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KS3 Geography - Tectonic Hazards: Resources and Revisions

A guide to tectonic hazards for your Year 9 course, compiled by your Librarians.

Useful websites

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Multiple choice questions to test your knowledge

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GCSE revision guide

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Plate Tectonics






Magazine in Senior Library

Geography review

This magazine is an invaluable resource which contains relevant, up to date case study information, examination advice and technique including model answers and coursework help.  

Current copy is on display under the stairs in the Interactive Zone and back copies can be found in the cupboard directly behind the current issue or can be accessed through our Online Archive. You can get the login name and password via our password service

For more information, access the Philip Allan Online Magazines libguide.

Audio/video resources in Senior Library

Books in Senior Library

Revision summary

   Remember the important summaries:

(hoover mouse to view each box content and click topic head to view details)

  • Tectonic Plates

    1. The Earth's crust is made up of seven principal tectonic plates and numerous other smaller plates.
    2. The plates move due to convection currents in the mantle.
    3. There are two different types of plate: oceanic (dense, thin) and continental (light but thick)
  • Plate Boundaries

    1. Convergent (destructive) plate boundaries cause violent volcanoes and earthquakes, as well as deep-ocean trenches and fold mountains.
    2. Volcanoes and earthquakes do occur on divergent (constructive) plate boundaries. They also cause mid-ocean ridges to form.
    3. The main effects of a transform (conservative) plate boundary are earthquakes, which can be fairly violent and frequent.
    4. At collision plate boundaries the two plates push into each other forcing material to be folded up into huge mountain ranges.
  • Earthquakes

    1. Earthquakes occur along faults, caused by the sudden jerking movements of the fault, either laterally or vertically.
    2. Earthquakes are measured in two ways: The Richter Scale and the Mercalli Scale
    3. The point at which an earthquake actually begins, deep below the earth's surface is called the focus.
    4. The point directly above the focus, on the earth's surface, is called the epicentre.
    5. The effects of an earthquake are described as being primary or secondary.

    Examples: Kobe (Japan); Izmit (Turkey).

  • Volcanoes

    1. Volcanoes are formed along two types of plate boundary: destructive and constructive boundaries.
    2. There are three main volcanic cones: acid lava cones, composite cones and basic lava cones.

    Examples: Mt. St. Helens (USA) & Mt. Pinatubo (Phillipines)

  • The Impact of Tectonic Hazards

    Tectonic hazards will affect More Economically Developed Countries (MEDC's) in a differing way to those which occur in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC's).


Tips to answer exam questions

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A very resourceful article about natural hazards

Here is an article that gives a complete view about hazards and the management of the hazards.

Check list for natural hazards revision

The following presentation shows a revision checklist that can help you prepare for the exams! Please focus on Nature Hazards part only!

Guide to answer essay type of questions

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How are case studies marked?

How to get best level for your writing work?

Questions you need to be asking

To get the best level possible, you need to know the following KEY CONCEPTS that run through every topic!

Understand Command Words in tests

Do you know the meanings of the Command Words used in exam questions?

Revision guide for tectonic hazards

A very useful revision guide that covers all espects of tectonic hazrads!

A detailed presentation on tectonic hazards

The following presentation covers everything you need to know about tectonic hazards!


Sample exam questions & answers 1

Exam-style Questions & Answers 1


  1. The diagram shows a cross section of a series of plate margins.

    a) What are features A and B? (2 Marks)

    b) Explain why earthquakes occur at plate margins. (4 Marks)

    c) Using examples that you have studied explain why more deaths occur in LEDC's than MEDC's when earthquakes occur. (6 Marks)

    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 1

    a) A = Subduction zone.

    B = Mid oceanic ridge.

    b) Give yourself marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • The crust floats on the mantle.
    • Convection currents in the mantle move the crust.
    • The plates move together.
    • The plates slide past each other.
    • There is a build up of pressure.
    • Finally there is a sudden release of this pressure as the plates jolt past each other.
    • This sudden movement causes an earthquake.
    • Earthquakes usually occur along conservative or destructive plate boundaries.

     c) Give yourself 1 - 2 marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Lack of money.
    • Lack of emergency services.
    • Buildings are not as strong.
    • Lack of technology.
    • Aid takes a long time to get there.

