2.1.1 Student Responses and Feedback

This page runs through example exam questions, model exam responses and exam responses graded against the assessment guidance. It includes downloadable student responses and assessment guidance for Population Change

Population Change

Syllabus - 2.1.1 -Population and Economic Development

Physical and human factors affecting population distribution at the global scale

Global patterns and classification of economic development:

  • low-income countries
  • middle-income countries and emerging economies
  • high-income countries

Population distribution and economic development at the national scale, including voluntary internal migration, core-periphery patterns and megacity growth

  • Two detailed and contrasting examples of uneven population distribution

Synthesis, evaluation and skills opportunities

The relative importance of different influences on where people live and spatial interactions between places at varying scales

Exam Questions

With reference to the map below, describe the pattern of population distribution (4)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

Population densities vary throughout the world. They are highest in South and East Asia reaching over 1000 people per km2 in many states and lowest in areas such as the Sahara and Amazonia. Russia and Australia have population densities lower than 10 people per km2. Although there is clear spatial variation the US and Europe have high population densities.

Student Response 2

The right of the map has the highest population density, especially China. India too. Australia and S. America have the lowest population densities. Many people live in Europe and America.

Student Response 3

Australia, Russia and Canada all have low population densities varying between 0-25. India and China have high population density over 1000 people per km2. Africa and S America have low population densities with the US and Europe somewhere in the middle varying between 75 up to 1000 per km2.

Teacher Feedback:

A description of the map requires the following:

  • An overview of the general global pattern (1)
  • Two areas of high population density indicated (1)
  • Two areas of low population density indicated (1)
  • Data extracted from the map to support the described pattern (1)
  • Anomalous regions identified (1)

A variation on this question might require a brief description and therefore more general regional patterns should be referred to. Always develop data.

Student Response 1

Population densities vary throughout the world. They are highest in South and East Asia reaching over 1000 people per km2 in many states and lowest in areas such as the Sahara and Amazonia. Russia and Australia have population densities lower than 10 people per km2. Although there is clear spatial variation the US and Europe have high population densities.

4/4 This response uses data (1) to develop at least two distinct regions for high density (1) and low density (1) populations,plus it comments on the global pattern (1)

Student Response 2

The right of the map has the highest population density, especially China. India too. Australia and S. America have the lowest population densities. Many people live in Europe and America.

2/4 This response identifies at least two regions of high population density (1) and two regions of low population density (1)

Student Response 3

Australia, Russia and Canada all have low population densities varying between 0-25. India and China have high population density over 1000 people per km2. Africa and S America have low population densities with the US and Europe somewhere in the middle varying between 75 up to 1000 per km2.

3/4 This response develops data fully to support the pattern (1) It develop 2 regions with high (1) and 2 regions with low population density (1)

Outline two physical and two human factors to explain global population distribution (2+2)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

Physical Factors: Climate determines how many people live in an area. Hot climates increase tourism. Lack of rain means a shortage of food for people.

Human Factors: Jobs are important for people and so lots of jobs means high population. Cities are interesting places, with jobs and entertainment and this attracts people so lots of people live in cities.

Student Response 2

Physical Factors: Climate is an important factor. Temperate climates, such as North Europe lack extremities so support the largest populations.  These regions also have plentiful rainfall, which allows agriculture to prosper supporting high population numbers increasing population density.

Human Factors: The location of industries in port cities such as Shanghai, creates employment opportunities that pulls people from rural regions in search of work. A lack of government investment in rural peripheries often means services are poor and opportunities are less. As a result, people migrate away or these regions attract less people.

Student Response 3

Physical Factors: Extreme environments such as deserts and inaccessible regions such as the Amazonia pose too many challenges to support large population densities. These regions have hostile climates and due to lack of development limit transport and trade. Coastal regions however, support larger populations due to fish supplies and the livelihoods it supports. It also provides great transport and trading opportunities.

Human Factors: Some regions are more developed and better connected with roads and transport links. They act as cores that attract investment and people.

