What can physicists tell us about our bodies, our world, or the universe we inhabit? How do ultrasound scanners or fibre optic communications work? What did Isaac Newton have to do with landing a space probe on a comet? How did physicists at CERN develop PET scanners used in cancer diagnosis? These are just a few of the many questions addressed in the A-level Physics course. We look at the nature and behaviour of matter from the subatomic scale to that of the universe itself.
To understand all this, of course, we have to study principles of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics and waves, photons and quantum phenomena. You will need an enquiring mind and an ability to cope with mathematics. The analytical and numerical skills you gain will be useful in a wide variety of careers, including architecture, engineering (structural, mechanical, aeronautical, electronic, sound…), medicine (radiology, optometry, dentistry…) materials science, meteorology, satellite imagery, consultancy, finance, and many more.
The first year of the A Level covers 4 specific areas of physics:
- Practical Skills in physics (laboratory-assessed)
- Foundations of Physics (quantities & units, measurement & analysis)
- Forces and Motion (motion & projectiles, forces & work, energy & power, momentum & collisions)
- Electrons, Waves and Photons (charge & current, energy & power, resistance & circuits; wave behaviour, interference & stationary waves, photons, electrons & quantum physics)
As well as continuing to develop Practical Skills (see Practical Endorsement below), two more modules complete the two year A-level course:
- The Newtonian World and Astrophysics (thermal physics & ideal gases, oscillations & circular motion, gravitation & planetary motion, stars, stellar distance & cosmology)
- Particle and Medical Physics (capacitors and electric fields, magnetic fields & electromagnetism, behaviour of charged particles in fields, nuclear atom, radioactivity, fission & fusion, fundamental particles; medical imaging & diagnosis using X-rays , PET scans, ultrasound and more)
For A-level students, exams will be taken at the end of the two year course, with an option to take AS at the end of year 12. However, an AS no longer counts as part of a full A-level.