Physics A level
Examination Board: AQA is being considered currently, but as much of the content is common to all boards, the choice of examination board may be changed at a later date dependent upon that which is judged most suitable for the students.
Course Tutors: Mr A L Breslin, Mrs M Hervé, Mrs N Papworth,
Ms T Garn.
Course outline: A level and AS level are taught at the same time, the latter over the first year. The course will build on knowledge and skills developed in Core and Additional Science GCSE. To do well, you need to be the sort of person who enjoys solving complex problems using mathematics, especially algebra, and logical argument to answer questions about how the world works. You will study basic topics such as mechanics, electricity and waves as well as being introduced to some of the ideas in quantum physics. In the second year the course will go on to study field equations for gravity and electromagnetism, nuclear and thermal physics and potentially an optional topic; the mathematical challenges increase with logarithms and exponential functions. You will carry out practical work to enhance learning and as evidence towards the practical science Endorsement for the A level qualification.
1. Measurements and their errors
2. Particle physics and radiation (including quarks and photon calculations)
3. Wave behaviour including light.
4. Mechanics and materials
6. Gravitational and Electromagnetic field calculations
7. Thermal Physics and further mechanics such as circular motion calculations
8. Nuclear Physics and radioactivity.
There may be optional topics such as Astrophysics or medical physics dependent on the course. The physics behind these subjects is covered in the earlier content.
The AS level will study the first 5 topics only.
Assessment: By end of course examinations- e.g. 3 examinations of 2 hours each for A level, two shorter examinations for AS. There will be an assessment of practical and investigative skills within the written examinations but also a separate practical work “Endorsement” will appear on all students’ certificates based on practical work over the course.
Teaching and Learning Styles: Students develop problem solving and practical skills working in small groups and individually. Problem solving is an important aspect of private study and more sophisticated approaches are developed throughout the A level course. In many physics questions, the skill is to find a route through what seems an intractable problem by applying knowledge and intuition beyond the mere formula sheet. Students are generally introduced to new concepts via whole group teaching and practical examples and are able to work with a range of modern equipment to study practical aspects of the subject.
The problem solving skills and mathematical abilities produced by the course are highly sought after, not only in studying the sciences further but in disciplines from media to finance.
Note: It is not essential that you study Mathematics to do Physics at A level, but the subjects do complement each other and it improves your chances of good grades. If you want to take your studies of Physics further, or if you wish to study a subject such as Engineering, you should study Maths at A level also. By far the majority of Physics students also study Mathematics.
International Baccalaureate Group 4: Experimental Sciences
Physics HL & SL
Physics is the most fundamental of the experimental sciences, as it seeks to explain the universe itself. Alongside the growth in our understanding of the natural world, perhaps the more obvious and relevant result of physics to most of our students is our ability to change the world. This is the technological side of physics, in which physical principles have been applied to construct and alter the material world to suit our needs, which has had a profound influence on the daily lives of all human beings – for good or bad.
The IB Physics courses aim to develop a thorough grounding in both theory and experimental techniques, which complement each other as they do in the wider scientific community. Higher Level students develop a high level of mathematical sophistication; and learn to complete extended calculations, but as all IB students study Mathematics this should be seen as an advantage. Higher Level Physics ideally leads to studying a Physics related course at University, which would require students to also study Higher Level Maths. Standard Level students also learn good problem-solving skills, which would benefit them in any future career.
All students study a core curriculum which includes Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Waves, Electric Currents, Fields and Forces, Atomic and nuclear physics, Energy, Power, and Climate Change. Additionally, students study optional topics, which could include subjects such as Medical Physics, Astrophysics, Particle Physics and Relativity.
As part of the course all students spend a significant amount of time doing experimental work in the laboratory. An extremely enjoyable part of this is the Group 4 project, which involves the exchange of ideas with other science students on a project of the students’ choice. Students will also complete an extended lab project, on an area of their choosing so they can investigate something that they are personally interested in.
External 80% from 3 examinations
Internal 20% from an extended lab project completed during the duration of the course.