Guides to success

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Liz Taylor reviews GCSE and A-level revision texts

AS amp; A Level Geography through Diagrams

By Garrett Nagle and Kris Spencer

OUP pound;10.99

AS amp; A Level Geography for Edexcel Specification B

By Garrett Nagle

Oxford Revision Guides pound;10.99

Geography Success at A level

By Kris Spencer

OUP pound;9.99

Revise for Geography GCSE AQA Specification C

By D Payne and S Jennings

Heinemann pound;6.99

Revise for Geography GCSE AQA Specification B

By J Smith

Heinemann pound;6.99

Revise for Geography GCSE OCR Specification C

By L Hattersley

Heinemann pound;6.99

Tomorrow's Geography for Edexcel GCSE Specification A

By S Warren and M Harcourt

Hodder amp; Stoughton pound;13.99

Spring is here, and to help you choose which revision guides to recommend to your students, here are some recent offerings at A-level and GCSE.

I really like the format of AS amp; A Level Geography through Diagrams. Each subtopic is set out in a series of boxes on an A4 page, with maps, annotated diagrams and tables. The latest edition (2001) has a useful set of tables relating to current specifications, techniques guidance and exemplar questions (but no answers). Some material has been reworked, but other parts are starting to age. But the format remains as useful as ever.

A more recent addition to the Oxford Revision Guides range is AS amp; A Level Geography for Edexcel Specification B. This is well-tailored to the specification content. The geography in each core unit is up-to-date and there is a useful emphasis on short case studies, plus guidance on tackling optional units. A sample exam question with mark scheme is provided for each unit, including advice on the sample synoptic unit activity. The guide benefits from some of the design features of Geography through Diagrams, but there is a greater predominance of text.

If your students would benefit from advice on study skills earlier than the revision stage, you could try Geography Success at A Level. The first part is filled with accessible advice on all aspects of good working habits and techniques, followed by worked examples of exam-style questions. Although the level of detail is inevitably constrained by space, these do give a good idea of the range of stimuli used for data response questions and the two worked essays will be useful for discussion.

Moving to GCSE revision, the three Heinemann guides all contain a considerable amount of content, tailored to the requirements of a particular specification. Revise for Geography GCSE AQA Specification C is the liveliest of the three, particularly in its choice of quotes from newspaper articles and other texts as stimuli. Case studies are frequent and well signposted and the different fonts and text boxes create as much visual variety as is likely to be possible in a black and white publication.

A strength of Revise for Geography GCSE AQA Specification B is its "Did you know?" geographical quirks and word origins. Otherwise, there is quite a lot of straight text, so students might need to use highlighting or concept mapping techniques to get the most out of it. Occasional "Focus Points" get them to self-test or think further about what they've learned, and there are sample exam questions and answers for each section, as in the other Heinemann books reviewed here.

Revise for Geography GCSE OCR Specification C also contains plenty of information and short case studies. Sample questions are differentiated by higher and foundation tiers and there are short self-test questions on places and themes. A useful self-assessment checklist rounds up each chapter.

The format of Tomorrow's Geography for Edexcel GCSE Specification A is less dense. There are some useful case study summaries presented as annotated diagrams and mind maps. A rather irritating smiley face provides tips on exam technique, but the guide does not contain exam questions, and there is very limited interactivity with the text.

Overall, while a good student would find plenty of useful information and guidance in the guides reviewed here, less motivated candidates may need further support.

Liz Taylor lectures in geography education at the University of Cambridge

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