How to use this workbook

This is an original workbook for first year Physical Geology to accompany the open textbook Physical Geology 1st USask edition by Karla Panchuk. It provides resources to help students study and prepare for exams in courses in introductory physical geology (USask Geol 108 and Geol 121).

The workbook is organized into sections by chapter, each chapter corresponds to a chapter in the Physical Geology 1st USask Edition textbook (or unadapted chapters in Steven Earle’s Physical Geology, 2015). There are three parts to each chapter: learning outcomes, vocabulary, and review questions. Corresponding readings from the textbook are provided in the front material for each chapter. Note that your professor may not recommend you read all the textbook sections for each chapter.

Students taking first year physical geology come from a wide range of backgrounds; sometimes they have limited science background and need support reviewing or learning basic concepts in chemistry, physics, math, biology, and geography to prepare for the course. To support these students I’ve added appendices on these topics to help students identify where they need to focus their review.

I have provided more specific suggestions on how to use the materials in this workbook below. This workbook is still a work in progress, I will add additional review questions and study resources in future editions. If you identify any errors or omissions you would like to flag for me I welcome your feedback!

Good luck with your studies,

-Dr McBeth

Overview of how to use this workbook

  1. start of course: read through this how-to section
  2. start of course: read through appendices to review background concepts.
  3. before class: check recommended readings, if present, in your professor’s class slides (these may differ from the corresponding textbook readings shown at the start of each chapter in this workbook – go with the recommendations in the slides). Read through each corresponding vocab section and learn vocab prior to each class. Read or skim recommended readings.
  4. during class (for students in GEOL 108/121 with Dr McBeth): participate in class activities using the Top Hat polling system
  5. after class: review vocabulary and lecture notes, work through review questions, review learning outcomes and assess progress.
  6. after class (for students in GEOL 108/121 with Dr McBeth): rewatch or listen to the lecture capture if you missed class or were unclear on the material.

Learning Outcomes

Read through the learning outcomes for each chapter. These describe the facts, concepts, and processes you will (hopefully!) learn in each chapter of the textbook, and corresponding section of the course lectures. As you study, you can use these outcomes to gauge how prepared you are for the exam material on each chapter. The more of these learning outcomes you understand and can explain in detail, the better prepared you will be for your exam.


The vocabulary sections contain lists of vocabulary words used in each textbook chapter. The vocab words are divided up by chapter sections. If you bring the workbook to class, you can check off the vocabulary that comes up in the lectures, to help you identify which terms you need to know.

Students can use these vocabulary lists to learn the vocabulary and prepare flash cards or definitions lists. They can also review and test themselves and each other using these lists.

If you are a student who struggles with vocabulary, here are some suggestions on how to learn the vocabulary words:

  • Before starting to learn vocabulary, familiarize yourself with Appendix VII of this workbook. this appendix contains lists of Latin and Greek suffixes and prefixes that commonly appear in geological vocabulary.
  • look up vocab words in textbook(s) or use an online geology dictionary:
  • find a good image illustrating the vocabulary word (if applicable) in a geological context to help you visualize the meaning of the word.
  • Place the vocab word in geological context. for example, in what plate tectonic environment(s) would you find or use this vocabulary word? Where in the world would you find an example of this vocabulary word?
  • Write a sentence using the word in a geological context. Try to create your own sentence rather than using one from the web.
  • Without looking up the definition for each term, try to define it out loud (it really helps to speak out loud when studying!).
  • Next steps: find a friend to study with, and compare your vocabulary words and sentences with theirs.
  • If you are uncertain about pronunciation of any words, contact your professor and/or TA to ask for help.

Review questions

The review questions are designed to give you practice in applying the knowledge you are learning in each chapter, and to place this information in the greater context of Earth’s geology.

Here are some tips on how to use the review questions:

  • Many of the review questions incorporate drawing exercises. Try not to worry too much about making a “perfect” drawing, that is not the point of these exercises. It is more important to use the drawing to communicate (to you, as you review your study notes for exams!) the key features of the geological concept the question is asking you to examine (e.g., the parts of a volcano, stream processes).
  • Before working through each review question, read through and check that you are familiar with the vocabulary used in that question (if not, review the vocabulary as described above).
  • Self-test yourselves with the review questions before your exams. Try not to look at your answers before you self-test yourself, see if you can answer the question first.
  • Teaching and explaining things to someone else is a really effective way to test yourself on material!
  • Working with others in study groups can help you identify alternative or more elaborate answers to review questions and help learn the material in more depth.
  • These questions are a starting place – use the review questions to help you get ideas to make up your own review questions.
    • For example, a question that asks “what kind of rock textures would you expect to see in an intrusive igneous rock and why?” This question could be adapted in a few different ways to test yourself. Ask the same question about extrusive igneous rocks. Or what kind of minerals you’d expect to see in each of these rocks. Or you could ask yourself which plate tectonic environments you’d expect to see a particular rock texture or composition.
    • Another example: for the question “What is the aphanitic equivalent of granite?” other questions you might think of like this are “What is the aphanitic equivalent of diorite? Gabbro?” or “Describe the texture of gabbro.” “How is the texture of gabbro similar to the texture of granite?”
  • Try each question before you hunt for answers. Avoid the temptation to look it up right away, make an attempt to answer it first. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we know things in our long term memory right after we read them – but if you do this, it is probably only in your short term memory and will be harder to remember in the exam.


Introductory physical geology is a course that requires some high school level background knowledge in chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology, and geography. Before you start working through each chapter of the workbook, please review the materials in the appendices. If the questions worry you, visit your instructor in office hours to let them know and discuss options for moving forward. Note that the purpose of the appendices is not to teach you basic chemistry, physics, math, etc.; it is to provide you with the materials to check you have the background you’ll need for this course. If you are missing this background, it may be worth doing some supplementary background readings early on in the course to fill in the gaps and/or taking a high school course by distance education to prepare yourself before taking GEOL 108/121. Chat with your instructor to help determine what a good path forward is for you.


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Physical Geology Workbook Copyright © 2019 by Joyce M. McBeth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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