     Give yourself 3 - 4 marks if you have expanded these points and have used case studies:

    • Earthquake in Turkey (1999) worse than in Japan (1995).
    • Disease can spread very quickly in the unsanitary conditions left behind after the earthquake.
    • Water can become contaminated.
    • Insurance money rarely available for homeless so more difficult to rebuild lives.

     Give yourself 5 - 6 marks if you can write in depth about the above points and relevant case studies:

    • In the 1999 Turkey earthquake between 20,000 to 35,000 people were killed, in Japan (1995) in an earthquake of similar size only 5,500 died.
    • Only 300 out of 1200 people rescued during the Turkey earthquake survived because of inadequate hospital facilities.
    • After the earthquake there were outbreaks of cholera and typhoid, and there was no water, electricity or sewage systems.
    • It took the government 48 hours to bring aid to the area.
  2. The diagram shows a cross section of a volcano.

    a) What are features A and B? (2 Marks)

    b) What is an active volcano? (1 Mark)

    c) Explain why volcanoes are different shapes. (4 marks)

    d) What are the effects of a volcano? (6 marks)

    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 2

    a) A = Secondary vent.

    B = Magma Chamber.

    b) A volcano that has erupted recently and is likely to erupt again.

    c) Give yourself 1 - 2 marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Different types of lava.
    • Lava cools at different rates.
    • Runny and thick lava.

     Give yourself 3 - 4 marks if you expanded the points above:

    • Acidic or viscous lava is thick and cools quickly therefore does not travel far.
    • Thick lava creates an acid cone volcano, which has steep sides, for example, Mt Pelee.
    • Basic lava is runny cools slowly and therefore runs a long way before cooling.
    • Basic lava creates a gentle sided shield volcano, for example, Mt Loa in Hawaii.

    d) Give yourself 1 - 2 marks if you mentioned the following points, they may be in the form of a list:

    • Homelessness/Death/Injury/Loss of possessions.
    • Communications destroyed/Loss of wildlife (plants and animals).
    • Landslides.

     Give yourself 3 - 4 marks if you expanded the above points and included a case study:

    • Mud flows as material from landslides mixes with water (sometimes this is melted snow).
    • Lahars, which are speeding mudslides formed by ash and rain.
    • 61 people were killed during the eruption of Mt St Helens.

     Give yourself 5 - 6 marks if you can write in depth about the effects and show excellent knowledge of case studies:

    • After the 1980 eruption of Mt St Helens no wildlife (trees or plants) survived within a 25Km blast zone.
    • In 1991 Mt Pinatubo lahars covered entire villages with mud up to 10 feet deep.
    • Lahars destroyed 200,000 homes and 50,000 Ha of farmland.
    • Longer-term effects are the spread of diseases. In the Philippines malaria and cholera in refugee camps.
  3. a) Give an example of a fold mountain range. (1 Mark)

    b) Describe the human activities found in Fold Mountains. (4 Marks)

    c) Explain the problems of living in fold mountains. (3 Marks)

    d) What is the Richter scale? (1 Mark)

    e) State three primary effects of an earthquake. (3 Marks)

    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 3

    a) Himalayas/Andes/Rockies.

    b) Give yourself 1-2 marks if you mention any of the following activities:


    Give yourself 3 - 4 marks if you can expand any of the above points:

    • Farming is mainly sheep and cattle.
    • In the Alps transhumance is the major form of farming where the animals are moved up to high slopes in the warm summer months but moved down to the valley floor during the winter.
    • On the south facing Alpine slopes there is some farming of vines and fruit.
    • Skiing, climbing and hill walking have led to the creation of new roads, restaurants and hotels.

    c) Give yourself marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Steep slopes are difficult to build on.
    • Roads tend to be windy and not large enough for an increasing population.
    • Climate is cold and wet so farming is difficult.
    • Avalanches are a constant threat.

    d) A scale that measures the strength of earthquakes.

    e) Give yourself marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Bridges collapsing/Communication lines destroyed.
    • Houses collapse/death/injury.


