Exam Response Guidance


This page provides example questions for Paper 2, it features exam tips and skills advice with some model student responses. It also demonstrates how teachers grade work using the Assessment Objectives so the students can replicate the style and structure of the responses. It includes explanation of the command words, with example responses featuring teacher comment pop-overs,   that reference the Assessment Objectives (AOs). These model response refer to all command words and question types, including 10 mark essays. It also includes an important essay guide t be given to all students.

Subject and Command Word Specific!

This is the most important exam tip for students writing responses and instruction for teachers grading responses. The student must always cover the subject in the question and address the command.

Most students struggle to address the command word

Essay Guide

10 Mark Essay Guide for Paper 1 and 2


Definition questions will be valued at 1 or 2 marks. An full accurate definition is required to attain the marks. Sometimes an example will add value to the response.

Question:   the term demographic dividend (2)

Model Response: Demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that results from a decline in a country's birth and death rates and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population. With fewer births each year, a country's young dependent population declines in relation to the working-age population. An example of a country experiencing a demographic dividend is Vietnam.

Top Box

Maintain detailed glossaries of key terms and read through them regularly. Use specialised terminology with accuracy and consistency in all written work.


State is the simplest type of question and must not be over thought. It simply requires you to identify some knowledge

Question:  two naturally occuring greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. (1)

Response: Water vapor and methane


This question will normally feature in reference to a resource such as a map, graph or infographic. Again it requires the skill to read a graphic and pick out a correct answer.

Question: With reference to the map (not shown)  two countries that are projected to have the greatest number of megacities by 2050 (1)

Response: China and India

Tip Box

Don't rush these questions. Every year some of the best students drop marks by not taking sufficient time to read a graphic properly.

Suggest/Outline reasons

This question requires you to develop causal explanation. There is a likely to be a number of different answers rather than one or two definites.The response should be fully developed and clearly linked to the question. Knowledge and understanding (AO1) is most important but a degree of analysis may also be required (AO2)

Question: why water consumption is increasing at the global scale (2 +2)

Response: One reason for increasing water consumption is due to the rapidly increasing world population. In many developing countries population is growing exponentially. and this rise increases the need and demand for water.

A second reason is growing global wealth. With Middle Income Countries experiencing rapid economic growth the global demand for consumer goods increases. The demand for water increases because manufactured goods include embedded water, which refers to water used as part of the manufacturing process.

Tip Box

Don't underestimate the two mark question! Your response should be fully developed and demonstrate sound knowledge. There should be clear links to key words in the question. In the example above there are clear links to both global and increasing water consumption.


This command word can feature in shorter 2 questions as well as 10 mark essay questions. It requires you to develop cause and effect as appropriate to the question.

Example Questions:

a) and  one cause of megacity growth  (1 + 2)

b) two positive feedback loops that contribute to climate change (3 + 3)

c) two characteristics of the circular economy (2 + 2)


a) Rapid urbanisation (the movement of people form rural areas to cities) is the most important cause of megacity growth today. It is occurring mainly in developing and emerging economies. A megacity is a city of over 10 million inhabitants. Urbanisation is caused by many push and pull factors. Rapid economic growth and job creation in cities like Beijing and Tianjin in China have attracted millions to migrate from the rural west. In other countries like Nigeria, poverty and lack of opportunity push farmers toward the megacity of Lagos.

b) A positive feedback loop enhances or amplifies a change: this tends to ove a system away from its equilibrium and makes it more unstable.  One example contributing to climate change is meting ices sheets. Ice sheets like those in the Arctic have high albedo, reflecting close to 90% of insolation. As these ice sheets retreat due to warming they are replaced with dark ocean. Oceans have low albedo and absorb more insolation and so global climate change is accelerated causing further ice loss and warming.

A second positive feedback loop occurs when the permafrost containing the potent greenhouse gas, methane thaws. As the permafrost thaws increasing amounts of methane is released into the atmosphere. this methane increases the greenhouse effect, which leads to further warming and further thawing of the permafrost.

c) The circular economy mimic natural biological systems and is a regenerative system, in which resource input and waste are minimised, by slowing, narrowing and closing material and energy loops. One characteristics of the circular economy is to recycle materials in used goods. In this was materials, such as precious metal can be reused in cascade of additional products.

A second characteristic involves the refurbishment of used good to enable second party and third party ownership. this way the lifespan of the product can be extended through multiple users.

