New article: contested land use changes

My latest article has just gone live on the site today!

Contested land use changes is all about the changes that occur in urban areas. The article deals with things like slum clearance, redevelopment planning and gentrification.

It’s a general introduction that sets the scene for two further articles that I have in development, which will deal with the issue through two detailed case studies of Nairobi and New York City.

Check it out and let me know what you think. I hope it’s useful to you!

New article: urban deprivation in Nairobi

I’ve just published my latest article. This one is about urban deprivation in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.

This part of the syllabus is a bit tricky, because the study of urban issues often requires information that simply isn’t available at the local scale. It’s especially hard to study the informal sector – something our Economist friends will no doubt agree with.

Take a look and let me know if it’s helpful for you!

How to revise Geography in … 1 day

By Matt Burdett, 14 March 2020

This article is about how to do your revision for Geography in one day.

I promise that the rest of this post will be a supportive, friendly guide to revising Geography in just one day. But before that, as a teacher, I have to be a bit negative about how you’re leaving this to the last minute. Here goes:

If you’re reading this, you’ve either left your revision to the last minute, or you’re thinking about leaving it to the last minute. This is not a good idea. The earlier you start, the more successful your revision will be, especially if you follow my ‘6-point plan to stress-free revision’. If you have more than a day left to revise, check out my suggestions for a three month, one month, and one week revision plan.

Teacher rant over. Let’s get revising!

Most important: think positive

You are your best self, right this minute, right now. You’ve made the positive decision to do some revision for your exam. Well done. I am 100% genuine in saying this: it would be easy to accept failure in tomorrow’s exam, but you are demonstrating the strength to say you are not a failure. You haven’t taken the exam yet, and you can still do well if you use your time effectively. Well done.

While I’m asking you to think positively, I also want you to think about the impact your emotions will have on your sleep, food intake and concentration levels. If you have that bad feeling in your stomach, it can get in the way of keeping you physically ready for the exam. Here are some ideas of how to deal with it:

  1. Remember; you’re working now. Keep going. You’ve made the right choice today. Good for you!
  2. Recognise the scale of the task: confront it. And then parcel it up (I’ll show you how to do this below) and deal with it. Accept that parts of the task won’t be finished. It’s ok: the task will not overwhelm you.
  3. Take regular, short breaks. Avoid watching television or playing computer games.
  4. When you’ve finished reading this article, turn off your laptop or phone and don’t open it again until tomorrow morning. Nothing urgent will happen.
  5. Make sure you continue to eat, drink and sleep well. It’s likely that you will feel surprisingly alert when you try to sleep. This is nervousness making your adrenaline pump around your body. Do not get up to do more revision.
  6. Try some calming strategies. For example, count backwards from 100 in 3s – 100, 97, 94, 91, etc. Think of a happy place where you feel good, and imagine yourself there; use all your senses to experience the place (what do you smell? What do you feel under your feet? Is there wind on your face?).

Second most important: plan your time

Regardless of how you spend your time today, you need to plan it. Write it out on a piece of paper. Block off your time in 30-40 minute chunks, with a 5-10 minute break between each one. Every two or three hours, have a 40 minute break.

Do not watch TV or play computer games at that time. Avoid your phone: you’re only going to discover everyone else panicking about the exam, or preening about how much they’ve done. Try some gentle exercise instead, in the open air if possible.

Third most important: fill in your plan with textbook chapters

Now you have a plan. Use your syllabus to identify the areas about which you are most confident. Ignore them, and revise the second most confident areas. If one paper is worth more percentage than the other, start with that one. If there is an options paper (where you can choose which questions to answer), choose the easiest options first.

This is the one and only occasion when I recommend reading the textbook as the sole revision activity, and even then, you must make notes. Be specific about what notes you will make:

  • Good: using headings and subheadings
  • Good: definitions
  • Good: specific facts about case studies
  • Good: patterns and trends over time
  • Good: quick diagrams
  • Bad: full sentences
  • Bad: using a computer to write
  • Bad: highlighting

You can probably make notes on ten textbook chapters in a day if you are efficient. Remember: follow your plan.

Fourth most important: go to bed

Your brain will be whizzing around and you think you won’t sleep. And maybe you won’t. But even lying awake is helping your brain to process the information you’ve covered today. This is more effective than staying up to cram even more information into your brain. So, go to bed and stay there for a full eight hours until you need to get up.

Good luck!

I know it’s a horrible feeling, and pretty much everyone has had it at some point. But it will be ok. Do you have any other helpful ideas for revision in one day? Leave a comment below, and good luck with the exam.

How to revise Geography in … 1 week

By Matt Burdett, 10 March 2020

This article is about how to plan your revision for Geography in one week.

Even with just a week, you can still make revision highly effective if you follow a condensed version of my ‘6-point plan to stress-free revision’.

If you don’t have time for that – maybe because you’re still in school, or have to work a part-time job – I recommend two simple strategies that you can use if you have one week remaining before the exam (and one bonus secret strategy too!). If you have more time, you might be better following my advice on how to revise if you have three months to go, or how to revise if you have one month remaining.

Strategy 1: Definitions

With just a week to go, you have to focus on the essentials. How can you put a two year course into just a week? Start with definitions.

