nobody’s business

Good luck, and don’t forget those coloured pencils!

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