Teacher Feedback:

1 mark should be awarded for each outlined reason. No more than 2 marks awarded for each question

Student Response 1

Physical Factors: Climate determines how many people live in an area. Hot climates increase tourism. Lack of rain means a shortage of food for people.

Human Factors: Jobs are important for people and so lots of jobs means high population. Cities are interesting places, with jobs and entertainment and this attracts people so lots of people live in cities.

2/4  This response outlines only two factors, one physical factor - climate and one human factors - cities and jobs (1) The response is not clear in its development.

Student Response 2

Physical Factors: Climate is an important factor. Temperate climates, such as North Europe lack extremities so support the largest populations.  These regions also have plentiful rainfall, which allows agriculture to prosper supporting high population numbers increasing population density.

Human Factors: The location of industries in port cities such as Shanghai, creates employment opportunities that pulls people from rural regions in search of work. A lack of government investment in rural peripheries often means services are poor and opportunities are less. As a result, people migrate away or these regions attract less people.

4/4 This response outlines in detail two physical factors - temperature and rainfall (2) and two human factors - port cities and government investment (2). It provides evidence to support factors that reinforces the reasoning.

Student Response 3

Physical Factors: Extreme environments such as deserts and inaccessible regions such as the Amazonia pose too many challenges to support large population densities. These regions have hostile climates and due to lack of development limit transport and trade. Coastal regions however, support larger populations due to fish supplies and the livelihoods it supports. It also provides great transport and trading opportunities.

Human Factors: Some regions are more developed and better connected with roads and transport links. They act as cores that attract investment and people.

3/4 This response is not balanced, it outlines in detail two physical factors - extreme climates and coastal regions (2), but only develops 1 human factor - transport connections - cores (1).

Explain why some global regions of the world have low population densities (2+2)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

Some global regions such as North America and Russia have low population density because it’s too cold. Other reasons that explain it include, extreme weather, hazards, poverty and lack of development. All these factors mean population growth is slow or people choose to live elsewhere often migrating away, which could be forced or voluntary migration.

Student Response 2

Extreme weather such as cold polar regions or hot desert regions means people cannot live there. The climate is too harsh and hostile to support people, either too hot or not enough rain. As a consequence of this harsh climate, soils lack fertility and so crops don’t grow and so there is limited people in these areas.

Student Response 3

Extreme climates such as those fund in polar and desert regions don’t support large populations. Often the climate is too extreme, either in temperature or lack of rainfall meaning people cannot establish viable livelihoods, such as agriculture. Other factors include accessibility and remoteness, mountain environments support smaller populations because they are challenging to navigate and often pose risk of hazards such a landslides and avalanches. The climate can be harsh posing challenges to agriculture and industries.

Teacher Feedback:

1 mark should be given for each correct reason and 1 mark should given for the development of the reason

Student Response 1

Some global regions such as North America and Russia have low population density because it’s too cold. Other reasons that explain it include, extreme weather, hazards, poverty and lack of development. All these factors mean population growth is slow or people choose to live elsewhere often migrating away, which could be forced or voluntary migration.

1/4 This response is unclear and lacks clear structure. It lists factors rather than developing logical reasoning. It attains 1 mark for cold weather or extreme weather. Some examiners would award a second mark for it leading to out-migration.

Student Response 2

Extreme weather such as cold polar regions or hot desert regions means people cannot live there. The climate is too harsh and hostile to support people, either too hot or not enough rain. As a consequence of this harsh climate, soils lack fertility and so crops don’t grow and so there is limited people in these areas.

4/4 This response develops in depth one factor - extreme climate (1) and develops it in lots of depth (1) A second factor is soil fertility (1) impacting crop yield and population size (1)

Student Response 3

Extreme climates such as those fund in polar and desert regions don’t support large populations. Often the climate is too extreme, either in temperature or lack of rainfall meaning people cannot establish viable livelihoods, such as agriculture. Other factors include accessibility and remoteness, mountain environments support smaller populations because they are challenging to navigate and often pose risk of hazards such a landslides and avalanches. The climate can be harsh posing challenges to agriculture and industries.

