Australian Geography Competition


Geography Cognitive Processes

The Australian Geography Competition (AGC) reports to students, teachers and schools on students’ scores, specifically highlighting achievement in the cognitive domains outlined in the Trends in International Geography Assessment Study’s Framework. These domains are part of a proposal to include geography in the Earth Science strand of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessment from 2023. See for more information.

The cognitive domain is divided into three dimensions that describe the thinking processes students are expected to engage in while studying geography. The first dimension, knowing, addresses the student’s ability to recall, recognise, describe, and provide examples of facts, concepts, and procedures that are necessary for a solid foundation in geography. The second dimension, applying, focuses on using this knowledge to compare, contrast and classify concepts; relating knowledge of a geography concept to a specific context; generating explanations; and solving practical problems. The third dimension, reasoning, includes using evidence and geographic understanding to analyse, synthesize, and generalize, often in unfamiliar situations and complex contexts.


Items in this dimension assess students’ knowledge of facts, concepts, relationships and processes. Accurate and broad-based factual and conceptual knowledge enables students to successfully engage in the more complex cognitive activities essential to geographic understanding.

Recall/RecogniseIdentify or state facts, relationships, and concepts; recognise and use geographic vocabulary, symbols, abbreviations, units, and scales.
DescribeDescribe or identify descriptions of physical and human environments and their interaction.
Provide ExamplesProvide or identify examples of physical and human environments and their interaction.


Items in this dimension require students to engage in applying knowledge of facts, concepts, relationships, procedures and methods in contexts likely to be familiar in the teaching and learning of geography (e.g. global climate zones) or where the item stem contains the essential information that students need to familiarise themselves with a specific spatial example.

Compare/Contrast/ClassifyIdentify or describe similarities and differences between physical and human environments and their interaction.
RelateRelate knowledge of an underlying geographic concept to physical and human environments and their interaction.
Use ModelsUse a diagram or model to demonstrate knowledge of geographic concepts, to illustrate a process, cycle, relationship, or system, or to find solutions to geographic problems.
Interpret InformationUse knowledge of geographic concepts to interpret relevant visual, verbal, numerical, textual and spatial information.
ExplainProvide or identify an explanation for an observation or a natural or human phenomenon using a geographic concept or principle.


Items in this dimension require students to engage in reasoning to analyse data and other information, draw conclusions, and extend their understandings to new contexts. In contrast to the more direct applications of geographic facts and concepts exemplified in the applying dimension, items in the reasoning dimension likely involve more complicated contexts. Answering such items can involve more than one approach or strategy. Geographic reasoning also encompasses developing hypotheses and designing geographic inquiries.

AnalyseIdentify the elements of a geographic problem and use relevant information, concepts, relationships, and data patterns to answer questions and solve problems.
SynthesizeAnswer questions that require consideration of a number of different factors or related concepts.
Formulate Questions/ Hypothesize/PredictFormulate questions that can be answered by inquiry and predict results of an investigation given information about the design; formulate testable assumptions based on conceptual understanding and knowledge from experience, observation, and/or analysis of geographic information; and use evidence and conceptual understanding to make predictions about the effects of changes in physical and human environments.
Design InquiryPlan (field) inquiries or procedures appropriate for answering geographic questions.
EvaluateEvaluate alternative explanations; weigh advantages and disadvantages to make decisions about alternative processes; and evaluate results of inquiry with respect to sufficiency of data to support conclusions.
Draw ConclusionsMake valid inferences on the basis of observations, evidence, and/or understanding of geographic concepts; and draw appropriate conclusions that address questions or hypotheses, and demonstrate understanding of cause and effect.
GeneralizeMake general conclusions that go beyond the inquiry or given conditions; apply conclusions to new situations.
JustifyUse evidence and geographic understanding to support the reasonableness of explanations, solutions to problems, and conclusions from inquiry based on explicit criteria.

Classification of 2021 Competition Questions

1KnowingProvide Examples
2ApplyingInterpret Information
4ApplyingInterpret Information
6ApplyingInterpret Information
10ApplyingInterpret Information
14ApplyingInterpret Information
15ApplyingInterpret Information
16ApplyingInterpret Information
17ReasoningDraw Conclusions
18ApplyingInterpret Information
19ApplyingInterpret Information
20ApplyingInterpret Information
23ApplyingInterpret Information
24ApplyingInterpret Information
26ApplyingInterpret Information
28ApplyingUse Models
30ReasoningDraw Conclusions
31ApplyingInterpret Information
35ApplyingUse Models
39ApplyingUse Models
42ApplyingInterpret Information
44ApplyingInterpret Information
46ReasoningDraw Conclusions
48ApplyingInterpret Information
49ReasoningDraw Conclusions
50ApplyingInterpret Information

This information has been taken from TIGAS Draft Framework 2023: Trends in International Geography Assessment Study, 2019, accessed 2/9/20.