The Junior Cycle Geography curriculum is designed to encourage students to develop their understanding of the world around them through exposure to geographical thought and reason.
The learning outcomes for the subject are split into three strands: exploring the physical world; exploring how we interact with the physical world; and exploring people, place and change. In turn, each of these strands has three ‘elements’: processes, patterns, systems and scale; geographical skills; and sustainability.
These learning outcomes seek to develop students’ understanding of geography and acquire a range of applied, reading and interpretation skills. This knowledge will be assessed throughout the three years of the Junior Cycle, culminating in a Final Examination.
In this article, we'll outline what to expect from the Junior Cycle Geography exam, share some tips for how students can prepare for it and highlight some helpful learning resources to support Geography revision.
The Junior Cycle Geography exam
Junior Cycle Geography students are assessed in several different ways throughout the three years of study. There are two Classroom-Based Assessments. The first, Geography in the News, takes place during the second term of the second year. The second, My Geography, takes place in the first term of the third year. There will also be a written Assessment Task undertaken on completion of the My Geography Classroom-Based Assessment, which will be marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
Finally, there is one state examination which is set and marked by the SEC. This is studied at the Common level and takes place in the June of the final year of the Junior Cycle. It is a two-hour exam designed to assess students' knowledge and ability to engage with the Geography syllabus. There are a total of 150 marks available in this final exam.
What to expect in Junior Cycle Geography exam papers
There are two sections in the Junior Cycle Geography exam. Section 1 is worth a total of 60 marks and consists of 20 short questions each worth three marks. The first 10 questions in this section focus on the physical aspects of geography and landforms, such as rivers and rocks. The next 10 questions focus on other aspects of geography covered in the syllabus, with the last three usually relating to aerial photographs or OS maps. The questions are usually either simply right or wrong with all three marks being awarded for a right answer.
Section 2 of the exam is worth a total of 90 marks. The questions in this section are designed for long answers. There are a total of five questions, but students need only answer three of them. They can answer more than three, but only the three strongest answers will be marked.
Students ought to read through all five questions in Section 2 and decide which ones they feel they can answer in the strongest way. If they have time left over at the end of the exam, they can answer more. However, since marks are awarded according to the quality of the answers, it is usually best to focus the time on answering just three questions in as much detail as possible.
How to revise for Junior Cycle Geography exams
A great way to revise for Junior Cycle Geography exams is to complete past and sample exam papers under timed conditions. Not only does this encourage students to test their knowledge of the syllabus, but it can help them to get used to the format of the exam and learn how to pace themselves to optimise their marks.
It's important to manage time wisely and prioritise certain questions. Around 20 minutes should be spent on Section 1 and then 25 minutes on each of the three long questions chosen from Section 2. This leaves 25 minutes for checking over answers, strengthening and improving the longer essay-style answers in Section 2, and attempting a fourth long question if time permits it.
Revision should involve the use of charts and other visual clues to support the learning of more complex concepts. Similar to other factual subjects like Mathematics and Science, Geography revision benefits from putting knowledge into practice. Visiting key geographical sites in your local area, such as a river or even a park, will help contextualise key terms and concepts and provide a more memorable visual cue.
Students should take the time to familiarise themselves with OS maps and aerial photographs, and the process of drawing and labelling diagrams of key geographical concepts relevant to the Geography curriculum.
Edco Geography exam papers
Edco Junior Cycle Geography Common Level Exam Papers offer a fantastic way for students to prepare for their exam. The pack includes an SEC sample paper in addition to nine sample papers created by Edco in line with the SEC's sample. The solutions for the papers are available for free online so that students can check their work and see which areas require further revision.
In addition to the sample papers, the pack also includes a guide to better grades which helps students understand how to receive the maximum possible marks for their answers. Plus, there's access to an online study hub and a mobile audio app. Students can also map their progress to keep themselves motivated throughout the revision process.
Other resources for revising Junior Cycle Geography
In addition to sample papers, Junior Cycle Geography students can optimise their revision process by using resources designed specifically for exam prep.
Shortcuts to Success: Geography Maps and Photographs is a revision aid designed to help students improve their map reading skills and ability to recognise features when looking at aerial photographs. The book contains lots of map extracts, full colour photos and exam-style questions to help students practice for exam questions that involve OS maps and aerial photographs.
The Shortcuts to Success series of textbooks is designed to help students understand how to get maximum marks for their answers or take their grades up a level. This one for Junior Cycle Geography has been written by a teacher with lots of experience in helping students to understand exactly what the SEC exam requires of them to succeed.