4/4 This response develops two distinct factors, extreme climate (1) and accessibility (1) both are well developed and evidenced (2)

State two reasons that make it difficult to classify countries in terms of economic development (2+2)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

Reason 1: Development varies spatially within countries. For example, peripheral regions such as rural regions tend to fall behind urban centers in terms of investment in industry and services. An urban bias develops cities faster. This difference can be hidden by classifications.

Reason 2: Uneven development exists within different ethnic groups as well as across gender. Some groups might command huge wealth and influence. At the same time marginalized groups live in poverty. Classifying countries can, in this context be unhelpful.

Student Response 2

Reason 1: Some countries can fall into two categories of economic development or develop much faster than others. This makes it difficult to classify

Reason 2: Some countries prioritize social or environmental development ahead of economic development so the use of an economic development classification doesn’t always represent a country well.

Student Response 3

Reason 1: Some countries are both wealthy and poor and so one classification is not accurate

Reason 2: Economic development is only one measure of development.

Teacher Feedback:

1 mark for each valid reason and 1 mark for developing the reasoning

Student Response 1

Reason 1: Development varies spatially within countries. For example, peripheral regions such as rural regions tend to fall behind urban centers in terms of investment in industry and services. An urban bias develops cities faster. This difference can be hidden by classifications.

Reason 2: Uneven development exists within different ethnic groups as well as across gender. Some groups might command huge wealth and influence. At the same time marginalized groups live in poverty. Classifying countries can, in this context be unhelpful.

4/4 This response provides two clear reasons - spatial unevenness in development (1) and socio-economic uneveneness (1). Both reasons are fully explained and linked to economic development classification

Student Response 2

Reason 1: Some countries can fall into two categories of economic development or develop much faster than others. This makes it difficult to classify

Reason 2: Some countries prioritize social or environmental development ahead of economic development so the use of an economic development classification doesn’t always represent a country well.

3/4 The first reason is valid but left undeveloped or explained (1) the second reason is clear and well developed (2)

Student Response 3

Reason 1: Some countries are both wealthy and poor and so one classification is not accurate

Reason 2: Economic development is only one measure of development.

1/4 The first reason although hinting at a reason does not communicate it and doesn't develop it for the second mark The second factors clearly states a valid reason but it is left undeveloped

With reference to the map suggest reasons why it may be considered outdated (2+2)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

It assumes that every country in Africa is less economically developed and every country in Europe is more economically developed. This may not be the case.

Student Response 2

The map shows an outdated concept of development at the global scale, that reflects our understanding of development in the 1960’s. Today many countries presented in the map as LEDCs are considered high-income countries or newly industrialized countries. There is also a large spatial variation within regions of Europe, for example between Western and Eastern Europe as well as within specific countries such as China. The map suggests that development is a static classification with countries trapped in poverty rather than dynamic process of change.

Student Response 3

The map classifies the world into two regions, LEDCs and MEDCs, which seems too simplistic. This ‘black and white’ view of the world does not represent countries like China and South Korea that have developed rapidly over the last 40 years. The map shows these countries still as LEDCs and this is no longer true.

Teacher Feedback:

1 mark is given for each relevant reason. 1 marked is given for the development of the reason

Student Response 1

It assumes that every country in Africa is less economically developed and every country in Europe is more economically developed. This may not be the case.

1/4 There is no clear link to subject of the question. The point is a valid one but not well developed

Student Response 2

The map shows an outdated concept of development at the global scale, that reflects our understanding of development in the 1960’s. Today many countries presented in the map as LEDCs are considered high-income countries or newly industrialized countries. There is also a large spatial variation within regions of Europe, for example between Western and Eastern Europe as well as within specific countries such as China. The map suggests that development is a static classification with countries trapped in poverty rather than dynamic process of change.

