What is A/AS Level Physics?
The dictionary definition of Physics is given as 'the study of matter and energy'. It seeks to understand the laws governing the phenomena that we observe all around us. In practice, this means you will study a range of topics from the very small – inside the atom, to the very large – the formation and history of the universe. The course blends together extensions of GCSE science with topics that will be entirely new, giving a stimulating mixture of traditional disciplines and modern advances. It also develops a range of skills useful in any form of future study or professional activity.
The one-year AS Level covers 4 specific areas of physics:
- Communication (electric circuits, sensors, signals and imaging)
- Designer materials (properties, uses and structure)
- Waves and quantum behaviour (photons, interference, particles behaving as waves)
- Space, time and motion (classical mechanics and vectors).
- There will be a program of laboratory assessments which will include practical, data handling and ICT skills, as well as a presentation on use of materials.
The full A Level course builds on the Year 12 work outlined above and introduces new topics:
- Models and rules (using mathematical models to explain classical physics)
- Matter in extremes (theories of matter and atoms, what happens at very low temperatures)
- Space (observing the universe, special relativity, planetary motion)
- Electromagnetism and electromagnetic induction
- Fields (electric, magnetic , methods of accelerating particles)
- Fundamental particles and the Standard Model (atomic, nuclear and sub-nuclear structure)
- Nuclear safety and nuclear power (fusion and fission related to nuclear stability)
There will be a continuing program of laboratory assessments (as above) and also an assessed research task.
How will I learn?
The A Level Physics course has been designed by the Institute of Physics and provides a distinctive structure to allow students to learn about the fundamental physical concepts and about physics in everyday and technological settings. A key focus is on how Physics is applied today, using up to date information and techniques to develop ideas which are at the heart of modern Physics.
The course is supported by a range of resources on Moodle, the college VLE; and extensive use is made of computers within our laboratories. Resources include questions, images, displays and texts to read, as well as video clips and interactive animations, virtual experiments and quizzes; all designed to help you grasp the fundamental physics concepts. To make full use of these facilities you will need a computer at home with a fast internet connection. There is also a textbook which accompanies and supports the course; a new edition will be published to go with the revised course from 2015. A typical week may include a class experiment, working on material stored on CD or moodle, discussion & development of ideas and research into application of principles.
The amount of homework for both AS and A Level will be about 4 to 5 hours per week. The style of homework will include experiment reports, numerical questions, course work and research.
How will I be assessed?
Assessment will be by means of written exams at the end of each course. Students will also gain a Practical Endorsement based on skills developed and demonstrated during the course. The table below details the percentage weighting of each assessment in the overall A level.
|Assessment||AS (Year 1)||A Level (Year 2)|
|Paper 1||90 mins (50%)||135 mins (40%)|
|Paper 2||90 mins (50%)||135 mins (40%)|
|Paper 3||90 mins (20%)|
Physics is an excellent qualification, well thought of by employers. It is an essential subject for a wide range of degree courses in Science and Engineering. The career possibilities are extensive ranging from industrial and scientific research through management, business and finance, to medicine and education.
Some of our past students (2012-13):
Gina –studying Engineering at Cambridge University
James – studying Mathematics at Oxford University
Grace – studying Biomedical Engineering at King’s College London
Ben – studying Mathematics at Leeds University
Mary – studying Structural Engineering and Architecture at Sheffield University
Alex – studying Electronics at York University
Amelia – studying Physics at Southampton University
It is essential that you have gained at least grade B in Higher Tier Maths and a B in Physics before you start this subject. Most students will take Maths AS Level alongside Physics AS Level.
In common with all subjects at A Level there is a significant leap in the intellectual demands made on you and in the expectations of the staff teaching you. This is particularly true in Physics where the use of mathematics increases. You will succeed if you are motivated to work consistently and give your studies the time and energy they require.
Students studying for Physics A-level should normally have achieved an average GCSE point score of 5.5 or above and at least a grade C in English (unless specified otherwise).
Students with a point score between 4.5 and 5.5 will normally take a mixture of Subsidiary Diplomas and AS levels. You can check your likely GCSE point score by going to 'Choosing the Right Course' on the website and entering your predicted grades.
All students will be expected to provide their own textbook and/or revision guide, stationery and calculators.
Essential: approximately £35 anticipated for new textbook and CDROM
Optional: £15 for trips and visits.
If the costs of equipment, materials and trips may cause you financial hardship, you may wish to read through details of our financial support scheme on our website.