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IGCSE Syllabus & Themes

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Cambridge IGCSE Geography

General Information about Cambridge IGCSE

Download:  Geography 0460_IGCSE – Syllabus 2020

(for examination in June and November 2020, 2021 and 2022)

A synoptic view of the Cambridge IGCSE-Geography 

Exam Papers Weighting  
Paper 1 (1 hour 45 minutes) Geographical Themes

Candidates answer three questions, each worth 25 marks. The paper has three sections and each section will be based on Themes 1, 2 or 3. Candidates must answer one question from each section:
Theme 1: Population and settlement Theme 2: The natural environment Theme 3: Economic development (75 marks, weighted to 100 marks)
45 %
Paper 2 1 hour 30 minutes Geographical Skills

Candidates answer all the questions. The paper is based on testing the interpretation and analysis of geographical information, decision-making and the application of graphical and other techniques as appropriate. The questions will not require specific information about places but will require the use of a 1:25 000 or 1:50 000 map with a key. (60 marks)
28 %
and eitheror
Paper 3
(Centre-based assessment*)
Teachers set one school-based assignment of up to 2000 words. (60 marks)
Paper 4 (1 hour 30 minutes) Alternative to Coursework
Candidates answer two compulsory questions, completing a series of written tasks. The field work scenarios for the two questions will be taken from different aspects of the Syllabus content. The questions involve an appreciation of a range of techniques used in fieldwork studies. (60 marks)