  4. a) Where are most earthquakes and volcanoes found? (2 Mark)

    b) What can be done to reduce the impact of volcanoes? (3 Mark)

    c) What is a dormant volcano? (1 Mark)

    d) Why do people choose to live in volcanic areas? (6 Marks)

    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 4

    a) Give yourself marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Along plate boundaries.
    • Pacific Ring of Fire.
    • West coast of America.
    • Along the mid Atlantic Ridge.

    b) Give yourself marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Evacuation/200,000 people evacuated from the area surrounding Mt Pinatubo.
    • Spraying lava with water.
    • Scientific prediction able to warn before disasters.

    c) A volcano that has not erupted for 2000 years.

    d) Give yourself 1 - 2 marks if you mentioned the following points:

    • Fertile soil/Tourism/Minerals/Power/Communications.

     Give yourself 3 - 4 marks if you expanded the above points:

    • Ash and lava create fertile soil for farming.
    • The heat in the rocks can be harness to provide cheep geothermal energy for residents.
    • Volcanoes create a wealth of important minerals.

    Give yourself 5 - 6 marks if you can write in depth about why people live near volcanoes and have included case studies:

    • The slopes of Mt Pinatubo are fertile and provide well-cultivated paddy fields.
    • Volcanic island like Iceland are often in the middle of large expanses of water like the Atlantic so are excellent stopping off points for long haul flights.

Sample exam questions and answers 2

Exam-style Questions & Answers 2


1. a) Describe the key features found at a destructive plate boundary. (6 marks)

     b) Explain why some tropical and subtropical areas experience a greater frequency and risk of tropical cyclones and seismic activity than others. (6 marks)

     c) Natural Hazards have a greater impact on LEDC's than MEDC's discuss. (12 marks)

Answer outline and marking scheme:

a) Marks will be given for the following, be careful not to explain any of the features. Begin by saying that plates are moving towards each other at a destructive plate boundary.

Examples of features created and hazards caused by plate movement are outlined below:

  • Subduction Zones and Ocean Trenches, for example, The Peru - Chile trench
  • Earthquakes
  • Fold Mountains, for example, Andes
  • Volcanoes
  • Island Arcs (such as those found in Japan)

b) The risk of hazards is increased for the following reasons:

  • High seismic risks are associated with plate boundaries. Due to movement of plate and the generation of heat at subduction zones certain areas are more prone to tectonic activity. The location of volcanoes around the Pacific ring of fire is a good example of this.
  • Areas experiencing little seismic risk / active volcanoes are far removed from plate boundaries.
  • The exception of Hawaii is due to the location of a 'hot spot'.

c) In this answer you need to show that you understand that the term 'impact' can be defined in a variety of ways, and whilst loss of life can be greater in LEDC's, the economic impacts of hazards in MEDC's cannot be underestimated. You need to include examples to illustrate differences and include reference to the following:

  • Population: The higher densities of population in LEDC's (for example, the Mexico City earthquake).
  • Available finances (limiting or allowing enforcement of building legislation codes).
  • Education is the population suitably educated regards steps to take in the event of a hazard.
  • Insurance.
  • Economy: How diverse the economy is of a country hit. Is the country reliant on a cash crop economy? For example, Hurricane Mitch - Nicaragua.
  • Infrastructure: Are the emergency services equipped to cope with the impact of a hazard?
  • Figures to show the impact of a similar strength earthquake in a LEDC and MEDC to help support your answer.

The question expects you to reach a conclusion based on the evidence you have presented in your answer. 

2. Hazards have social, economic and demographical impacts. Examine the main factors that affect these. (Marks available: 25)

Answer outline and marking scheme:

A full essay answer, so planning is vital, as is a solid, logical structure and appropriate use of geographical terminology. The examiner is looking for understanding that loss of life is the most extreme consequence, but loss of livelihood, community stress, loss of property and businesses are also impacts. You will be expected to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding in the following ways:


Factors that affect the impact should begin with the level of development of a country. This should be at a more complex level than simply MEDC's versus LEDC's, by doing this you will put your answer in a higher band. Take each impact in turn: For example, the social impacts could be reduced / increased as a result of religious beliefs. Demographic impacts vary because of both population structure and density. Economic impacts will be linked to levels of development, wealth and insurance. Extra credit will be awarded for mention of ability of country to forecast hazards.


Using a range of examples will show better understanding, and that different factors will affect different areas of the world. Good answers will show that one factor may be important for one hazard, but not for another. (For example, loss of life or property). 

Who wants to be a Tectonics Millionaire?

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Plate tectonics revision games

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Volcano revision games

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Interactive science illustrations

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Fling the teacher game: plate tectonics