4/4 The response develops two valid critiques - Outdated map that doesn't reflect development (1) and uneven development within countries and/or regions (1) The ideas are well developed and explained (2)

Student Response 3

The map classifies the world into two regions, LEDCs and MEDCs, which seems too simplistic. This ‘black and white’ view of the world does not represent countries like China and South Korea that have developed rapidly over the last 40 years. The map shows these countries still as LEDCs and this is no longer true.

2/4 This response offers one critique of the map and develops the reasoning in detail. A second critique is not stated or developed.

Explain the patterns of population distribution in a country you have studied (4)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

China has a large difference in population distribution. Its East coast including cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, is by far the most densely populated area, with population density varying between 100-500 people per km2. 90% of its population live in just 30% of its land. The central region has a medium population density between 2-99 per km2 and the west has the lowest population density of  less than 2 people per km2.

Student Response 2

Nigeria’s population density varies spatially within the country. 40% of its population live in the South region and around the Niger Delta. It has population densities between 100-500 people per km2. This region has access to the coast and provides important fishing livelihoods. Its climate is less extreme with more annual rainfall and the Delta Region is rich in minerals, including oil that attracts investment jobs and large cities. Population density falls away in other more rural regions to levels below 2 people per km2. There is a lack of services in these places and the climate is more harsh. There are populated regions in Niger in the north but these are clustered around cities, which create employment and act as service and trade centers.

Student Response 3

China has experienced rapid rates of rural to urban migration and so the coastal cities located on the East coast have much higher population density than the interior. The coastal cities like Shanghai as well the capital Beijing have many pull factors such as factory jobs for young Chinese people looking to better their lives. In contrast rural regions in the west lack job opportunities.

Teacher Feedback:

1 mark can be given for each explained reason linked to a clear pattern of population distribution in a stated country. 2 marks can be allocated for two very detailed reasons. A minimum of two developed explanations needed to attain 4 marks.

Student Response 1

China has a large difference in population distribution. Its East coast including cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, is by far the most densely populated area, with population density varying between 100-500 people per km2. 90% of its population live in just 30% of its land. The central region has a medium population density between 2-99 per km2 and the west has the lowest population density of  less than 2 people per km2.

0/4 This response does not address the command word explain. It provides excellent case study description of population distribution in China

Student Response 2

Nigeria’s population density varies spatially within the country. 40% of its population live in the South region and around the Niger Delta. It has population densities between 100-500 people per km2. This region has access to the coast and provides important fishing livelihoods. Its climate is less extreme with more annual rainfall and the Delta Region is rich in minerals, including oil that attracts investment jobs and large cities. Population density falls away in other more rural regions to levels below 2 people per km2. There is a lack of services in these places and the climate is more harsh. There are populated regions in Niger in the north but these are clustered around cities, which create employment and act as service and trade centers.

4/4 This response provides three clear and detailed explanations for the population density of Nigeria. The South region and Delta Region is explained sufficiently well to attain 2 marks. Lower population densities are explained and city cluster in the north are also developed for two further marks.

Student Response 3

China has experienced rapid rates of rural to urban migration and so the coastal cities located on the East coast have much higher population density than the interior. The coastal cities like Shanghai as well the capital Beijing have many pull factors such as factory jobs for young Chinese people looking to better their lives. In contrast rural regions in the west lack job opportunities.

2/4 This response explain high population densities in China's Eastern region in sufficient detail to attain 2 marks. However, population density in the rural region is unclear. The explanation is logical but it is not linked to a pattern of population distribution so attains no further credit.

Describe how core-periphery patterns can be applied to a country that you have studied (4)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

There is a clear pattern of core periphery regions in Nigeria. The highest population densities (100-500 per km2) are located in the southern region and in the Delta Region. This area is most urbanized and home to Lagos the country capital. The Delta region is rich in mineral resources is also a center for industry and investment, especially from oil wealth. Lagos has an annual GDP almost equivalent to Morocco. This dwarfs small peripheral states’ GDP, such as Imo and Cross River. If Lagos was a country it would be 7th largest by GDP in Africa and it is home to more than 60% of Nigeria’s commercial and industrial activity. Population density and industrial activity declines rapidly into rural peripheral states where most people live and work in subsistence.

