Geography focusses on people and the planet but also the interaction between the two. By studying National Geography, you will develop an understanding of physical features of the world, global issues like disease, natural disasters and lastly, the impact of human activity on planet earth. 

National 4/5 Geography

Course Outline 

In the National course, there are three key areas of focus: 

Physical Environments
In this unit you will study glaciation, coastal landscapes and weather.  You will also learn about the conflicts and management issues associated with these landscapes. 

Human Environments 

In this unit you will study global population issues, towns and rural areas from both the developed and less developed countries. For rural populations, you will study farming in the USA and India. For urban, you will study the city of Glasgow and investigate the changes on housing and transport.

Global Issues 

Across the world there are pressing issues impacting the quality of human life and our landscape.  For the exam, we will focus on two of the following global issues: climate change, tourism, health, trade, and environmental hazards such as volcanoes, hurricanes and earthquakes. 

Course Assessment 

National 5 Geography: There is a formal exam at the end of this course which will take place in one sitting. The time allocation is 2 hours and 5 minutes. Pupils will be assessed on all three units.  ​

​An Assignment will be completed by end of February 2024 worth 20% ​

​​There is no external exam for National 4, but internally marked assessments and ‘Added Value’ Assignment to complete.


Course Outline

There are three units in Higher Geography. Pupils need to complete unit assessments in the three areas outlined below. As ever, students will be informed of any changes to SQA courses.

Physical Environments

In this unit, learners will develop and apply geographical skills in the physical environments. You will develop mapping skills in geographical contexts. In addition, you will also develop and apply knowledge and understanding of the processes and interactions at work within physical environments on a local, regional and global scale. Topics studied include atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere

Human Environments

In this unit, learners will develop and apply geographical skills and techniques in the context of human environments.  You will study reasons why the world population has been rising and the impacts this has on the environment.  You will also investigate the world on a more local level, looking at Edinburgh.

Global Issues

In this Unit, you will develop and apply knowledge and understanding of global geographical issues, which show the interaction of physical and human factors and the strategies adopted in the management of these issues.  Topics studied include; development and health, river basin management (Colorado River and Hoover Dam), global climate change, and geopolitics.


Higher Geography: There is a formal exam at the end of this course which will take place over two sittings on the same day. ​The time allocation is 1 hour and 50 minutes for Paper 1 and 50 minutes for Paper 2. Paper 1 accounts for 100 marks and Paper 2 is marked out of 60.

Pupils will also complete an externally assessed ‘Added Value’ Assignment.  This is worth 30 marks and will account for 27% of the overall grade. This is to be submitted to the SQA prior to Easter.

Study Support (all levels)

To develop study and skills and enhance their chances of success, pupils should

  • Undertake regular revision​
  • Take pride in personal organisation​
  • Act on teacher feedback​
  • Engage with Teams and Satchel One​
  • Attend study classes with class teachers​
  • Engage with SQA past papers and marking instructions​

Useful study websites

Altra Curriculum Explorer (Past Papers)

BBC Bitesize –