Get out your syllabus and write down any words that appear in the syllabus that might need a definition. Even simple words like ‘life expectancy’ should be written down.

Then, define each word. Refer to your textbook or the exam board’s glossary (not online searching) to find the meanings. Write them down using flashcards to make them easy to refer back to. Keep your flashcards with you at all times, and go through them about three times a day.

Why do I focus on definitions? Because if you know the definition, you can often make a link to more general ideas. For example, you will discover that ‘life expectancy’ is actually at least two definitions – ‘life expectancy at birth’ and ‘age specific life expectancy’. Learning the difference will provoke your brain to work hard on other things, such as the reasons why the life expectancies may differ, or the link between a country’s recent history and its human development level.

Strategy 2: Case studies

All Geographers should be referring to case studies in their exams. It makes sense to spend some time on these. As with the definitions, you should go through your syllabus and write a list of the required case studies. Most teachers will add in extra examples on the course, so the exam syllabus might not require as many as you think.

If you have case study notes from class, use those. But if you don’t have any notes, try to find sources that have a small number of case study countries. You can find lots of case studies on this site (I focus on the USA, China and Kenya). This makes it easier to cross-reference different case studies, and achieve a more complex answer in the exam.

I suggest using a simple case study proforma. Aim for one sheet of paper per case study. Something like this might work, but it will probably vary from case study to case study:

Location: Continent / Region / Country / City
Syllabus link Write out the syllabus point it links to.
Key issue What is the main issue here? Write the syllabus in words that make sense to you.
Key facts Write down all the factual information. Focus on numbers and place names if possible.
Main points Describe the main points of the case study.
Debate? Note any debates. For example, if the question is about infrastructure development in Hong Kong, you could write down any points of failure, or questions about it.
Anything else? Any other points you haven’t mentioned above.

Secret strategy 3: read the book

I’m not a big fan of passive revision strategies, and reading is the second most passive you can be (after watching YouTube videos). But, my past students have told me that they found reading the textbook to be helpful. It won’t get you a top grade, but if you focus and combine it with note taking, it can help you to pass.

Good luck!

Those were my top tips for revising Geography in one week. Do you have any other great ideas for revision over a one week period? Leave a comment below, and thanks for visiting!

How to revise Geography in … 1 month

By Matt Burdett, 6 March 2020

This article is about how to plan your revision for Geography in one month.

Whoops! You had the best of intentions, but there were so many other things to do…and now you only have one month left to revise.

Don’t panic! Everything will be ok.

In a previous post, I wrote about the best way to structure your revision. It’s not too late – one month is enough time to have a good, full programme of revision. Check out my suggestions for stress-free revision in my ‘6-point plan to stress-free revision’.

If you only have a month, there are some specific one-month strategies you can use. If you have more time, you might also check out my post on how to revise if you have three months to go. It has a bit more ‘big picture’ stuff, so if you only have a month to go, keep reading this post for my top tips.

Tip 1: One month: one focus: one syllabus

The first thing you need to do if you have a month to go is make sure you know what your syllabus requires. It’s likely that your teacher has taught extra things that aren’t in the syllabus (good for her! Education is about more than slavishly following an exam schedule), and may have missed out or skimmed over some parts.

Get out the syllabus. Use it as a traffic light checklist. Anything you understand, highlight in green. Anything you have no idea about, highlight red. Anything you’re not sure, highlight yellow.

Tip 2: Know where to start

Which type of student are you?

  1. You start revising at the start of the textbook or syllabus. You probably run out time to revise the second half of the book.
  2. You start revising the things you have no idea about. You probably need to make notes on everything first.
  3. You start revising what you feel confident about. It’s all good, until you get to the bits you don’t understand, and then you find yourself asking the teacher about them the day before the exam.

If you are a yes to any of these: STOP STOP STOP! These are all strategies that make you feel better but don’t necessarily help you pass an exam. Instead, you should start with the areas you know about, but aren’t confident about.

If you have done the syllabus traffic lighting from Tip 1 above, you will have found that you kind-of know some things. These are the bits to start with. Why?

  • Starting with what you know is a waste of time. You know it already! Why prioritise this?
  • Making notes on stuff you have no idea about is probably pointless. Most exams will give you a choice of questions. You can probably get higher marks by avoiding the sections you really don’t know anything about.
  • If you begin with what you aren’t quite sure of, you have a starting point. This means your brain is working, and learning.
  • It’s quicker. You probably have some notes already, and will only need to do a little bit of extra research.

Tip 3: Use past papers

If you have more time, I’d recommend doing past papers alongside other strategies. But with one month to go, you should try to do one past paper a week. Your teacher will be able to help you find them, along with the mark schemes. It’s fine to start with the mark scheme open while you’re writing, but in Weeks 2, 3, and 4, you should try to do them unseen.

Make sure you mark your own papers. Giving your work to the teacher is highly passive, and won’t help you think more clearly. Mark your own work, then give your paper to the teacher. This will help identify any points where you have misunderstood the mark scheme.

Those were my top tips for revising in one month. Do you have any other great ideas for revision over a one month period? Leave a comment below, thanks for visiting!