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Geography Mock Exam Example Essays

This  essay was written under exam conditions. Whilst it is not necessarily a "model answer", it demonstrates the quality required to gain a higher grade in the exam. It was written within one hour.

Theme : Urbanisation


  1. Describe and suggest reasons for the variations in the percentage of urban population in the countries shown (6 marks)

  2. Explain why the annual urban growth rates shown on the map are higher in LEDCs than in MEDCs (7 marks)

  3. With reference to case study material, discuss the problems caused by rapid urbanisation (7 marks)


a) The percentage of a nation's urban population is frequently used as a measure of the country's development, as an agricultural base remains indicative of a country's poverty.

The document, presenting the "urbanisation in selected countries of the world", shows that the principal MEDCs, namely North America, Britain, France and Japan, have an urban population of approximately 75%, confirming the link between development and urbanisation/industrialisation. Other than the industrialisation revolution which attracted people to towns a century ago, the important factor of wealth and developed countries today is trade. Indeed, the situation of MEDC populations in cities emphasises the polarisation of the economy, and the importance of communication axes and concentration around technopoles and services which characterises today's economy.

The figures of less developed countries originate from a number of factors. Countries such as Mexico and Brazil show an urbanisation equal to that of MEDCs. This can be traced to the fact that an increasing amount of LEDCs have recognised industrialisation as a leading factor of development and have followed that path. Moreover, being placed in the United States' sphere of influence, these countries have been encouraged to trade and therefore begun to fit the pattern of a commerce and communication based spatial organisation.

Other LEDCs show a much smaller percentage of urbanisation, such as India or Indonesia. These nations are primarily still agricultural societies who yet rely on it to pass eventually to a more industrial base, through the export of primary products.

The document therefore shows the diversity of urbanisation throughout the world, a diversity frequently reflecting a country's level of development.


b) Just as a nation's urbanisation suggests its level of development, so do the urban growth rates indicate the speed of a nation's industrialisation and growth.

The urban growth rates of MEDCs, as shown by the document, are the lowest of the map. Indeed, these nations' industrialisation/urbanisation having taken place many decades ago , the process is at its final stage. Moreover, many of these, such as London, seek to decentralise the cities and hinder their overcrowding. Japan's growth can equally be explained by the nation's small and narrow territory, where few plains has led to the concentration of the population along the Western coast a necessity and explains the lack of any real spatial change. The United States' higher growth rate may reflect the marked mobility of this nation and its people which encourage mutations and migrations inside the country.

The growth rates of LEDCs are, expectedly, considerably larger . The large number of these nations are experiencing a rural-urban exodus and migration which characterises developing nations, as LEDCs pass from agricultural to industrial base. Moreover, as MEDCs encourage trade in these nations, manufacturing products play an increasingly large role and explain the growing need for industrialisation, inevitably followed by urbanisation. In addition to this, LEDC populations and their movements are influenced by push and pull factors, as increasing unemployment in the agricultural sector due to its restriction and poor living standards drive the people to towns where they believe they will be better employed and given the use of infrastructures.

The much larger growth rate of LEDCs as concerns urbanisation is therefore a reflection of these nations ' emergence and attempts to develop and enter the world market.


c) Rapid urbanisation in LEDCs has led to a number of problems which hinder the nation's development and create many serious threats, notably the lack of infrastucture, waste and pollution as well as the issue of housing.

The overcrowding of LEDC cities may be illustrated by Cairo, a megacity confronted with the above problems. Indeed, the overcrowding of Cairo has expectedly resulted on a large pressure made on the city's infrastructures, whether of health or transport. The huge amount of traffic impedes on the communication rates as well as damaging the population's health through pollution. Effects to provide a metro system have proved expensive as well as ineffective.

Waste equally constitutes a threat as the use of "squats" and overcrowding makes it particularly hard to control. Whilst the top-down solution of an expensive sewage system has proved ineffective, a bottom-up solution has met with much more success, in the form of collection and recycling organised by the Zabbaleen, recognised by international organisations and providing a cheap and efficient solution.

Finally, housing constitutes perhaps the biggest threat. Whilst some are forced to resort to accommodating roof tops (whilst possessing no tenancy rights and living under a constant threat), other "squats" in the City of the Dead, making use of empty buildings and though helped by the government with certain infrastructures, are forced to use illegal and often polluted water. The little housing available is often for the expensive migrants in search of employment, and the construction of dangerously high buildings has equally diminished precious fertile land. Attempts to remove the pressure from the megacity to the outskirts such as with the 10th of Ramadan have met with mixed success as, despite certain migrations, inhabitants deplore the lack of culture and community of the constructions, to which they prefer the city of Cairo. Similar efforts were equally made in China through the creation special coastal towns but again cities such as Beijing or Shanghai were preferred to these.

Urbanisation therefore creates a number of serious and urgent threats in LEDCs as illusionary pull factors drive migrants to cities weakened by unemployment, overcrowding, lack of housing and infrastructures.


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