The Geography Leaving Cert exam will build on the skills and knowledge you developed while studying the syllabus. To be confident and prepared for your Geography paper, you will need to revise a lot of different areas from the syllabus. Being familiar with the structure of the paper and the types of questions that come up can help you to feel more prepared.

In this guide, we will explain how the Leaving Cert Geography exam is structured and what you can expect on these papers. We’ll also highlight some study tips and resources to support your revision for this subject.

The Leaving Cert Geography exam

Leaving Cert Geography is studied at the Ordinary and Higher Levels. The paper is two hours and 50 minutes in duration.

For both the Ordinary and Higher levels, the exam is split into two parts. In the 2022 adjustments, the higher paper is now worth a total of 320 marks, down from the usual 400 marks. The Ordinary Paper, however, is now worth a total of 300 marks, down from the usual 400 marks.

The Geography Leaving Cert exam contains topics such as Physical Geography, Regional Geography, and Electives, and you will also be asked to interpret information. The Higher Level Paper goes into the topics in more depth, and features essays and structured questions.

What to expect in Leaving Cert Geography papers

The Higher Level Paper

Part One

Part One of the Higher Level Paper consists of Short Answer Questions. There are 12 questions in this section, of which you will be required to answer 10 questions for a total of 80 marks, or 25% of the total written examination. All of the questions in this section carry equal marks.

The short questions are generally based on Physical and Regional Geography. This section is designed to examine your geographical skills. In Part One of the Geography Leaving Cert exam, you should expect to be asked to read and interpret information from tables, graphs, diagrams and photographs. To do well in this section, you should be able to recognise landforms - for example, a meander from a diagram, and be able to identify the landforms from an OS map. This section will also test your ability to read grid references, know how to calculate area, distance, and be able to work with cross sections.

Part Two

Part Two of the Higher Level paper features structured and essay questions, and is worth 240 marks.

This section of the paper is broken down into four sections:

  • Section 1: Patterns and Processes in the Physical Environment

  • Section 2: Regional Geography

  • Section 3: The Elective Human or Economic

  • Section 4: Options – Global Interdependence, Geo-Ecology, Culture and Identity and the Atmosphere and Ocean Environment.

In this section, you will answer a total of three questions, instead of four, as in previous exam papers. You are, however, not allowed to choose all three questions from the same section (though you are able to choose two questions from the same section if you want to).

The Ordinary Level Paper

Part One

There are 12 Short Questions in Part One, and you must answer any 10 of these for a total of 100 marks (all questions carry equal marks).

Part Two

Part Two of the Ordinary Level Paper features structured questions, however doesn’t include any essays, as in the Higher Level. This part of the paper is broken down into three sections:

  • Section 1: Patterns and Processes in the Physical Environment

  • Section 2: Regional Geography

  • Section 3: Electives.

In this section, you are required to answer two questions; each from a different section. There are a total of 200 marks available in Part Two.

How to revise for Leaving Cert Geography exams

Revising for Part One

In tackling Part One of the Leaving Cert Geography Paper, the preparation that you put in beforehand is vital. To be a successful learner, you need to revise many times, and practice using the information so that you will remember it. As the geography course is so huge, it is important that you expand your general knowledge of geography topics, to ensure you aren’t in a bad position if something comes up that you haven’t studied. This is particularly true for Part One of the paper.

Practicing the short questions from previous exam papers is a great way to build your confidence. Revision booklets such as Revise Wise provide useful revision tips, exam questions and expert sample answers to prepare you for your paper.

Revising for Part Two

There are patterns that we can identify from previous papers that may help you to prepare for Part Two of the paper. In this part of the paper, you may expect to see:

Section 1 (Patterns and Processes in the Physical Environment)

  • OS maps

  • Types and formations of rocks

  • Destructive/constructive plate boundaries

  • Isostasy

  • Folding and faulting

  • Landform development.

Section 2 (Regional Geography)

  • Maps of Ireland

  • Maps of a European or continental/sub-continental region

  • Primary, secondary or tertiary economic activities in Ireland, or a European or continental/sub-continental region

  • Changes to the boundaries of regions

  • Changes in agriculture, industry and urban development.

Section 3 (Electives)

  • OS maps or sketch maps

  • International or Irish trade

  • Sustainable and regional development

  • Globalisation

  • Fossil fuels and renewable energy

  • The European Union and their policies.

We recommend going through past papers for Section 2 to familiarise yourself with what is likely to come up, and practice attempting these under exam conditions and timings.

Additional tips for revision include:

  • Be aware of overlapping topics, such as economic activities in the Regional and Electives sections—studying overlapping subjects can reduce workload.

  • Use sample papers and past exam papers —timing is very important in this exam, so students should practice under exam conditions where possible.

  • Prioritize the topics that are guaranteed to come up in the Geography Leaving Cert Exam: OS maps, sketch maps and aerial photographs, weather systems and weather maps, etc.

  • Highlight and practice significant relevant points (SRPs) —between nine and eleven could be needed for longer questions. Examiners will be looking for cohesion between these points to demonstrate their relevance to the question.

  • Practice diagrams and other supporting illustrations —don’t waste time on these, but they are regarded as SRPs by examiners.

Edco Geography exam papers

Edco Geography exam papers are available for Higher and Ordinary level students to revise the subject and learn how to earn as many marks as possible on the final exam. As well as sample and past exam papers, these books include up-to-date guides to achieving better grades and exam paper analysis charts.

Other resources for revising Leaving Cert Geography

Revise Wise – Leaving Cert – Geography – Higher Level

Revise Wise – Leaving Cert – Geography – Higher Level - These books have full-colour designs and are packed with revision notes, tips and guidance which has been written by subject experts. They include graded exercises and detailed solutions to support the development of your skills from basic to advanced.

Geography Extra! - Leaving Cert – Higher Level

Geography Extra! - Leaving Cert – Higher Level - Designed for higher level students, this book is packed full of sample answers and examples. Drawing on recent Geography papers, this book guides you step-by-step, teaching you how to respond to exam questions in the most effective manner. This book also includes many key definitions, exam tips and lots of essential advice.

Less Stress More Success - Leaving Cert – Geography – Higher and Ordinary Levels

Less Stress More Success - Leaving Cert – Geography – Higher and Ordinary Levels - Less Stress More Success gives you all you need to get the best results you can in your exams. This book highlights key information, allowing you to prioritise important parts of your revision. In-context exam questions allow you to apply what you’ve just learned.

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