Tip Box

Don't underestimate the short explain question! Your response should be fully developed ,including an accurate definition of terminology and clear reference back to the question

For 10 mark essay questions, if explain is the only command word it should be the defining focus of every sentence


This command word is used to question your skills of graph, map and infographic analysis, as well your knowledge of the characteristics of human and physical environments

Example Questions

a) two characteristics of a country in stage two of the Demographic Transition Model (2)

b) Using Figure 1  the pattern of change in Japanese internal migration between 1955 and 2011 (4)

c) Using the map below  the pattern of population density in Nigeria (4)

Example Responses:

a) The DTM tracks the possible change in population structure of a country as it develop over time. Stage two, known as the Early Expanding stage is characterised by a rapidly rising population due to falling death rates and longer life expectancy, A second characteristic is that of  high birth rates and large family size. Towards the end of this stage in the DTM the  population size is likely to be growing exponentially.

b) The graph shows two distinct periods in internal migration. Between 1955 and 1974 internal migration increased by 70%, rising rapidly from 5.5 million in 1955 and 5 million in 1956 to 8.5 million in 1974. Between 1975 and 2011 there was a gradual year on year decline in the number of internal migrants, falling by 1 million between 1974 and 1976 and gradually falling to just over 5 million in 2011.

c) Most regions in Nigeria have a population density between 70 and 150 people per km2. The most populated region by far is Lagos, with over 2000 people per km2. Following this, Imo and Anambra in the south have densities in excess of 600 people per km2. In general, population density decreases as you move away from these regions, reaching a low in some central regions such as Niger and Tarab with on 40-50 people per km2. In the north Kano is highest Populated with 500-600 people per km2.

Tip Box

Do not explain when the command word asks you to describe!

Questions Based on Maps

Sometimes maps are used in the resource booklet and questions requires you to describe the data that's shown of describe the characteristics and features. Sometimes understanding of the map is assessed n the question. You should always try to make full use of the map in your response to add sophistication to your response.

Exam Question

With reference to the map explain why population is not evenly distributed in the region shown (4)

Map of Queenstown and Surruonding Region, Australia


The most populated place in the map is most likely Queenstown, this is because it has the A10 road connecting it with other settlements and it proximity to the lake creates viable industries such as fishing and perhaps tourism.  The steep relief to its west may offer shelter from extreme weather. Settlement such as Derwent Bridge along the A10 are likely to be smaller due to their remoteness. The 70km section of road shown on the map would be slow due to the nature of the relief. Few if any people will live to the south of the A10 shown on the map die to lack of access and inhospitable terrain that will be too challenging to build infrastructure and settlements.

Tip Box

Always refer to the scale and measure distance and/or area size. If contours are present, describe the relief and height. If grid squares present refer to 4 and 6-figure references. This specific use of the map adds sophistication and value to description.

Drawing Graphs, Diagrams and Maps with the Correct Conventions

Some questions may require you to specifically sketch a graph, diagram or map. Other questions may be improved with the use of graph, diagram or map to support the argument

AO4 specifies that students follow the correct conventions when drawing graphs, diagram and maps. these are as follows

  1. Graphs - should include a title, axis titles, annotation and an appropriate graph for the data  and should be accurate
  2. Diagrams - should include a frame, title, clear labels and annotation
  3. Maps - should include a frame, a title, a north arrow, a scale (or statement not drawn to scale) and a key if appropriate

1. How to draw graphs

The following sketch graph shows how to draw graphs with the correct conventions

2. How to draw diagrams

The following sketch graph shows how to draw graphs with the correct conventions

1. How to draw maps

The following sketch map shows how to draw graphs with the correct conventions

Tip Box

Annotation is needed to access top AO4 marks. Annotation should be used to support the argument and link back to the question. Always make a clear reference to your graphic in your text. e.g. see figure 1


The infographic question in section B is new to Paper 2, but the skills it is assessing are not unfamiliar to the Geography student. The infographic will be based on content from the compulsory element of the core.

An infographic is a visual presentation of a set of data and/or information and so therefore coneys a message. The questions based on the infographic amount to 10 marks in total and range from basic 1 mark questions to identify data to more complex questions of interpretation.

An infographic due to its select use of data and presentation intrinsicly carries bias. A comomon theme of questionning within the paper will be to evaluate this bias eeither through the quality of the graphics or through evaluating the message the inforgraphic attempts to portray. With the latter clearr links to course content and alternatve perspectives should be linked to.

Sample Question

The infographic shows the generation of electricity in Africa

Source: http://awesome.good.is


 1. Referring to the infographic:

a) State the number of locations that:

      i) have future plans for nuclear power.    (1)


      ii) already have hydroelectric power.       (1)


b) Suggest two ways in which the bar graph depicting electricity generation and population by region could be improved                                                                                                                                                                   (2)

It would be better if the energy data was per capita rather than total kilowatts because larger countries will clearly have larger energy use.

