The Diploma Programme geography course integrates both physical and human geography, and ensures that students acquire elements of both scientific and socio-economic methodologies.

Geography takes advantage of its position to examine relevant concepts and ideas from a wide variety of disciplines. This helps students develop an appreciation of, and a respect for, alternative approaches, viewpoints and ideas.

The geography course embodies global and international awareness in several distinct ways. It examines key global issues, such as poverty, sustainability and climate change. It considers examples and detailed case studies at a variety of scales, from local to regional, national and international.

The aims of the geography syllabus at SL and HL are to enable students to:
• develop an understanding of the interrelationships between people, places, spaces and the environment
• develop a concern for human welfare and the quality of the environment, and an understanding of the need for planning and sustainable management
• appreciate the relevance of geography in analysing contemporary issues and challenges, and develop a global perspective of diversity and change.

Throughout the course, there is considerable flexibility in the choice of examples and case studies to ensure that Diploma Programme geography is a highly appropriate way to meet the needs of all students, regardless of their precise geographical location.

Distinction between SL and HL

Students at standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) in geography are presented with a syllabus that has a common core and optional themes. HL students also study the higher level extension. The syllabus requires the development of certain skills, attributes and knowledge.
Although the skills and activity of studying geography are common to both SL and HL students, the HL student is required to acquire a further body of knowledge, to demonstrate critical evaluation, and to synthesize the concepts in the higher level extension

Part one: Optional Geographic themes

Option A: Freshwater

This optional theme encompasses the physical geography of freshwater in a systems framework, including core elements of hydrology (and the factors and processes that give rise to bankfull discharge and flooding) and fluvial geomorphology (including river process and landform study). It also covers the study of water on the land as a scarce resource requiring careful management, including freshwater bodies such as lakes and aquifers. This includes the ways in which humans respond to the challenges of managing the quantity and quality of freshwater, as well as the consequences (whether intended or unintended, positive or negative) of management within drainage basins. The importance of integrated planning is emphasized, in addition to the geopolitical consequences of growing pressures on internationally shared water resources. Through study of this optional theme, students will develop their understanding of processes, places, power and geographical possibilities. They will additionally gain understanding of other concepts including systems (the hydrological cycle), flood mitigation (attempts to tackle flooding) and water security.

Option E: Leisure, tourism and sport

This optional theme focuses on ways in which people in a growing number of global contexts make use of their leisure time. As more people join the “global middle class”, they have disposable incomes allowing participation in tourism, including international travel and different types of sport. Sport can also be an important use of leisure time for people on low incomes who cannot afford to participate in tourism.

While tourism often has an urban focus, rural areas provide another important geographical setting for touristic activities, including walking, enjoying wilderness, doing extreme sports or visiting heritage sites. The uses made of places vary greatly, depending on physical geography, history and level of economic development.

Through study of this optional theme, students will develop their understanding of processes, places, power and geographical possibilities. They will additionally gain understanding of more specialized concepts including consumption (of landscapes), carrying capacity and threshold (in relation to environmental stress) and sustainability (in relation to long-term management of touristic resources).

Option F: Food and health

This optional theme looks at the geography of food and health. Economic development is often accompanied by dietary change and an epidemiological transition in which diseases of poverty become less common and diseases of affluence more common; however, this transition does not apply equally to all sectors of society.

Neither food nor health is easy to “measure”, so alternative indicators of food and health are considered. There are many interactions between, and shared influences on, food and health. The role of gender, TNCs and national governments in both food and health provision is considered. This topic considers alternative ways of assessing agricultural sustainability alongside possibilities for improving food supplies and global health over the long term.

Through study of this optional theme, students will develop their understanding of processes, places, power and geographical possibilities. They will additionally gain understanding of more specialized concepts including some, such as diffusion and barriers, which are applicable to both food production

Part two: SL and HL core

Geographic perspectives—global change
The core theme provides an overview of the geographic foundation for the key global issues of our time. The purpose is to provide a broad factual and conceptual introduction to the geography of population dynamics, climate change and resource consumption issues.
The content is underpinned by the four key concepts of the course: places, power, processes and possibilities. Each unit examines issues at different scales from local to global, as well as the interaction between different places.

Attention should be given to the positive aspects of change (not only the negative ones), to the need to accept responsibility for seeking solutions to the demographic, economic and environmental issues—and, where appropriate, to the management strategies adopted to meet the challenges.

It is not intended for the units to be taught sequentially. The approach to teaching is not prescribed, and the content can be taught with flexibility according to the interests of the learners.

Part two: HL core extension

Geographic perspectives—global interactions

This study of global interactions has a broader perspective than a more conventional study of globalization that emphasizes a linear process involving the domination and the imposition of Western culture on the world. In the context of this syllabus, global interaction suggests a two-way and complex process whereby cultural traits and commodities may be adopted, adapted or resisted by societies. The process is neither inevitable nor universal.
The HL extension theme focuses on the global interactions, flows and exchanges arising from the disparities that exist between places. It presents important and contestable geographic issues of change in space and time for the HL student to question. This part of the syllabus is divided into three units relating to global interactions and global development.

Internal assessment

Internal assessment is an integral part of the course and is a compulsory component for both SL and HL students. It enables students to demonstrate the application of their skills and knowledge, and to pursue their personal interests, without the time limitations and other constraints that are associated with examination papers. The internal assessment should, as far as possible, be woven into normal practice and classroom teaching, and not be a separate activity conducted after a course has been taught.
The internal assessment requirements at SL and at HL are the same. The time allowed is 20 hours, and the weightings are 25% at SL and 20% at HL. Students are required to undertake fieldwork collecting primary information and produce one written report that is based on a fieldwork question.

Geography and prior learning

The geography course requires no specific prior learning. No particular background in terms of specific subjects studied for national or international qualifications is expected or required.


Timbertop - Year 9

Middle School - Years 5 to 8