What is A/AS Level Physics?
The dictionary definition of Physics is given as 'the study of matter and energy'. It seeks to find the hidden laws behind physical phenomena. In practice it 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 novel, 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.
In the first year the 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 are two coursework tasks which involve presentation, practical, data handling and ICT skills.
The full A Level extends the work started at AS 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)
- fields (electromagnetism and electrostatic, methods of accelerating particles)
- space (observing the universe, special relativity, planetary motion)
- fundamental particles (atomic, nuclear and sub-nuclear structure)
- nuclear (fusion and fission related to nuclear stability)
The coursework activities focus on a detailed practical investigation and a research briefing.
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 Physics.
The course is supported by CD ROM, which is networked throughout the College. It contains experiments, activities, questions, images, displays and texts to read. The Colleges outstanding IT resources allow viewing of video clips, interaction with animations, performing virtual experiments and attempting interactive 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 typical week may include a class experiment, working on material stored on the CD, discussion and development of ideas and research into application of the 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?
In each year assessment is by two written papers and two coursework tasks. The table below details the percentage weighting of each assessment in the overall A level.
|Assessment||AS (Year 1)||A2 (Year 2)|
Physics is an excellent qualification, well thought of by employers. It is an essential subject for many degree courses in Science and Engineering. The career possibilities are extensive ranging from industrial and scientific research through management, business and commerce, financial analysis to health and education.
Oliver studied Physics and was offered a place at Oxford University to study Maths.
Simon moved to Portsmouth University to study Architecture.
Daniel is studying Physics at Durham University.
Andrea was offered a place at Southampton University to study Electrical Engineering.
Students studying a 3 or 4 AS level programme should normally have achieved an average GCSE point score of 5.5 or above and at least a grade C in Maths and/or English (unless specified otherwise). Students with a point score between 4.5 – 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.
Experience has shown that students with grades no higher than a C in GCSE Maths and Science have found Physics AS Level very difficult. It is therefore strongly recommended that you have gained at least grade B in Maths and B/B in Science before you start the 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 prepared to work consistently and give your studies the time and energy they require.
All students will be expected to provide their own textbooks, stationery, computer disks and calculators.
Essential: approximately £35 for CD-ROM and textbooks
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.