The graph should compare either countries or continents. This graph compares Africa the continent with seven other countries.

c) Evaluate two ways in which Africa is portrayed negatively in this infographic, other than in the bar graph      (3 +3)

A major criticism of the infographic is the patronizing and offensive tone of the infographic language, such as 'unable to scrounge the money... and general know-how'. The graphic seems to ignore that Africa is a continent made up of 50 countries.

The colour of the graphic in black and brown also seems insensitive and arguably racist presenting Africa in a very colonial way. The infographic is predominantly black with lighter brown used for the Arab states and white is preferred for South Africa. Although these colours represent data it may have been better to have chosen more neutral and less ethnically based tones.

 Sample Question

The infographic shows information on fracking for shale gas in the USA

Source: earthworksaction.org

1. Referring to the infographic:

a) State the intended audience for the infographic and justify your answer                                                           (1 +2)    

The general pubic. The infrographic is attempting to warn/ educate  the general public of the negative environmental impacts of fracking and influence public opinion against it.

b) Suggest a way how the 330 tonnes of chemicals was calculated                                                                            (1)

The mid to high estimate for quantity of water, sand and percentage chemicals has been used in the formula

% Chemical multiplied by water plus sand

c) Examine two ways in which the reliability of the graphic could be questioned                                                    (3 +3)

The graphic uses a significant range in the data presented, to the extent that it is impossible for the reader to know the exact data. The data presented appears to inflate the environmental problem by presenting a very high range, for example, 2% chemical input is 4 times greater than 0.5% chemical input. 140 billion tonnes of water is double that of 70 billion.

There appears to be no clear stated source for the data and so it is unclear how reliable or truthful the data actually is. Therefore the trustworthy of the source is highly questionable and the authors are using a fun animated design to convince the reader of their message rather than well sourced data from reputable sources.

Tip Box

Students can choose any number of things to evaluate with an inforgaphic. These include:

  • tone of language
  • use of terminology
  • use of labels and headings
  • sources used
  • generalizations
  • use of images
  • use of colour
  • use of data
  • intended audience
  • scales and proportions or projection of the map
  • effectiveness of the key

Discuss the Statement

This essay structure features frequently, especially in Paper 2. The response requires a critical but balanced argument that covers the perspective of the statement as well as other perspectives. You may wish to agree or disagree with the statement but you must show awareness of different perspectives. Academic flare is encouraged through developing a strong argument with good supporting evidence.

Example Question

"Developing countries are far more likely to be at risk from the impacts of global climate change". To what extent do you agree with this statement?                                                                                                                                  (10)

Example Response

It is projected that by the end of the century, global climate change will have increased somewhere between 2-3°C, despite international efforts to limit warming to below 2°C. Although there remains uncertainty in the projections, significant warming now seems inevitable. The global average also hides spatial differences, for example the Arctic region has already warmed in excess of the 2°C  limit. The level of risk that countries face depends both on the exposure to risk and their level of vulnerability. Unfortunately for developing countries and many emerging economies, due to their proximity to coasts and their predominantly tropical climates, they appear more exposed to risks. Their lack of economic, social and political development also heightens their vulnerability. For these reason I agree with the statement.

A temperature increase of 2-3°C will have significant impacts on tropical climates. Characterised by tropical wet and tropical dry seasons, millions of people will be exposed to increased risk from extreme rainfall events and floods, as well as harmful droughts. The increased frequency of El Nino weather events is likely to further exacerbate these hazards. South Asia with its rapidly growing  population of 1.7 billion is already experiencing a more unreliable monsoon, with shifting patterns in its location. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing deeper droughts and more frequent flash floods. Coastal regions are more exposed to tropical storms and the resulting inundation from storm surges. In addition, erosion and salt intrusion from rising sea levels may well force millions to migrate. Low lying Pacific islands and regions like the Sundabans in India and Bangladesh will be worst affected. This increased exposure to risk in developing countries is likely to threat security in terms of food and water. Political tensions and migration in developing countries in already fragile communities, is likely to compound these risks.

In addition, developing countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of global climate change. The global wealth gap remains a significant obstacle to reducing that risk. With 47% of the global population, the majority of whom, living in developing countries, carving out fragile livelihoods, as small-scale farmers in remote rural regions; their vulnerability to climate shocks is heightened; 34% of rural inhabitants in developing countries are considered extremely poor. Moreover, there are millions more living in the squalor of urban slums. These living conditions increase risk due to poor housing quality, dirty sanitation and unsafe environments, vulnerable to flash floods and landslides. This increased vulnerability means greater risk and in addition lower resilience.