Reference: (subject index)
Click here to see the past IGCSE Papers

Click here to find the link for IGCSE case studies

Cambridge IGCSE Geography 0460. Syllabus

Theme 1: Population and settlement
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further guidance:
1.1 Population dynamics• Describe and give reasons for the rapid increase in the world’s population
• Show an understanding of over-population and under- populationCauses and consequences of over-population and under-population
• Understand the main causes of a change in population sizeHow birth rate, death rate and migration contribute to the population of a country increasing or declining
• Give reasons for contrasting rates of natural population changeImpacts of social, economic and other factors (including government policies, HIV/AIDS) on birth and death rates
• Describe and evaluate population policies
Case studies required in 1.1A country which is over-populated
A country which is under-populated
A country with a high rate of natural population growth
A country with a low rate of population growth (or population decline)
1.2 Migration• Explain and give reasons for population migrationInternal movements such as rural-urban migration, as well as international migrations, both voluntary and involuntary
• Demonstratean understanding of the impacts of migrationPositive and negative impacts should be considered, on the destination and origin of the migrants, and the migrants themselves
Case study required in 1.2• An international migration
1.3 Population structure• Identify and give reasons for and implications of different types of population structureAge/sex pyramids of countries at different levels of economic development
Case study required in 1.3• A country with a high dependent population
TopicCandidates should be able to:Further guidance:
1.4 Population density and distribution• Describe the factors influencing the density and distribution of populationPhysical, economic, social and political factors
Case studies required in 1.4A densely populated country or area (at any scale from local to regional)
A sparsely populated country or area (at any scale from local to regional)
1.5 Settlements and service provision• Explain the patterns of settlementDispersed, linear, and nucleated settlement patterns
• Describe and explain the factors which may influence the sites, growth and functions of settlementsInfluence of physical factors (including relief, soil, water supply) and other factors (including accessibility, resources)
• Give reasons for the hierarchy of settlements and servicesHigh-, middle- and low-order settlements and services. Sphere of influence and threshold population
Case study required in 1.5• Settlement and service provision in an area
1.6 Urban settlements• Describe and give reasons for the characteristics of, and changes in, land use in urban areasLand use zones including the Central Business District (CBD), residential areas, industrial areas and the rural-urban fringe of urban areas in countries at different levels of economic development
The effect of change in land use and rapid urban growth in an urban area including the effects of urban sprawl
• Explain the problems of urban areas, their causes and possible solutionsDifferent types of pollution
(air, noise, water, visual), inequality, housing issues, traffic congestion and conflicts over land use change
Case study required in 1.6• An urban area (including changing land use and urban sprawl)
TopicCandidates should be able to:Further guidance:
1.7 UrbanisationIdentify and suggest reasons for rapid urban growth
Describe the impacts of urban growth on both rural and urban areas, along with possible solutions to reduce the negative impacts
Reference should be made to physical, economic and social factors which result in rural depopulation and the movement of people to major cities
The effects of urbanisation
on the people and natural environment. The characteristics of squatter settlements
Strategies to reduce the negative impacts of urbanisation
Case study required in 1.7• A rapidly growing urban area in a developing country and migration to it
Theme 2: The natural environment
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further details:
2.1 Earthquakes and volcanoes• Describe the main types and features of volcanoes and earthquakesTypes of volcanoes (including strato-volcanoes [composite cone] and shield volcano)
Features of volcanoes (including crater, vent, magma chamber)
Features of earthquakes (including epicentre, focus, intensity)
• Describe and explain the distribution of earthquakes and volcanoesThe global pattern of plates, their structure, and an awareness
of plate movements and their effects – constructive/divergent, destructive/convergent and conservative plate boundaries
• Describe the causes of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and their effects on people and the environment
• Demonstratean understanding that volcanoes present hazards and offer opportunities for people
• Explain what can be done to reduce the impacts of earthquakes and volcanoes
Case studies required in 2.1• Anearthquake • Avolcano
Cambridge IGCSE Geography 0460. Syllabus for examination in 2016. 15
Syllabus content
TopicCandidates should be able to:Further details:
2.2 Rivers• Explain the main hydrological characteristics and processes which operate within rivers and drainage basinsCharacteristics of rivers (including width, depth, speed of flow) and drainage basins (including watershed, tributary, confluence)
Processes which operate in 
a drainage basin (including interception, infiltration, throughflow, groundwater flow, evaporation, overland flow)
• Demonstratean understanding of the
work of a river in eroding, transporting and depositing
• Describe and explain the formation of the landforms associated with these processesForms of river valleys – long profile and shape in cross section, waterfalls, potholes, meanders, oxbow lakes, deltas, levées and flood plains
• Demonstratean understanding that rivers present hazards and offer opportunities for peopleCauses of hazards including flooding and river erosion
Opportunities of living on a flood plain, a delta or near a river
• Explain what can be done to manage the impacts of river flooding
Case study required in 2.2• The opportunities presented by a river, the hazards associated with it and their management
TopicCandidates should be able to:Further details:
2.3 Coasts• Demonstrate an understanding of the work of the sea and wind in eroding, transporting and depositing
• Describe and explain the formation of the landforms associated with these processesCliffs, wave-cut platforms, caves, arches, stacks, bay and headland coastlines, beaches, spits, and coastal sand dunes
• Describe coral reefs and mangrove swamps and the conditions required for their development
• Demonstratean understanding that coasts present hazards and offer opportunities for peopleHazards including coastal erosion and tropical storms
• Explain what can be done to manage the impacts of coastal erosion
Case study required in 2.3• The opportunities presented by an area of coastline, the hazards associated with it and their management
2.4 Weather• Describe how weather data is collectedDescribe and explain the characteristics, siting and use made of a Stevenson screen
Rain gauge, maximum-minimum thermometer, wet-and-dry bulb thermometer (hygrometer), sunshine recorder, barometer, anemometer and wind vane, along with simple digital instruments which can be
used for weather observations; observations of types and amounts of cloud
• Make calculations using information from weather instruments
• Use and interpret graphs and other diagrams showing weather and climate data
TopicCandidates should be able to:Further details:
2.5 Climate and natural vegetation• Describe and explain the characteristics of two climates:
○ equatorial ○ hot desert
Climate characteristics (including temperature [mean temperature of the hottest month, mean temperature of the coolest month, annual range]; and precipitation [the amount and seasonal distribution])
Factors influencing the characteristics of these climates (including latitude, pressure systems, winds, distance from the sea, altitude and ocean currents)
Climatic graphs showing
the main characteristics of temperature and rainfall of the two climates
• Describe and explain the characteristics of tropical rainforest and hot desert ecosystemsThe relationship in each ecosystem of natural vegetation, soil, wildlife and climate
• Describe the causes and effects of deforestation of tropical rainforestEffects on the natural environment (both locally and globally) along with effects on people
Case studies required in 2.5An area of tropical rainforest
An area of hot desert
Theme 3: Economic Development
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further details:
3.1 Development• Use a variety of indicators to assess the level of development of a countryIndicators of development (including GNP per capita, literacy, life expectancy and composite indices, e.g. Human Development Index (HDI))
• Identify and explain inequalities between and within countries
• Classify production into different sectors and give illustrations of eachPrimary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary sectors
• Describe and explain how the proportions employed in each sector vary according to the level of developmentUse of indicators of development and employment structure to compare countries at different levels of economic development and over time
• Describe and explain the process of globalisation, and consider its impactsThe role of technology and transnational corporations
in globalisation along with economic factors which give rise to globalisation
Impacts at a local, national and global scale
Case study required in 3.1• A transnational corporation and its global links
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further details:
3.2 Food production• Describe and explain
the main features of an agricultural system: inputs, processes and outputsFarming types: commercial and subsistence; arable, pastoral and mixed; intensive and extensive
The influence of natural and human inputs on agricultural land use. Inputs including natural inputs (relief, climate and soil) and human inputs (economic and social). Their combined influences on the scale of production, methods of organisation and the products of agricultural systems
• Recognise the causes and effects of food shortages and describe possible solutions to this problemNatural problems which cause food shortages (including drought, floods, tropical storms, pests) along with economic
and political factors (including low capital investment, poor distribution/transport difficulties, wars)
The negative effects of food shortages, but also the effects of food shortages in encouraging food aid and measures to increase output
Case studies required in 3.2A farm or agricultural system
A country or region suffering from food shortages
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further details:
3.3 Industry• Demonstrate an understanding of an industrial system: inputs, processes and outputs (products and waste)Industry types: manufacturing, processing, assembly and high technology industry
• Describe and explain the factors influencing the distribution and location of factories and industrial zonesThe influence of factors including land, labour, raw materials
and fuel and power, transport, markets and political factors
Their combined influences on the location, scale of production, methods of organisation and the products of the system
Industrial zones and/or factories with respect to locational and siting factors
Case study required in 3.3• An industrial zone or factory
3.4 Tourism• Describe and explain the growth of tourism in relation to the main attractions of the physical and human landscape
• Evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of tourism to receiving areas
• Demonstratean understanding that careful management of tourism is required in order for it to be sustainable
Case study required in 3.4• An area where tourism is important
Topic:Candidates should be able to:Further details:
3.5 Energy• Describe the importance of non-renewable fossil fuels, renewable energy supplies, nuclear power and fuelwood; globally and in different countries at different levels of developmentNon-renewable fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas. Renewable energy supplies including geothermal, wind, HEP, wave and tidal power, solar power and biofuels
• Evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of nuclear power and renewable energy sources
Case study required in 3.5• Energy supply in a country or area
3.6 Water• Describe methods of water supply and the proportions of water used for agriculture, domestic and industrial purposes in countries at different levels of economic developmentMethods of water supply (including reservoirs/dams, wells and bore holes, desalination)
• Explain why there are water shortages in some areas and demonstrate that careful management is required to ensure future suppliesThe impact of lack of access to clean water on local people and the potential for economic development
Case study required in 3.6• Water supply in a country or area
3.7 Environmental risks of economic development• Describe how economic activities may pose threats to the natural environment, locally and globallyThreats to the natural environment including soil erosion, desertification, enhanced global warming and pollution (water, air, noise, visual)
• Demonstrate the need for sustainable development and management
• Understand the importance of resource conservation
Case study required in 3.7• An area where economic development is taking place causing the environment to be at risk

