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2011 HSC Notes from the Marking Centre – Geography



This document has been produced for the teachers and candidates of the Stage 6 Geography course. It contains comments on candidate responses to the 2011 Higher School Certificate examination, indicating the quality of the responses and highlighting their relative strengths and weaknesses.

This document should be read along with the relevant syllabus, the 2011 Higher School Certificate examination, the marking guidelines and other support documents developed by the Board of Studies to assist in the teaching and learning of Geography.

General comments

Teachers and candidates should be aware that examiners may ask questions that address the syllabus outcomes in a manner that requires candidates to respond by integrating their knowledge, understanding and skills developed through studying the course. It is important to understand that the Preliminary course is assumed knowledge for the HSC course.

Candidates need to be aware that the mark allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper) are guides to the length of the required response. A longer response will not in itself lead to higher marks. Writing far beyond the indicated space may reduce the time available for answering other questions.

Candidates need to be familiar with the Board’s Glossary of Key Words, which contains some terms commonly used in examination questions. However, they should also be aware that not all questions will start with or contain one of the key words from the glossary. Questions such as ‘how?’, ‘why?’ or ‘to what extent?’ may be asked, or verbs that are not included in the glossary may be used, such as  ‘design’, ‘translate’ or ‘list’.

Teachers are reminded that pages 16 and 17 of the syllabus outline the geographical skills and tools – including fieldwork skills – that must be covered during the Stage 6 course.

Candidates are reminded that:

  • the Stimulus Booklet may provide useful information and/or material for use in a variety of their responses
  • appropriate case studies and/or examples should be used to illustrate or give relevance to the geographical information in the extended response questions
  • the rubric and set question should be considered when attempting extended response questions.

Section II

Question 21

  1. In better responses, candidates clearly identified a primary geographical method (eg an interview with a named expert, such as a park ranger; a survey of a specific group, such as tourists at the Great Barrier Reef; and specific relevant water quality tests, such as pH, turbidity, salinity, phosphate) and a secondary geographical method (eg comparison of historical photos/satellite images, GIS, and review of previous research material). They then gave relevant and appropriate reasons why these methods would assist in the management (eg use of change over time to evaluate/improve/change current management strategies, if required) of a named ecosystem at risk (eg the Great Barrier Reef, Macquarie Marshes, Minnamurra wetlands/rainforest and Stockton/Avalon sand dunes).

    In weaker responses, candidates listed general management strategies (eg boardwalks, education, legislation, and fines) that could be used in an ecosystem at risk. Other responses mentioned reasons for protection (eg heritage/utility/intrinsic values, maintenance of genetic diversity and need for natural change to occur). In some responses, candidates named only one geographical method (eg primary – fieldwork, or secondary – the internet, or the textbook) and one management strategy. Some candidates did not identify an ecosystem at risk.

  2. In better responses, candidates identified both a natural change (eg tropical cyclone, flood, drought, bushfire, climate change and storm surge) and a human-induced change (eg deforestation/logging, enhanced global warming, cattle grazing, coastal development and ocean acidification), which affect a named ecosystem at risk (eg the Great Barrier Reef, an alpine area such as Kosciuszko National Park, or the Amazon Rainforest). Factual information (eg the effect of Tropical Cyclone Larry or Yasi; names of endemic species, such as the cossid moth, and exotic species, such as bitou bush) and statistics (eg dates and the area of the reef affected by each cyclone) were used to support answers. Positive human-induced changes were also identified (eg the cessation of alpine grazing and the development of moorings in the Great Barrier Reef).

    Better responses also identified natural changes that are catastrophic in nature (eg tropical cyclones and their effect on the Great Barrier Reef) rather than minor natural changes that are regular occurrences (eg daily tidal fluctuations in wetland ecosystems). These responses clearly linked the changes to their effects on the ecosystem, often with a cascading effect (eg overfishing of the Triton shellfish and the subsequent increase of the Crown of Thorns starfish population and its effect on the Great Barrier Reef). Some changes (eg bushfires, global warming, rising sea levels and coral bleaching) could be caused either naturally or by human actions.