Community and political structures in developing countries also increase vulnerability, increasing risk. Weak health care systems that are under resourced and under staffed, price the poor out and reduce the ability of authorities to respond reducing their resilience. Fragile and sometimes corrupt governance and judicial systems create volatility and when stretched by the impacts of climate change become tipping points towards social unrest and violence. Furthermore, these communities can become easily disenfranchised and distrusting of authorities. Evidence of this distrust was clear following the floods in Pakistan on 2010. Many people thought the Pakistani government had flooded their lands on purpose in order to protect other socio-ethnic groups. Other people argued the flood was caused by uncontrolled illegal logging. This political volatility increases vulnerability and risk to climate change.

In conclusion, it's clear that through a combination of climatic and geographical factors, including rapid population growth, developing countries will have greater exposure to climate change impacts. In addition, poverty with all its socio-economic and political forms increases vulnerability. This combination of factors make developing countries more at risk from the impending impacts of global climate change.

Grade: 9-10

Word Count: 596

Exam Question

"Environmental sustainability will never be achieved without population control" To what extent do you agree with this statement?                                                                                                                                                                  (10)

 Example Response    

Environmental sustainability refers to the long term protection of the environment. It concerns protecting the biostock of the planet as well as the sustainable extraction and use of natural resources. There is no doubt that population control is required to achieve environmental sustainability, but with rapid population growth taking place in developing countries and the majority of consumption in stable developed economies, population control is not the only solution. We also need to be addressing the economic system itself.

In the modern era we have experienced exponential growth in population as well as resource extraction and economic growth. In 1980 the world population was just 4.5 billion, today (2017) it is 7,5 and it is projected to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050. At the same time, we have mined a third of the world's resources in the last 40 years. This is in part, to satisfy the demand of the growing population but it is also the result of a linear economic model, that focuses on the mining of resources, production of goods, fast obsolescence and disposal. In addition, the vast majority of consumption takes place in the stable populated developed western economies, rather than in developing countries where rapid population growth is taking place.

There are examples of successful population controls. For example, in China, the one child policy (now two child) is thought to have limited population growth by as much as 400 million people. However, despite this, over the same time period, China has experienced unprecedented economic growth and urbanisation, at the cost of tremendous environmental damage. In this case, government policy was focused on economic success rather than environmental success. Whilst population control could have improved environmental sustainability, without political will it has had little impact.

Western economies have enjoyed stable conditions of population control for decades through education, family planning and access to contraception. At the same time, their economic strategy has been based on year-on-year economic growth, with consumption, the key driver of that growth. Despite this stabilty in population environmental sustainabliity hasn't been achieved. As emerging economies, such as China and Brazil develop, their growing middle income populations aspire to consume like the west and it is this growing consumer market combined with those in the west that pose the biggest threat to environmental sustainability. Developing countries, currently experiencing the fastest rates of population growth of course have an impact on their environment at the regional and local scale but their impact on global resources pale into significance.

Population control, by 2050 is likely to have limited world population to 10 billion and family planning will of course have a role to keep population within the carrying capacity of the planet. Without it, uncontrolled population will simply exceed that environmental capacity and move into overshoot, where environmental and social-political collapse would be inevitable.

However, environmental sustainability will not be achieved through population control in isolation, as we have seen in China; political and economic will is also required. The linear economic system that dominates today does not seem fit for purpose and the corporate, business-as-usual model needs to be radically changed, as does the economic growth model. One strong contender, is the economic shift away from a linear system to that of a circular system. The circular economy, as advocated by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation promotes the reduction of resource input and waste by slowing, narrowing and closing material and energy loops. It promotes a system of reuse and recycle, which inevitability reduces consumption. In this way we move away from the culture of obsolescence towards longevity of use. Precious materials are recycled through a cascade of additional goods. A key characteristic of this may be a move away from ownership of goods towards the renting of goods, with the responsibility or recycling placed on the manufacturers rather than consumers.

It is clear that population control is an important step needed for environmental sustainability but if isolated without a radical shift toward a more sustainable economic structure, like that of the circular economy as well as a political will at both the national and international scale then environmental sustainability will remain a long way off and environmental overshoot far closer.

Mark: 9-10

Word Count: 699 words

Tip Box

Use the following essay guide for all 10 mark questions in Paper 1 and Paper 2

10 Mark Essay Guide for Papers 1 and 2

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