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Annotated diagrams

Watch this to improve your annotated diagrams in Higher Geography (and why it doesn’t matter if your Mum sticks it on her fridge)

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My son hurried out of nursery on his very first day to show me his drawing. He was delighted with it, and as a proud mum I displayed it on my fridge.

But what would you make of it? I suspect it would look like little more than a jumble of colourful scribbles. Nice to look at but nothing meaningful because you’d struggle to interpret it.

Surprisingly, in Higher Geography, it’s easy to fall into this trap too. To produce diagrams that score marks in an exam, you need the right amount of information and a clear drawing the examiner can interpret.

So, sharpen your pencils and let me explain.

This is thinkfour.

So where might you be asked to use diagrams within the Higher Geography paper? Well, the most common topics are Biosphere, Hydrosphere and Lithosphere.

For landscape formations the question will suggest that you might wish to use a diagram; however, if you’re asked to draw a fully annotated soil profile within the Biosphere topic, your answer must include a diagram, and one that is clearly labelled.

Annotated means detailed information, not one-word labels, so let’s go for it.

Let’s have a look at a brown earth. If asked to draw a fully annotated soil profile, what must you include? And where should you start? Well, to avoid missing out key annotations I’d advise you draw a basic soil profile, before working from the O to C horizon adding annotations. It’s best to ensure that your full answer is contained within your diagram rather than having a basic diagram and separate text answer - this would cost you marks.

Begin by considering the vegetation, which in the case of a brown earth, is deciduous woodland. This influences the leaf litter, which is thick, and the humus layer which is mildly acidic. The long roots extend deep into the C horizon, which allows nutrients to be recycled upwards by capillary action.

Next consider the horizons: how do colour, texture and drainage change as you move through the horizons? Well, due to high levels of biota the horizons are indistinct. The A horizon is dark brown with a loamy texture, whilst the B horizon is a lighter brown. In terms of drainage, brown earth's are found on gentle slopes and are therefore well-drained.

Finish your diagram by noting the parent material in the C horizon, which in the case of a brown earth is limestone or schist.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the hydrological cycle within a drainage basin.

When asked to describe the movement of water through a drainage basin, you could draw a well-annotated diagram for full marks. It would benefit your diagram to use a coloured key, to reference the 4 key elements. So, get those highlighters at the ready.

Start your diagram with precipitation, which is the main input. The amount and duration of rain will have an impact on the level of water in the system.

Thinking about storage, you should highlight the main storage points of water: on the surface, within soil and vegetation and groundwater.

In terms of transfers, you should know that water infiltrates through the soil and percolates through the rocks. It also travels towards the river channel as surface run-off or throughflow.

Finally, the output is the release of water in a drainage basin. This occurs via the processes of evaporation, transpiration and surface-runoff.

Directions matter, so use arrows to show the movement of water.

Now you’re moving in the right direction.

So, when you’re drawing a diagram in the final exam, think carefully.

It doesn’t need to be beautiful, but it does need to be clear and well-annotated whilst avoiding repetition of points stated in your written answer.

Without these things, your examiner will struggle to make much sense of it. Your Mum might like it and display it on her fridge, but it’s not going to get the marks you need.

This was thinkfour; thanks for watching.