Student Response 2

China definitely demonstrates core periphery patterns. The East coast and its major cities represent the industrial belt of the country, especially around North Eastern cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Rather than one power city, economic wealth is distributed across many mega-cities. As you move westwards into the interior, economic contribution declines with distance from the coast. There is some evidence of trickle-down in central regions, with some Chinese migrating into central regions and with it investment in industry and infrastructure.

 Teacher Feedback:

Core periphery should be clearly defined (1) and then effectively linked and explained to a specific country. It is expected that responses develop economic core patterns in known city clusters and/or regions (1) Evidence of the influence of the core should be clear (1) A clear pattern and evidence (1) of a named periphery should be developed (1). Some students may refer to a trickle-down of investment from the core to the periphery(1)

Student Response 1

There is a clear pattern of core periphery regions in Nigeria. The highest population densities (100-500 per km2) are located in the southern region and in the Delta Region. This area is most urbanized and home to Lagos the country capital. The Delta region is rich in mineral resources is also a center for industry and investment, especially from oil wealth. Lagos has an annual GDP almost equivalent to Morocco. This dwarfs small peripheral states’ GDP, such as Imo and Cross River. If Lagos was a country it would be 7th largest by GDP in Africa and it is home to more than 60% of Nigeria’s commercial and industrial activity. Population density and industrial activity declines rapidly into rural peripheral states where most people live and work in subsistence.

3/4 There is clear and detailed evidence of core regions. This is well explained (2). The periphery regions minimal and so the response reads unbalanced (1).

Student Response 2

China definitely demonstrates core periphery patterns. The East coast and its major cities represent the industrial belt of the country, especially around North Eastern cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Rather than one power city, economic wealth is distributed across many mega-cities. As you move westwards into the interior, economic contribution declines with distance from the coast. There is some evidence of trickle-down in central regions, with some Chinese migrating into central regions and with it investment in industry and infrastructure.

4/4 This response is balanced. It provides evidence of core patterns in Eastern China, including megacity growth (2). It also develop a distance decay pattern to the west (1) as well as a pattern of explained trickle down into the interior.(1) More place knowledge would help the response.

With reference to a country you have studied, explain the rates of urbanization (4)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

Nigeria has experienced rapid rates of rural to urban migration to its major city of Lagos. Lagos now has an estimated population size of 17.5 million. This growth is caused by urbanization. People migrate internally as a result of push and pull factors. Push factors are negative conditions relating to rural regions and pull factors are positive conditions found in Lagos. People move generally in search of better paid work and access to the services and food that a city can provide. Sometimes food is in shortage in rural areas and the quality of education and health services can be very poor.

Student Response 2

China has experienced the largest internal migration in the world’s history with more than 160 million people leaving rural regions in search of work in the urban areas. In 1960s according to the Economist people living in rural regions earned less than $2 a day, 40 % less than city inhabitants. By moving to cities and working in factories established by the government and private firms as the country opened up to the free market they could earn more in one month than in a  whole year farming rice.  Today these migrants contribute up 12% of the countries economic growth. The push factor of low pay and pull factor of work and a higher standard of living has driven the rapid rates of urbanization creating no fewer than 6 mega-cities.

Teacher Feedback:

One mark for each place-specific reason for rates of urbanization to in a named country. Two further marks are awarded for developing each reason.

Student Response 1

Nigeria has experienced rapid rates of rural to urban migration to its major city of Lagos. Lagos now has an estimated population size of 17.5 million. This growth is caused by urbanization. People migrate internally as a result of push and pull factors. Push factors are negative conditions relating to rural regions and pull factors are positive conditions found in Lagos. People move generally in search of better paid work and access to the services and food that a city can provide. Sometimes food is in shortage in rural areas and the quality of education and health services can be very poor.

