A Level Physics
Head of Department: Mr J. Hallam
Examination Board: Edexcel
Specification Code: 9PH0
Course Entry Requirements: GCSE Physics A grade and GCSE Mathematics A grade
As Bill Bryson says, ‘Physics is really nothing more than a search for ultimate simplicity, but so far all we have is a kind of elegant messiness.’
Theory and skills from GCSE are developed and studied in far greater depth. Many Year 1 topics will be familiar, such as mechanics, electricity and waves, but the approach at A level will be much more mathematical and will really stretch students’ understanding of these areas. New topics include materials and quantum physics, in which the familiar world is tipped on its head. Year 2 topics are largely new to students and include momentum, circular motion, electric and magnetic fields, nuclear and particle physics, thermodynamics, astrophysics, nuclear radiation and oscillations. Alongside the theory, students will develop mathematical and practical skills, which will be applied to the sixteen core practicals. As a result of the increase in demand from GCSE, students often struggle at first, until they step up a gear and learn to take more responsibility for their own learning.
Students must be competent in their use of mathematics, for example rearranging equations such as v2 = u2 + 2as to make s the subject. Combining equations is also important, so 4/3pr3rg represents the weight of a sphere, given r is its density. Rearranging equations into the form y = mx + c is also required as it allows us to find physical constants form the gradient or y-intercept of a line. If you are unsure about your mathematical ability, you must talk to your Physics and Mathematics teachers.
All students attend an inspiring day of lectures entitled Physics in Action, and our brightest students may attend extension sessions, where they will think deeply and laterally to solve problems, leading to the AS Physics Challenge competition in March of Year 1 or the British Physics Olympiad in November of Year 2.
Students will sit three written papers at the end of the A level course. Papers 1 and 2 will test specific theory from the two year course, whilst Paper 3 covers the entire specification with synoptic links and questions testing practical skills. Students should also gain a practical competency award based on their development of skills in the core practicals.
Who should study the subject?
Students should study Physics if they are interested in its applications and ways of thinking and particularly if they wish to study a related subject, such as Physics or Engineering, at university. Physicists are always in demand across a wide range of careers because of their logical skills and ability to interpret data.
Each class has two teachers out of Mr Hallam, Mr Newcome, Mr O’Donnell and Mrs Thornton.