Clarification of geographical terms for all levels

See all Geography clarifications

Clarification of geographical terms for all levels


This means to identify and give an account of; to make reference to the qualities, characteristics or recognisable features. A simple explanation can also be included.


This means to provide reasons for, to account for, to provide a clear answer, to clarify. Logical reasons are provided.

Describe/explain in detail

This means the response has complexity showing greater understanding that differentiates it from an Achieved level answer. The response incorporates specific information, case study, facts, names or other explicit information which enhances the answer.

Fully describe/explain

This means the response is complete and demonstrates an understanding of all facets. It incorporates relevant geographic concept(s) and uses appropriate geographic terminology.


This involves the breaking down or deconstruction of data and examination of the separate parts. When analysing students can identify patterns, trends, relationships, and connections; and synthesise these understandings into explanations. Students should have access to a range of data including maps, graphs, diagrams, tables etc. from which to draw inferences.

Critically analyse

This extends an analysis to involve examination of the factors or circumstances that may have influenced them, identifying and examining any irregularities, examining any relationships that appear etc. A critical analysis will question and/or judge the evidence gained in the analysis.

Critically evaluate

This involves identifying and discussing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with the available options or decisions. Criteria could be established on which to make a final or future judgement.

Apply and integrate

When applying a concept a student uses an appropriate idea; when integrating they will incorporate concepts and evidence into the answer to demonstrate comprehensive understanding.


This underpins good quality geographic research and is conducted by the student themselves. Collection of primary data is mandatory at all levels. The primary data can be supplemented with secondary data, but the main focus of the fieldwork must be on primary data collection, analysis and presentation.


These involve understandings gained from reviewing presented materials such as maps, graphs, tables, diagrams, or photographs.

Geographic mapping conventions

These involve the use of:

  • a title that defines location and purpose e.g. N.Z. Population density per sq km
  • orientation: north point or latitude and longitude
  • a key/legend: symbols and colours used (colour must follow conventions)
  • scale: linear or ratio
  • a border to define the extent of the map.

 Geographic concepts

These involve ideas that incorporate a spatial component which are associated to geography to help provide deeper understanding. Specific examples of geographic concepts and suggestions about other concepts that could be used in geography are contained in the Teaching and Learning Guidelines for Geography, pages 6-8.

Geographic understanding

This involves knowledge of different systems and concepts using a spatial perspective. Students demonstrate geographic understanding through identifying relationships and explaining spatial distributions, analysing patterns and location, solving problems and making decisions that may involve predicting.

Geographic perspective

The basis of a geographic perspective is the spatial dimension (space and place). A geographic perspective can be integrated with other perspectives such as historical, economic, ecological, civic and cultural perspectives to enrich and enlarge understanding of places, regions, environments and human-environment interaction. In this sense it can be considered an interdisciplinary perspective which results in a distinctive way of looking at and understanding the world.

Showing insight/insightful

This involves showing a clear understanding. Insight can involve weighing-up and judging evidence, linking factors to clearly show causal relationships and reading into and beyond the subject matter/evidence. Consideration of perspectives can help students to demonstrate insight.

Spatial dimension

This relates to the use of space and includes location, accessibility, direction, scale etc.

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