The Competitive Climate of Geography
With increasingly dire climate realities, Singapore, as a City in a Garden, realises the looming environmental threat. Common buzzwords these days are “sustainability” and “food security”, which fall under the umbrella of geography, urban planning and science. The study of geography is extremely important because it builds students’ knowledge of the natural and urban environment. The Ministry of Education (MOE) offers Geography as one of three disciplines within the humanities curriculum. Although Geography is deemed as one of the harder humanities with steep competition, a good grasp on Geography allows students to find green pastures in urban planning, design and horticulture and other related fields.
The Rocky Foundation of Geography in Students
Geography, as a subject, is only formally introduced in Secondary 1. However, according to a 2012 education journal article by an NIE professor, Geography skills are actually embedded within the context of Primary School Social Studies. Social Studies informs the primary student’s understanding of the human-environment relationship, which is a topic typically taught in Secondary School Geography. Since Social Studies is not an examinable PSLE subject, it is not given protected lesson time or priority. As such, although Geography skills are imparted early under the guise of Social Studies, students only develop these essential skills in Secondary School.
A Secondary School Geography student is expected to acquire skills and knowledge as they learn about and understand physical and human phenomena happening on Earth, as well as current socio-environmental issues that occur in different parts of the world – across cultures. According to MOE’s Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Geography syllabus, students are assessed in 3 main areas – knowledge, critical understanding and evaluation.
Grounding Lower Secondary Geography
The Lower Secondary syllabus covers 6 issues across two broad themes – (1) Environment and Resources and (2) Urban Living. Many students consider it to be content-heavy, requiring time for students to familiarise themselves with new terms and concepts. However, mere memorization is not enough. Students need to display analytical abilities and an objective evaluation of geographical data in order to perform well. Regurgitating content is a common downfall for many students who fail to offer any form of analysis. Further, students may be disadvantaged if they do not possess a good command of English which is essential to excelling in the humanities. Students who do not perform well become despondent and neglect Geography and other humanities subjects.
In this regard, a Lower Secondary private Geography tutor can offer a fresh perspective into sociological and environmental concerns within the subject. Private home tuition will help them to deepen their geographical knowledge and equip them necessary skills such as research and evaluation. This will naturally lead to insightful discourse on global issues that affect the physical and urban environment we live in. Your child will be able to recognise and understand the geography of the past and how it has played an important role in the evolution of people, finding an intersection between other disciplines in humanities such as history and literature.
With Subject-Based Banding (SBB), doing well in Geography is important if students want to pursue it as a ‘pure’ (stand alone) or combined subject at national examinations, such as the GCE-N Level, GCE-O Level and GCE-A Level exam.
Grasping Upper Secondary Geography
In Upper Secondary, a good foundation goes a long way. A foundation that is built through private Geography tuition helps your child cope with the increasing expectation and academic rigour of the subject at a higher level.
The GCE-O Level Geography exam consists of 2 papers, with 4 sections of equal weightage (25%). These sections require them to write and expound on topics covered within the dense syllabus. Each section contains a mix of sub-divisions questions and open-ended questions. Open-ended questions will be marked according to level descriptors – with more articulate and sound answers clinching the highest descriptor level. Topics include: Coasts, Global Tourism, Tectonic Hazards, Climate Change, Food Resources and Health and Diseases.
How to be a Geography Genius: Highlight Command Words!
Questions within the Geography papers may contain operative and instructive words which have specific requirements. As such, it is important to pay close attention by highlighting these words in the question. The table below shows some keywords and phrases found in past year questions, along with their corresponding expectation. Each of these keywords and phrases assesses the students’ fundamental geography skill.