3/4 - This response is too generic in places and so gains marks for explaining the specific pattern of urbanization in Nigeria (2) but loses a mark for lack of place specific evidence  for push factors (1)

Student Response 2

China has experienced the largest internal migration in the world’s history with more than 160 million people leaving rural regions in search of work in the urban areas. In 1960s according to the Economist people living in rural regions earned less than $2 a day, 40% less than city inhabitants. By moving to cities and working in factories established by the government and private firms when the country opened up to the free market they could earn more in one month than in a whole year farming rice.  Today these migrants contribute up to 12% of the countries economic growth. The push factor of low pay and pull factor of work and a higher standard of living has driven the rapid rates of urbanization creating no fewer than 6 mega-cities.

4/4 This is a very detailed place-specific response. It fully describes and explains the extent and rate of urbanization in China (2). It develops push and pull factors including rural low pay and quality of life (2)

Explain the factors leading to megacity growth (4)

Student Responses PDF

Student Response 1

A megacity can be defined as a city with a population over 10 million. There is a general pattern of megacity growth in emerging economies, experiencing rapid rates of urbanization caused by rural to urban migration and natural increase. There are 6 megacities in China alone. Internal migration to cities is caused by a combination of push and pull factors. Push factors are negative conditions in rural areas and include poverty, low pay and poor quality of life as well as conflict, land grabs and mechanization that force farmers off the land. Pull factors are positive conditions in cities and include higher earnings from factory jobs, improved access to health care and more secure food and nutrition.

Student Response 2

Megacities are cities with a population of 10 million and have developed in many developing countries but mainly in Asia. The main factors leading to megacity growth are push and pull factors causing rural to urban migration. A push factor is something negative like poverty and it pushes people from rural regions. Pull factors are positive and attract people to cities. Pull factors include jobs and better health care. These cities have a youthful population and high birth rate that leads to natural increase.

Student Response 3

Megacities are cities with a population of 10 million or more and grow because of internal migration to cities. People move to cities in search of jobs and a better standard of life but often find life is hard and generally end up living in slum settlements with a lack of sanitation and services. These slums expand on the outskirts helping create megacities.

Teacher Feedback:

Award 1 mark for each correct reason. Award 1 mark for each reason that is developed. Ideas include:

  • Push and pull factors leading to rural to urban migration
  • Natural Increase
  • Core Periphery patterns

Student Response 1

A megacity can be defined as a city with a population over 10 million. There is a general pattern of megacity growth in emerging economies, experiencing rapid rates of urbanization caused by rural to urban migration and natural increase. There are 6 megacities in China alone. Internal migration to cities is caused by a combination of push and pull factors. Push factors are negative conditions in rural areas and include poverty, low pay and poor quality of life as well as conflict, land grabs and mechanization that force farmers off the land. Pull factors are positive conditions in cities and include higher earnings from factory jobs, improved access to health care and more secure food and nutrition.

4/4 This response develops in detail push and pull factors leading to rural to urban migration (2) It provides evidence of both (2). It also states natural increase but leaves this undeveloped

Student Response 2

Megacities are cities with a population of 10 million and have developed in many developing countries but mainly in Asia. The main factors leading to megacity growth are push and pull factors causing rural to urban migration. A push factor is something negative like poverty and it pushes people from rural regions. Pull factors are positive and attract people to cities. Pull factors include jobs and better health care. These cities have a youthful population and high birth rate that leads to natural increase.

4/4 This response develops examples of push and pull factors that causes rural to urban migration (2). It states natural and explains how this occurs (2)

Student Response 3

Megacities are cities with a population of 10 million or more and grow because of internal migration to cities. People move to cities in search of jobs and a better standard of life but often find life is hard and generally end up living in slum settlements with a lack of sanitation and services. These slums expand on the outskirts helping create megacities.

2/4 This response develops why people migrate to cities due to pull factors (2) However the students goes off topic by describing problems in cities.

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