Examiner’s Report Autumn 2016 9696 Physical Options Paper 22
“Coastal and Hazardous environments were the most popular sections, singly or in conjunction. The response of candidates to some of the questions was very good. Most of the questions had several components and in order to achieve marks in the higher levels candidates need to ensure that all parts of the question are answered. Diagrams and sketches were often of a poor quality. Many of the answers would have benefited from a few brief sentences outlining the issues that were being discussed, especially with respect to the part (b) elements in the questions. This was generally lacking, thus making the answers unstructured and the logic of the discussion difficult to follow.”
Coastal environments Question 3 (a) Answers to this question were very encouraging. Many candidates were able to describe how waves were generated, sometimes in great detail. It is also encouraging that the majority of candidates were able to describe the breaking waves in terms of surging, spilling and plunging, thus moving away from the somewhat confusing terms constructive and destructive. Also, most candidates realised that surging waves required a gentle beach and plunging waves required a steeper beach profile to act efficiently. This automatically leads to the conclusion that surging waves build up the beach and plunging waves decrease the angle of the beach.
(b) There was a mixed response to this question. Most candidates were able to discuss marine process, but knowledge and understanding of the nature and role of sub-aerial processes was often limited. Thus, discussion of their interaction was minimal. The question also implied that factors other than the relevant processes needed discussing. This was often lacking, although the better answers did discuss the role of rock type and structure.
Question 4 (a) Questions on corals are always popular and the conditions needed for coral growth are well known. However, this was a slightly different coral question and was not answered as well as coral questions usually are. Few candidates had any understanding of sea level change apart from the relatively minor adjustments which result from current global warming and the melting of ice caps. Knowledge of sea level changes related to glacial and interglacial conditions was displayed in very few answers. The difference between eustatic and isostatic sea level changes was rarely discussed. The general theories of atoll formation were better understood except for confusion about which theorist (Darwin, Dana, Daly, Murray) was responsible for which theory.
(b) The syllabus requires the study of a stretch or stretches of coastline. Many answers were essentially generic and unrelated to a specific coastline. If a coastline was stated, it was often a general location and the answer seemed unrelated to the stretch of coastline or could have related to any stretch of coastline. Even when it was clear that a specific coastline was being examined, the geographical detail was often limited and sometimes erroneous. Also, there was often little attempt to assess why that coastline needed protection. Thus, as noted previously, the first part of the question was not adequately addressed. There were also some excellent answers to this question with detailed description and excellent assessment. However, there were answers where inappropriate stretches of coastline were chosen, such as the entire east coast of North America, or coasts where the range of problems was limited. There were also some generic answers which were not related to any specific stretch of coastline.
Hazardous environments Question 5 (a)
This question received a generally good response. The development of tropical storms is well known and most candidates were able to explain the development of storms in the locations shown on the map. Assessing the paths that the storms took following their development was sometimes omitted or could have been addressed in a more detailed way.
(b) Most candidates were able to describe and explain some of the hazardous impacts of tornadoes, although the intense rainfall and also hail storms associated with them were often omitted. Many good answers included the effect of pressure differences in affecting buildings. Some candidates were clearly confused with hurricanes and wrote about storm surges. The assessment of the extent to which hazardous effects of tornadoes could be managed was generally done well.
Question 6 (a) Questions on mass movement are often answered in a very general and simplistic way. The response to this question was no exception. The important word in the question was ‘contribute’. The question was not about how human activities cause hazardous mass movement. The causes of mass movement relate to factors and processes that either decrease the strength of slope materials or increase stress or, most likely, both. This should have been the main thrust of the answer. Thus, arguing that building on slopes increases the weight is not a sufficient explanation unless the way this increase in weight affects shear strength and shear stress is examined. Loading a slope on its own will not cause mass movement. In a similar vein, arguing that deforestation removes roots and leads to instability is insufficient unless there is a discussion as to how roots help to stabilise slopes. Also, many candidates confused mass movement with overland flow and slope wash. Many candidates wrote about soil creep which is not a hazardous mass movement.
(b) Answers were generally good, although there was a tendency to downplay the first part of the question by simply noting the hazards without a detailed explanation. Explanations for earthquakes and volcanic activity were often very simplistic. Good case studies were provided for the second part of the question, although a minority of candidates provided detail on more than one hazard.