Source: GCE-O Level Syllabus 2020 (Page 40 - 41 for full list)
Getting Good Grades for Junior College Geography
At the tertiary level, Geography is still widely considered to be one of the more difficult humanities disciplines. JCs offer the subject at the H1, H2, and H3 level, with H3 being the most academically rigorous. The syllabus includes these 4 main themes – (1) Tropical Environments, (2) Development, Economy and Environment, (3) Sustainable Development and (4) Geographical Investigation. Themes 1, 2 and 3 are assessed through the typical written examination format. JC students are expected to be able to find linkages between the first 3 themes and to explain the far-reaching consequences in the natural and urban environment in the GCE-A Level paper. Theme 4 is carried out separately as fieldwork research.
Source: MOE H2 Geography Syllabus (Latest) (Page 9)
GCE-A Level Geography requires students to show a deep and interconnected understanding of geographical knowledge such as the uniqueness of different types of natural environments and places, the evolution of landscapes and development of issues and connections between different the sub-fields of geography. JC students have to rely on their familiarity with terms, concepts and trends in order to construct convincing arguments. Furthermore, they have to display critical thinking in evaluating different types of geographical data and analysis to make recommendations and in consideration of multi-faceted issues.
With the demands of the GCE-A Level Geography exam, a private Geography tutor will definitely ease a student's anxiety. An experienced Geography tutor will teach your child how to interpret and analyse geographical data, and apply relevant concepts to construct stellar Geography essays. This will allow your child to effectively acquire the essential and critical skills needed to ace the GCE A-Level Geography exam!
Becoming a Natural: 6 Geography Tips and Tricks from a Local Teacher
In this Youtube video, a local Geography educator shares how Singapore students go about preparing for the local GCE-O Level examinations! Among some of her top tips and tricks are:
- Make Mind Maps
After reviewing a textbook topic, it is good practice to write down the content and ideas you remember from your reading. Instead of writing notes, which makes topical content seem isolated adns self-contained, try making a mind map! A mind map helps students to draw linkages between the different ideas that were written down. This provides a macro view of the topic allowing students to see the ‘big picture’ as well as micro view on various veins of extension. A mind map is also a creative activity that sparks the imagination and creativity among aspiring geographers!
- Incorporate Geographical Concepts
Incorporating fundamental geographical concepts can help substantiate answers! This is especially useful for open-ended questions where level descriptors favour more well-articulated and sound arguments. Some examples of concepts include: Scale of Impact, Time Scale, Frequency of Occurrence, Developed Countries (DCs) versus Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs). Concepts are versatile and can be branched out extensively. This makes it easy for students to apply a variety of concepts to a single issue during examinations.
- Look out for Command words
As listed in the table in the previous section, a command word instructs students on how to answera question. A ‘describe’ question is very different from a ‘explain’ question – the student that realises this will score better. As such, it is crucial for students to know how the questions should be answered as opposed to dumping memorised content.
- Understand the Demand(s) of Question
Another important factor is knowing the demand of the question – or the what that they are looking for. Students are often too eager to regurgitate content that they have memorised for weeks. However, this is detrimental because students are blithely unaware of what the question requires.
- Be Wary of Mark Allocation
The allocation of marks is typically a good indicator of the depth required in the student’s response. The more marks that are allocated to a question, the more thorough and incisive the response should be. Students should tap on their geographical knowledge and apply the necessary inquiry skills if applicable to the question.
- Seek Constant Feedback
The best way to improve is to continually seek feedback from your teachers and tutors. With this constant assessment, students will know the areas they should devote more time and attention to. As such, a private Geography tutor would be really helpful in helping students achieve better grades in the fastest time!
Nanyang Academics: Keep Calm and Geog On!
Students require dedicated and competent Geography tutors in order to unpack content, inspire inquiry and reinforce concepts. Our outstanding team of private Geography tutors at Nanyang Academics help students understand the nuances in the subject. From the introduction of key geographical concepts in Secondary School Geography to the more complex ones in JC, we help better their understanding of the subject. Our private home tutors provide your child with undivided attention, enabling him to understand the subject in an engaging and interactive manner.
Request for a private Geography tutor today!