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What will I learn?

Physics is the study of matter and energy, encompassing the whole of the Universe and including the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. Physicists ask the fundamental questions of what is happening, why is it happening and how can it be explained? In doing so, physicists develop many transferrable skills: problem analysis, problem solving, logic, numeracy, team work and the ability to communicate effectively.

The course covers both modern and traditional Physics, developing practical skills and the ability to analyse experimental errors. The new Physics covers topics such as Fundamental Particles, Photon Emission, The Photoelectric Effect and Wave-particle Duality. More traditional Physics topics from GCSE are developed as well: Circuits, Waves, Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Fields, Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics.

Physics, by the nature of its content and skills base, offers exciting and stimulating learning opportunities. Physicists go on to a wide range of courses at university (sciences, engineering, mathematics, law, medicine, accountancy, computer science, etc.) and, ultimately, into many different career paths and professions (research and development, engineering, finance, computing, medicine, technology, telecommunications, meteorology, teaching and lecturing).

Who should choose Physics?

You should choose Physics if you have an interest in understanding how the world around you works and want explanations for how all of these different parts link together. Physics is a subject that promotes inquisitiveness, develops understanding and builds the skills to be able to apply concepts to explain observations. Physicists gain many transferable skills that enable them to move into many different careers.

Students in this subject are well supported. At the start of the course, you will be given a copy of the specification and the checklists, as you will have at GCSE Level, so that you are fully aware of what you need to know and be able to do. In lessons, you will be given notes, discuss relevant points, complete worked examples, perform calculations and carry out experimental activities. Your textbooks allow you to reinforce knowledge and understanding, as well as providing questions. Homework will include a variety of tasks based on summary questions, past examination questions, research and review. The classwork and homework tasks you will complete will give you the chance to develop both your team working and independent working skills. You will be given regular assessments to enable you to monitor your progress through the course.

What other subjects go well with Physics?

Students taking Physics at A Level opt for many other choices, some based in the Sciences and mathematical areas of the curriculum, but others in the Humanities and Arts. Although Mathematics and Physics do complement each other, it is possible to gain the highest grades in Physics without studying Mathematics in the Sixth Form.

The study of Physics involves questioning, reasoning, contribution and experimentation. If you enjoy a challenge, problem solving and understanding how things work, then Physics is the subject for you.

Course details

During Lower Sixth, the first year of the course, students will be taught:

  • Measurements and their errors: experimental practice, the treatment of results and errors
  • Particles and Radiation: atoms, nuclei, particles, quarks and leptons, photoelectric effect, photon emission and wave-particle duality
  • Waves: types of waves, stationary waves, refraction, diffraction and interference
  • Mechanics and Materials: moments, motion in a line, projectiles, momentum, density, stress, strain and the Young Modulus
  • Electricity: current-voltage characteristics, circuits, resistivity, the potential divider, electromotive force and internal resistance

During Upper Sixth, in the second year of the course, students will be taught:

  • Further mechanics and thermal physics
  • Fields including gravitational, electric and magnetic
  • Nuclear physics
  • Astrophysics

For the A Level qualification, all of the assessments are taken at the end of the two year course and are based on the following examinations:

Paper 1: Two hours - 85 marks – 60 marks of short and long answer questions, 25 marks on multiple choice questions on Year 12 topics and periodic motion (Upper Sixth)

Paper 2: Two hours - 85 marks – 60 marks of short and long answer questions, 25 marks on multiple choice questions on Year 13 topics, assumed knowledge of Lower Sixth content

Paper 3: Two hours - 80 marks – 45 marks on practical experiments and data analysis, 35 marks of short and long answer questions on Astrophysics

There is no coursework or controlled assessment at A Level. Practical questions will be present on the papers and will test your understanding of experimental design, practical skills, techniques, analysis and evaluation of experimental data, as per the IGCSE courses you are currently studying.

A separate endorsement of practical skills will be offered alongside the A Level qualification. You will need to carry out twelve required practical activities set by the examination board and your skills and competencies will be monitored by your teachers. In addition to your overall A Level grade, you will be given a 'pass' or 'fail'.

Beyond the classroom There are many opportunities for enrichment beyond the classroom: Science in Action (with Warwick School), Journal Review Club (with Warwick School) and Café Scientifique. You will also receive an extensive reading list and student membership of the Institute of Physics. There are many external courses on offer such as Headstart courses. Smallpeice Trust courses, the Cambridge Physics Summer Camp, Physics in Perspective courses, the Olympiad, competitions, Isaac Physics, careers lectures and many more – in fact, we will support you to pursue any opportunity you can find. There is also the chance to support younger members of the school with SSS mentoring (KS3 and KS4), and you can contribute to the ‘Thoughts Board’ and the ‘Science News’ board. You will also have the opportunity during the two years of study to visit the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva

For more information contact: Mrs Scott

"Physics A Level allows you to improve your problem solving and analytical skills whilst studying an interesting and stimulating subject." Sophie, Sixth Former

"Physics is challenging, but rewarding. I have found the topics we study interesting, and I feel Physics has helped me to improve other skills, such as in Mathematics." Bella, Sixth Former

"I find Physics both a mentally challenging and stimulating subject which allows me to think more deeply about the way the world around me works." Esther, Sixth Former

"Physics is one of my most challenging subjects, but also the most intriguing and engaging." Current Sixth Former