Model Responses and Grading


This page provides example questions for Paper 1, it features exam tips and skills advice and 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 desertification (2)

Model Response: Desertification refers to the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems, whereby arid soils lose their soil moisture and fertility and slowly turn into desert, with an absense of flora and fauna

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 characteristics of nivation in periglacial environements. (2)

Response: Nivation is the rosion of ground to the side and underneath snow patch. One charactteristics is the presence of meltwater, which cause freeze thaw weathering. A second characteristic is the movement of eroded material downslope via meltwater streams and solifluction


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 and photograph (not shown)  the location from where the photograph was taken (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 wetlands environments are under threat (2 +2)

Response: One reason wetland environments are under threat is due to increasing extraction of water for intensive agriculture and industry. With development comes the need for water resources, and this growth in demand reduces the wetland water supply

A second reason is continued urban development and urban sprawl. With urban populations growing rapidly in many emerging economies, space for urban infrastructure leads to the diveriosn of supplies and the drainage and reclamation of wetland environments

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  two possible causes of malnutrition (2)

b) two disadvantages and one advantage of health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) as an indicator        of health (2 + 2 +2)

c) population pressure can lead to desertification (6)


a) Malnutition refers to a lack of proper nutrition and is caused by either not eating the correct foods with the correct balance of nutrition or it is caused by the body not being able to absorb those nutrients from the food. Both child stunting and child obesity are examples of malnutrition

b) One disadvantage of HALE is the difficulty and cost in collecting the aount of data required to calculate HALE. It is often too expensive in developing countries to collect. A second disadvantage concerns the lack of available data on illnesses and causes of death in many developing countries. A disadvantage is the ability to make clear comparisons in quality of health and life expectancy between genders  and this relates to a life time rather than an age specific period.

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) Population pressure, which refers to when the population size of an area begins to exceed the carrying capacity of its environment is an important causal factor of desertification, which occurs when arid environments, which are vulnerable to desertification, degrades and turns to desert. This is occurring in many arid environments but especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Population pressure can cause desertification through different ways. The first is overcultivation. Due to land inheritance laws and large family sizes, families are forced to farm smaller and smaller land areas or are forced to farm more marginal and infertile land. Overcultivation, generally through monoculture farms, starves soil of the nutrients it needs to recover and due to the small farm size, there is no time for fallow periods when soil can recover. Pastoral farmers also cause desertification through over grazing, when too many animals exceed the carrying capacity. Herds eat the grass as well as the roots, exposing soil to the sun and to rains. Without the roots, soils are easily washed away and the nutrients leached. Another cause is deforestation is deforestation. With few viable fuels, the rural population is forced to use wood. Trees bind the soils and offer protection from the sun and rains, without them the soils degrades and desertification can take hold.

In more developed regions, farmers appear to be causing desertification through over industrialised farming methods, excessive water use can cause salinisation, like in Australia and ground water stores are drying up, all over India. Heavy machinery compacts soil and makes it unfarmable. Over ploughing can also expose soils to the wind and lead to loss and later desertification.

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)  the pattern of hunger shown in the graph below (4)

b) Using Figure 1  the evidence that the process of weathering is at work (4)

Figure 1 Glacier

c) Using the map below  two characteristics of the river valley  (4)

Source: Tennessee River Gorge Topographical Map by Don Deakins

Example Responses:

a) The graph shows the 10 most hungry nations in 2014, all of which have close to or higher than 30% of their population undernourished. Berundi has the highest level of hunger with close to 70% of its population undernourished and around 25% of childern under 5 underwieght. This is closely followed by Eritrea. Timor -Leste has the highest % of children under 5 under weight, at close 50%, but oddly has one of the lowest child mortality rates. Chad has the highest child mortality rate at 15% and also has 30 of its children under 5, under weight and 30% of its population undernourished. The best country featured is Haiti, but this still has 50% of its population undernourshed and around 10 % of children underweight.

