Acronyms in geography to improve writing

Acronyms are a great way of supporting students when writing like a geographer. They provide a simple framework for students to follow when answering different types of geographical questions. If embedded throughout key stage 3 and 4 they are powerful tools for learners to draw on in the tension-thick exam hall.

Having reached out to Twitter for acronym suggestions, we’ve pulled together a range of strategies that may be useful to you and your students. Many thanks to everyone who contributed!

We do not recommend teaching students all of the techniques below. It is more useful to cherry-pick a small number to try. Also, while acronyms provide support and structure to students there is a risk that answers can become too formulaic. Students need to be taught how to use these acronyms effectively – knowing when and how to confidently apply or deviate from them.

If we’ve missed out a useful acronym please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. If you have any resources you’re prepared to share based on these strategies please send a copy to

Acronyms for thinking synoptically

STEEP – Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental & Political (includes Historical)
Why use it?
A useful way of encouraging students to make connections.

The image below, provided by @geojosie, provides a structure for using STEEP.

STEEP - encouraging learners to think synoptically

STEEP – encouraging learners to think synoptically

Acronyms for answering geographical questions

SEE – State, explain, example
Why use it?
Provides a simple structure when answering questions. Students will give an answer (state), explain it and back it up with an example.

PEE – Point, explain, example
Why use it?
Provides a simple structure when answering questions. Students will give a point, explain it and back it up with an example.

The video below, by Kit Rackley of GeogRamblings, explains the technique in a geographical context.

PEEEL – Point, explain example, evaluation and link
Why use it?
Further development on the PEE acronym.

PEDaL – Point, evidence/explain, develop, link
Why use it?
Useful for explaining answers and making links back to the question.

PETAL – Point, evidence, this means that, as a result, link.
Why use it?
A development of PEDaL that provides further structure to explanations and considers impacts.

PELE – Point, explain, link, evidence
Why use it?
Legendary footballer!

SHEEP 🐑 Social, historical, economic, environmental, political
Why use it?
Supports development of answers, particularly for high tariff questions.

Acronyms for geographical distribution/patterns/locations

CLOCCK – Continent, latitude/longitude, ocean/sea, country, compass, kilometre
Why use it?
A technique for describing geographical locations on a map.

GSE Generally, specifically and exception
Why use it? 
Useful for distribution/location questions

Acronyms for graphs/data

TEA – Trend, example, anomaly
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs.

TREE – Trend, rate of change, examples/evidence, exceptions
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs, this structure ensures students cover all possibilities when analysing data.

TEAL – Trend, example, anomaly, links
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs.

PALMS – Pattern, anomaly, least, most, stats
Why use it?
Useful for analysing graphs and maps.

PADL – Patterns, anomalies, data, links to topic(s).
Why use it?
Ideal for resource-based questions.

PDA – Patterns, data, anomalies
Why use it?
Ideal for ensuring students include data in descriptions.

FART – Figures, anomalies, rate and trend.
Why use it?
The students will remember it! Useful to remind them of rates and trends in data.

GEE it’s a graph! Generally, examples include, exceptions include…
Why use it?
Particularly useful for sentence starters.

TRASH – Trend, range, anomalies, smallest, highest
Why use it?
A comprehensive range of areas to cover when investigating data.

Acronyms for factors affecting climate

WORLD – Wind direction, ocean currents, relief, latitude, distance from the sea
Why use it?
Simple structure for explaining factors that affect climate.

Acronyms for exam technique – reading the question

GAMES – Geography (what knowledge will I apply?), ask (what is the question asking me to do with that knowledge?), marks (how many is it worth and how will I get top marks?), extra (do I need to use resources, maps, graphs etc.)
Why use it?
A great way to encourage students to consider what the question is asking them to do.

BUG – BOX the command word, UNDERLINE the key term/topic, GLANCE back at the question regularly.
Why use it?
Sometimes students can be guilty of regurgitating their geographical knowledge in an exam without actually answering the question. BUG the question is a great technique for students to deconstruct exam questions and increase their chances of picking up marks by writing an answer appropriate to the question.

Acronyms for decision making

MADASS – My choice, advantages, disadvantages, alternatives (compare to), sustainability, sum up.
Why use it?
A great way to encourage students to consider balance when completing decision-making activities.

If you are an Internet Geography Plus subscriber you have free access to the new resources we’re developing to support students in the use of acronyms to improve their answers to geographical questions. Click the image below to access. Get a low-cost subscription here.

PETAL Geography

Creating simple topographic profiles

Creating Simple Topographic Profiles

Pontypridd Profile

Pontypridd Profile

In this post, David Caplin illustrates a simple way of capturing topographic profiles using free, online tools. 

Topographic Profiles are a very good visual way of representing a section of terrain. There are a number of different uses for topographic profiles in Geography. In terms of Coastal Management, they can be easily used to illustrate how the coastline has changed under the presence of erosion or deposition.

There are a number of ways of producing profiles, and which one to use largely depends on what you actually want to use it for!

If you just want a simple profile, for a river valley, for example, or cross-section of a mountain range, you don’t need mm level accuracy and up-to-date data, you just need a general overview of the terrain. A brilliant tool for this is the HeyWhatsThat Path Profiler tool.

Hey What's That Path Profiler Tool

Hey What’s That Path Profiler Tool

The Path Profiler tool is very simple to use. It has a Google Maps Interface, and by left clicking on the map, you can create points on the map. A line will be drawn between the two points and the profile drawn automatically in the little window above it. Here is an example of it:

Example of a line drawn on HeyWhatsThat Path Profiler tool

Example of a line drawn on HeyWhatsThat Path Profiler tool

If we want to have a look at the valley profile in this section of the Taff Valley in South Wales, we can drop our two points either side of the valley, and the profile is generated from that transect:

Pontypridd Profile

Pontypridd Profile

You can customize the display of it through the settings on the page, for example changing units. The profile can be copied/pasted or saved for further use.

Now, this is a really quick and simple tool for producing profiles, but it is neither up-to-date nor especially customisable. If you’re looking for something that is much more customisable, and able to use the latest data, you’re going to need to use a fully-fledged GIS package, such as QGIS.

By David Caplin

Lecturer in Agriculture
Bridgend College


Coastal Environments CPD – Erosional Landforms, Coastal Management, Deposition and Fieldwork on the Holderness Coast

How can river data be presented on Google My Maps?

Exam Question Modelling – AO1 and AO2

Exam Question Modelling – AO1, AO3 and AO4

CLOCC Location Descriptors