Top 5 Essentials for Studying Geography

Geography is one of the broadest topics offered within the IB Diploma Programme. The course asks you to understand a wide range of physical and human processes, while using skills normally encountered in both the sciences and humanities. If you’re struggling to master this combination of knowledge and skills, don’t worry! Here we will take you through our top 5 essentials for studying Geography. 

  1. Establish a method for learning case studies

Case studies are essential for studying Geography. Without them, you wouldn’t have context for the theories you learn. Because they’re so important, there are a lot of them to remember when it comes to sitting the exam! 

Developing a method for learning them that works for you is vital to writing strong essays on the exam. Remember, what works for someone else may not work for you. Take the time to try a few different methods before deciding on one. 

One method that works well is writing your case studies alongside the corresponding syllabus point in a clean copy of the syllabus. This means that you have all of your case studies in one place. Additionally, it means that you won’t be missing any as it will be easy to tell which ones you haven’t yet covered. 

If you’re looking for a method that allows you to write more details in your notes, try creating a dedicated notebook or document for case studies. Having them all in one place can make it easier to find case studies that work for multiple syllabus points. 

Alternatively, you can try colour coding case studies in your regular notes. Try writing case studies with a different colour pen or highlighting your heading. This makes them easy spot amidst the rest of your notes. 

If you’re struggling to learn the details of case studies before a test or exam, give flashcards a go! This will allow you to include more details than the syllabus methods. For an even more effective revision technique, use active recall by writing down your answers to the flashcards. Apps like Anki and Quizlet can help you practice active recall on the go. 

2. Use syllabus points to structure your revision notes

The Geography syllabus is incredibly detailed! Use this to your advantage by using the syllabus points to structure your revision notes. Copy paste each point into a document, and then explain the concept in your own words below. 

This method will ensure that you are revising everything on the syllabus. It will also make sure your revision is more efficient by preventing you from learning concepts that although interesting, won’t be examined. 

If you start making a document like this at the beginning of the year or the Diploma Programme, you will save yourself a lot of time when you get to revision season! See the image below for an example of this method. 

3. Get into the habit of double checking information in graphs, maps, and other diagrams

Papers 1 and 2 always include questions about graphs, maps, or other diagrams. Most of the time, these questions are at the beginning of each section. While each question point is normally worth between 1 and 3 marks, they are a great way to build up marks. 

Generally, the tricky aspect of analysing these diagrams is the way that they have set up the graph axises, the scale, or other labels. By getting into the habit of double checking these aspects you’ll prevent yourself from being caught out by their tricks! 

Often they will different units to other sections of the diagram or units not generally associated with the content. It’s also common for then to use different scales on the x and y axises on graphs. Keep your eye out for these tricks!

4. Utilise diagrams in your essays

While each paper in the Geography course asks you to write at least one essay, it’s important to remember that you are not limited to only using words in them! You are encouraged to use diagrams to help explain concepts. This is especially important for the more physical topics such as the greenhouse effect in the Core and erosion in the Extreme Environments option.

It can feel a bit weird to draw a diagram in an essay, particularly if you are used to writing History and English essays! Practicing drawing common diagrams as part of your revision can help make you more comfortable with them. Diagrams can help you explain concepts much faster on the exam, giving you more time to plan and write the essay. 

5. Make the most of your own life experiences

One of the great things about Geography is how relevant it is to your everyday life! Things that are happening in your local area are likely to be as relevant as the ‘far away’ case studies you learn in class. 

For example, if you live in Norway you probably know that electric cars are currently allowed to drive in bus lanes. While this may seem totally normal to you, it is an example of a government incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

If you can think about the things happening around you from a geographical viewpoint, you will be amazed at how many ready-made case studies you have! Take advantage of this knowledge by using it to create detailed examples in your essays. 

For a more in depth read on revision strategies for geography, check out our Geography Guide here. If you’re finding that you’re struggling to understand geographical concepts more generally, check out our YouTube channel. If you’re still struggling to get to grips with Geography, our online private tuition services will be able to help!


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