b)The photograph shows a small valley glacier that is extending from a larger glacier in the upland region. The evidence of weathering is clear in a number of places. Firstly, in the foreground to the left of the glacier is a lot of loose, angular rock. This may be deposited there from the glacier but it is also likley to have falen there as a result of freeze-thaw action within cracks in the bedrock. A second example is the rock visible in the crevasses in the upper section of the glacier. This could be wind blown but much of this would have fallen from the bedrock as weathered material. Furthermore the bedrock is covered in cracks and joints. This will enable frost shattering to take place and indeed may have been made larger by freeze-thaw action.

c) The river valley is in the shape of a steep gorge following the shape of the river as it meanders. The valley sides are very steep, risng approximately 900 above the river on both sides, within less than 1km from the river bank. On the north west bank of the river the valley has a relatively flat section of about 100-200 meters in width and this features, what looks like a small road. The meandering chanel within the valley is approximatley 300 meters in width.

Tip Box

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

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

Evaluate and Examine, Distinguish and Discuss

Evaluate and distinguish feature as a command words in 6 mark (3 + 3) questions and require a shorter concise response. Evaluate, examine and discuss are the dominant command words used in essay questions. They clearly require a thorough AO3 approach. Students often need to analyse a number of different perspectives, evaluate their importance or comment on  advantages and disadvantages. Within the discussion students are gauging the importance of factors in comparison to each other and students should develop an argument based on appropriate evidence.

Example Questions:

 the importance of glacial (ice) erosion and deposition for the development of glacial troughs and moraines (10)

Example Response

Open this pop up to see teacher comments

Glacial troughs such as the Yosemite Valley, in the US are formed by glacial erosion with little depositional influence. Moraines are predominantly depositional landforms although glacial erosion is critical to the supply and transportation of the moraine.

Glacial troughs are upland glacial features and are characterised by wide (several kilometers) valley floors with deep U-shaped bedrock valley sides with truncated spurs. The dominant process that forms such landforms is that of glacial erosion. Glaciers erode through two main processes. Firstly, the process of plucking in which glacial ice attaches to the bedrock of the valley side and floor and removes, (plucks) often large sections of rock from the bedrock as the glacier slides past. The glacier will pluck weakened sections of bedrock more easily due to the weathering process of freeze-thaw action within cracks and joints in the bedrock. When large sections of bedrock are removed it is sometimes referred to as a process called quarrying.  This process is most dominant on the valley sides and steeper sections of the valley helping form the familiar steep truncated spurs characteristic of glacial troughs, such as El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. See figure 1.

The second type of erosion influencing glacial troughs is abrasion. Abrasion refer to the scraping and scouring process of rock in the glacier against the bedrock of the valley and is most dominant on the valley floor, responsible for the deepening of the valley. Rock that enters the glacier via weathering, rockfalls and plucking is transported by the glacier and as it moves with the ice it erodes the valley floor. This can be evidenced through the presence of striations, (small scrape lines) in the bedrock. Fine material called powder also has an abrasive sand paper effect on the bedrock. So we can conclude that glacial troughs form almost entirely through ice erosion. The exception being the occasional presence of depositional features within the trough, such as drumlins and erratics. However, these are distinct landforms in themselves and not a characteristic of the glacial troughs.

Transported rock within the glacier is called moraine. There are different types of moraine. Lateral moraines form on the sides of the glacier and medial moraine forms in the middle when two glaciers merge. This type of moraine remain in motions and is transported by the moving ice.

During a period of glacial retreat, caused by a warming climate, moraines develop. Lateral moraines run adjacent to the valley sides and are made up of deposited unsorted clays and angular rocks of different sizes. The terminal moraine, again unsorted, form across the valley floor and mark the furthest point of glacial advance. The terminal moraine forms from the bulldozing process of the glacier and transportation of moraine within the glacier  forming deposition at the glacial snout. A the glacier retreats, recessional moraines form, again across the valley, marking a temporary phase of stability, where transported moraine built up. In this way we can say moraines are a clear feature of glacial deposition but without the processes of weathering and ice erosion to supply the material there would be no material to deposit. See figure 2.