    In weaker responses, candidates identified the effect of either a natural or human-induced change on an ecosystem at risk, but not both. Other responses outlined the normal functioning of an ecosystem (eg longshore drift and tidal fluctuations) or used simplistic terms, such as waves (not constructive/destructive/storm waves) and weather features.

  3. In better responses, candidates clearly identified human-induced changes from pages 2 and 3 of the Stimulus Booklet (eg Source C, page 3; Source D, page 3) and explained related management strategies that could be used to respond to these changes (eg poorly managed tourism leading to soil compaction; and the use of raised boardwalks to prevent further trampling and compaction, which would allow the vegetation to regrow).

    In weaker responses, candidates named a human-induced change (eg rubbish), stated a corresponding management strategy (eg provide bins) and gave no reasons. Other responses provided a general management strategy (eg ecotourism, fines, zoning, fences) that could be used at Cûc Phuong National Park without making specific reference to the Stimulus Booklet or to Cûc Phuong National Park, or mentioned traditional and contemporary management strategies. Other responses identified a human-induced change (eg litter, pollution) at Cûc Phuong National Park but did not describe its impact on the park. Some responses were simply lists of human-induced change or management strategies. Others were prepared answers on reasons for the protection of ecosystems.

Question 22

  1. In better responses, candidates had a clear understanding of the concept of a world city and used specific geographical terminology, eg ‘economic and cultural authority’.  These candidates also explicitly referred to the stimulus material as directed by the question, eg ‘as can be seen in Source I’. This question was generally well answered by most candidates.

    In weaker responses, candidates showed a poor understanding of the difference between a megacity and a world city, eg some candidates stated that because New York had a ‘population of 8.5 million’ (Source K), it was a world city. These responses did not refer to the stimulus material and, in some of them, candidates made a general statement about New York.

  2. In better responses, candidates demonstrated a sound understanding of culture of place using terminology from the syllabus, eg energy, streetscape, architecture, vitality etc. Candidates articulated the unique culture of place through specific examples and clearly outlined ways in which tourists could influence that culture in a large city.

    In weaker responses, candidates showed little understanding of the concept of culture of place. Many wrote about the culture (eg religion, ethnicity etc) rather than the culture of place. Some candidates misinterpreted the question and wrote about how the culture influences tourists.

  3. In better responses, candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of the concepts of population growth, urban sprawl, social services and infrastructure, and provided specific examples of these from a large city they had studied, eg transport infrastructure in Sydney – M2, M7, M3 and the Epping to Chatswood Rail Line.

    In weaker responses, candidates demonstrated little understanding of the concepts of infrastructure and social services, and did not provide references to any specific examples. Some candidates referred to suburbs rather than a large city, others gave no examples of a large city, and some of those candidates who chose a megacity as their example struggled to cover all aspects of the question.

Question 23

  1. In better responses, candidates demonstrated an understanding of what is meant by an economic activity, such as tourism, viticulture, agriculture, manufacturing and ecotourism. Candidates referred to various types of technology, for example, communication, transport and machinery, within their chosen activity. They provided detailed reasons for how these changes had influenced the economic activity they had studied, such as increasing production or saving time and money. These responses achieved this with clear explanations of the influence the technology had on the economic activity. For example, in tourism the use of the internet has allowed people to make online bookings, which is quicker and cheaper, while in viticulture the use of new machinery has reduced the size of the industry’s workforce thus saving money. In addition, the use of electronic marketing has allowed products to be delivered faster and cheaper.

    In weaker responses, candidates did not refer to an economic activity or they referred to an enterprise. Some candidates did not provide reasons for how changes in technology had influenced the economic activity; rather, they simply listed the reasons, such as better machinery or the internet. Often no examples of technology were provided when referring to their activity.

  2. In better responses, candidates had a thorough understanding of their economic enterprise. They clearly referred to both internal and external linkages, such as flows of people, goods, services and ideas that related to their economic enterprise. In better responses, candidates identified how these linkages and flows affected their enterprise, therefore showing changes within the enterprise. A wide variety of examples was given to support these responses, such as the globalisation of transport, increased use of telecommunications to access larger market share, or actions of governments.