Reference: (subject index-Geography)


Enquiry skills for Paper 4

Formulating aims and hypotheses

Candidates should be familiar with hypotheses as statements that form the basis of coursework assignments. The hypotheses may investigate a geographical concept, e.g. ‘A CBD has the highest concentration of comparison shops.’ Collecting relevant data, analysis and drawing conclusions using the data as evidence can test these.

Enquiry skills to collect data

Questions on this paper will test knowledge and application of the methodology used in the following range of data-collection enquiry skills.
Questionnaires – Questionnaires can be oral or written to gain information from an individual or a group of individuals. Suitable themes in the syllabus where questionnaires may be appropriately studied include spheres of influence, use of services, shopping habits, a farm study, a factory or
industrial study, leisure activities, tourism, or attitudes of the public to developments associated with resource development. Consideration should be given to factors influencing the successful design of questionnaires, e.g. layout, format of questions, the appropriate wording of questions and the number of questions. The practical considerations of conducting a questionnaire, e.g. the sampling methods, pilot survey and location of surveyshould also be discussed.
Observation – Examples of using observations as an enquiry skill to collect data include the recording of land use in an urban area or observations of river or coastal features. Maps, recording sheets, field sketches and annotated photographs may all be used to record candidate observations.
Counts – Pedestrian and traffic counts are two signifi cant examples of this enquiry skill. Appropriate methods for recording the counts should be discussed, including the layout of recording sheets, instructions and the necessary information required to identify the sheet following the count (i.e. time,date, location and name of recorder).
Measurement – When recording measurements, due consideration should be given to planning the layout of the recording sheet, the location of instruments and the sampling methods adopted to providereliable data. Knowledge of the equipment used in measurement is required, such as the quadrat, the clinometer and the pebbleometer or callipers. Candidates should be familiar with river measurements of channel width, depth, speed of fl ow and the size and shape of bedload; beach studies of beach profile, the size and shape of pebbles and the movement of beach material and weather study instruments closely linked to theme 2 as well as measurement techniques associated with human fi eldwork such as
survey strategies and pedestrian/traffic counts.

Data-presentation techniques

A knowledge of the illustrative techniques to present data across the topics for Paper 4 is required. This should include various types of graphs, maps and diagrams (for example line graphs, bar graphs, divided bar graphs, histograms, flow diagrams, wind-rose graphs, isoline maps, scatter graphs, pie graphs, triangular graphs, radial graphs, dispersion graphs, choropleth maps, kite diagrams and pictograms).


Candidates should be able to describe the patterns in data presented in graphs and tables of results.
Reference to relevant geographical knowledge and understanding is often required in the interpretation of the data.

Making conclusions

Using the evidence from the data, candidates should be able to make judgements on the validity of the original hypothesis or aims of the assignment. Reference is also required to the reliability of the collected data and a critical evaluation of the chosen data-collection methods, along with suggestions of other possible hypotheses and extension work.

Fun Learning: IGCSE Revision Game

Click here to check your preparation (1 to 3 marks questions on all the 3 themes) 

Other useful websites for IBDP and IGCSE students

Geography pods (for 2018 syllabus):

Geography all the way:

Science Clarifield:

BBC Bitesize:

IB study guide prepared by students from Singapore: Geography duck IB-study guide

IGSCE study guide prepared by one of my students Carina Troche:

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