Glacial landforms such as glacial troughs and moraines are ancient landforms, that, over centuries, have been modified by different physical processes. However, it must be argued that glacial troughs are the direct result of erosion through the processes of plucking and abrasion as well quarrying and bulldozing of the valley bedrock. Moraines on the other hand, although dependent on the erosional supply of material are a feature of ice deposition.

Grade: 9-10

Essay: 520 Words

Example Questions:

the role of agribusiness and new technologies in increasing world food supply (10)

Example Response

New technology has and always will play a critical role in food supply and there are countless examples in history, beginning with the European agricultural revolution in the 18th Century going right up to the controversial role of agribusness today. In the modern era, green revolution methods, genetically modified crops and industrial farming have all helped increase the world food supply but to what extent and for who's benefit?

The green revolution began in the 1960s through research in the US and Mexico by Norman Borlaug. Its methods were quickly exported to India and since then it has led to a large increase in crop production in many developing countries. It's main characteristics are intensive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides and the development of high-yield crop varieties, such as dwarf plants that produce a double crop yield and through stunted crop height are less susceptible to wind and rain damage. Other varieties are more resistant to pests and salt intrusion. In addition to these inputs, new technologies in irrigation and mechanisation, increased land under production have all improved the productivity of farming. Over the last 60 years green revolution methods have undoubtedly helped increase world food production and reduce hunger. However, it is not without its critics. Green revolution methods have no-doubt, reduced the amount of land needed for production through its intensive methods but in the long term, intensive use of fertliizers and pesticides have damaged freshwater sources and intensive irrigation has depleted groundwater supplies. Long term sustainability of food supply in many regions of India is under threat. In addition, the green revolution has favoured larger export orientated farms with small-scale farmers becoming highly indebted and forced off their land.

A more recent technology is Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). GMOs were pioneered in the US and result from combining the DNA of different species to create a superior crop, more resistant to pests and damage. GM crops are now widespread in the US and found in most foods there. However, with European public resistance over food quality issues and concerns over cross-contamination with weeds, progress in Europe and other regions has been slow. As a result, the impact of GMOs on world food supply has been limited but it is likely to grow in the future.

Up to now, GM crop investment has been largely limited to large scale plantation crops such as soya and maize, bound for the meat industry for western markets and produced predominantly by large-scale agro-industries. With more investment in the variety of seeds, resistant to problems such as drought, water logging and salt intrusion, many more developing countries may adopt GMOs in the future. One recent success story is the introduction of 15 different varieties of 'climbing bean' in Rwanda, these beans are more disease resistant, produce up to four times the yield and are suitable for small-scale farmers. In this way increased food supply is favouring the rural poor rather than the urban western elites.

Agribusiness with its control of seed patents, investment in GMOs, fertilizers and pesticides will inevitably continue to have a massive impact on world food supply through technology investment. Through industrial style farming the quantity of food produced continues to increase, more sophisticated mechanised processes, efficient irrigation systems such as pivot irrigation as well as large scale dam construction all contribute in the short term to increased world food supply. Vast ranches and plantations with aeroplane spraying of pesticides increases yields further, the use of drones help target this use more efficiently. All of which, along with industrial 'battery' farms help produce food at industrial productions rates. However, many critics such as the scholar and activist Vindana Shiva question the impacts of these technologies on the environment. Quantity is increased but quality and variety of food is diminished. These foods increasingly are used for export rather thn for local markets and the small-scale farmer is often the victim. With this the social well-being of people diminishes and the fabric of society becomes torn as the supply of food becomes more controlled by big business.

Grade: 9-10

Word count: 677 words

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.

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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