    In weaker responses, candidates did not refer to an economic enterprise or they referred to an economic activity. Some candidates did not clearly identify the linkages and flows that affected their enterprise or referred to the changes that these have brought about in their enterprise. Some candidates’ responses were very general and did not relate to the question. For example, ‘the local enterprise operates in isolation’.

Section III

Question 24

The most common approach to this question was to explain that both ecosystems are at risk because of the stress caused by both natural factors and human factors. Some examples of natural factors were climate change, sea level rise, weather events and disasters. Examples of human factors included tourism, litter, pollution, deforestation, population pressure, the expansion of agriculture and the sourcing of food and firewood. An alternative approach taken by candidates was to state that ecosystems are at risk because of their location, extent, biodiversity, linkages and continuity, and they applied this to both ecosystems. The most popular ecosystem chosen from the Stimulus Booklet was forests located in, or surrounding, the national parks.

In better responses, candidates clearly provided reasons for how and why these factors placed each ecosystem at risk. The factors were linked to the concepts of vulnerability and resilience. Reference to the resulting disruptions to the functioning of an ecosystem was a frequent inclusion. Such answers were also characterised by location maps, statistics and examples, and often included other contemporary, illustrative examples.

In weaker responses, candidates often just wrote about a case study or their fieldwork without addressing the specific requirements of the question. Many of these answers simply focused on management issues. They did not interpret the stimulus material appropriately and, in addition, the written text was just copied or rephrased.

Question 25

Better responses for this question saw candidates tackle the directive term ‘analyse’ from the question effectively. These candidates were able to recognise and name the components of a global network, such as the different world cities and the possible hierarchies between the cities. Some candidates drew diagrams showing the spatial distribution of the world cities and indicated relationships between them. Candidates were then able to relate how the roles of these world cities (mainly economic and cultural) created the relationships between these cities. By so doing, these candidates created a picture in the mind of the reader of a dynamic global network driven by the roles taken by particular named cities. These candidates were then able to identify the implications of the relationships they had indicated. In some cases, these implications included the concentration of air traffic in particular cities, while in other cases it was the position of economic dominance by some world cities over less important cities, including megacities, in the developing world. The use of credible statistics and a variety of examples were included in the best responses.

In weaker responses, candidates tended to address either the roles of world cities or the global networks but were unable to bring them together to develop an analysis of the relationship between them. Some candidates used the example of one city rather than some or many, while others used no examples of either cities or networks. This did not allow the development of the response with regard to global networks. Other candidates clearly understood global networks in respect of the internet and airline travel but were unable to build the relationship between this and the roles of world cities. Weaker responses used explanation or description rather than analysis, and were characterised by a lack of credible statistics and examples.

Question 26

Candidates that provided the better responses were able to clearly articulate their responses in a structured, coherent and succinct manner; for example, through the use of headings, subheadings, and paragraphs using geographical terminology. Better responses demonstrated a deep knowledge and  understanding and provided a clear explanation of the causes and effects of the spatial patterns and possible future directions of an economic activity. These candidates were able to explain these spatial patterns and future directions in terms of the BEESTOP factors. They used terminology such as appellation control, originating, traditionally, possible futures, ecologically sustainable, new markets and technological change. The spatial patterns and future directions of an economic activity that were based on an agricultural activity, such as viticulture, rice, bananas, and dairying, were explained better than those of a broader activity such as tourism. Better responses included illustrative examples, diagrams, maps, the use of statistical data and correct geographical terminology such as biotechnology, drip irrigation, productivityp and consumption.

Weaker responses were generally characterised by simplistic responses and statements. These candidates lacked a depth of understanding of the topic, and many were not able to answer the question. Some candidates did not understand the term ‘spatial patterns’ and tried either to describe the nature of the economic activity or to write everything that they knew about their activity. In many weaker responses, candidates discussed their economic enterprise rather than an economic activity. There was either no use or a limited use of illustrative examples, diagrams, statistical data and maps.

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