How to revise geography case studies

How to revise geography case studies
Geography is an amazing subject (but I'm just a little bit biased, having studied it at university and taught it to hundreds of students). It's a wonderful blend of the study of human beings and the physical world and the way the two interact. However, it's a very content-heavy subject and although it's students are often passionate, it can be overwhelming at times.

Molly, one of my readers, wrote to me to ask:

I was just wondering if you had any tips for revising and remembering geography case studies?

When I've asked around some of the things that students find most difficult about revising geography case studies are:

  • Condensing all the information
  • Remembering all the statistics
  • Knowing what you need to know, and what you can afford to forget

Having been a bit of an ace at this kind of thing myself (I got an A* at GCSE, A at A-Level and a degree in the subject) I thought I'd share some of my top tips on how to revise geography case studies today.

How to revise geography case studies

1. Make sure you understand the case study

The first step in remembering anything is understanding it. You need to have a clear model in your mind of how the case study works. This includes how it's laid out in space (a mental map), who the people were who were involved and the context of the case study (historical, political, social, economic and environmental. These tips will help you with this:

  • Make sure you've seen a map of the place. In this day and age this is easy with google maps, google earth and google streetview. All of these things can help you understand both the 2-D and 3-D landscape of the case study.
  • Find newspaper articles and pictures to give you some background and also help you to visual the place
  • Watch videos if they exist. For some case studies there are amazing clips of films (Kibera, the Nairobi shanty town at the beginning of The Constant Gardner springs to mind). For others there will be great video clips on YouTube to help you.
  • If you can, visit the place. Nothing is as powerful as this in fully understanding a place.

2. Condense your notes

Once you've thoroughly understood the case study it's time to condense your notes. There are various ways you can do this.

  • Create an A3 annotated map of the area. Colour code things like causes and effects or social, economic, environmental and political factors. Have a key. You can even have flaps. Stick the map up on the wall and look at it frequently. The great thing about this is that the finite size of the page forces you to condense the information.
  • Create a table. You could put things like the social, economic, political and environmental factors along one side and background, causes and effects along the other.
  • Create index cards. This was one of my favourites as it was quite a kinaesthetic way of separating the information into bite-sized chunks. It was a great format to give other people to test me so that I could learn all those facts and figures. You can even have different coloured index cards for different topics.
  • Traditional revision notes. In my opinion this is a bit boring, and can also be a bit intimidating when you see reams of notes that you have to memorise. I'd go with one of the other options if I was you.

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3. Memorise

Now you've condensed your class notes you need to memorise them. Good memorisation, in my experience comes down to two things:

  • Repetition
  • Using the information in different formats.

I'd advise you to do a combination of the following:

  • Read index cards out loud, cover and test yourself.
  • Get other people to test you.
  • Act it out.
  • Make up songs or rhymes
  • Whatever else works for you…

4. Teach someone else about the case study

Teaching someone else is one of the best ways there is to a) check your understanding (because they'll never understand it if you don't) and b) practice putting what you know into words so that someone else understands it.

5. Do Past Papers

The final step is to do past papers. I strongly recommend that you do this in the format of Revision Power Hours.

If you do power hours, and make a point of marking your work, you'll not only do lots of repetition of the case study you've been learning, you'll start to learn to think like an examiner and also get a brilliant insight into exactly what they expect you to know in terms of facts and statistics.

I will say this. I used to remember literally hundreds of stats for my case studies. When I became a teacher it surprised me how few students actually needed to know in order to get good marks. However, this comes with a word of warning. You need to have a good insight into what your exam board expects you to know.

Over to you

That's pretty much a masterclass in how to revise geography case studies. Now it's up to you to put it into practice

In the comments below I'd love to know:

  1. What you're finding difficult about revising geography case studies
  2. What other subjects you need revision help with

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