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
Edexcel offers an exciting A-Level physics course in which theory and skills from GCSE are developed and studied in far greater depth. Once students have gained a good grounding in the theory, we apply what they have learnt to various relevant contexts. Many of the Year 1 topics will be familiar from GCSE, such as mechanics, electricity and waves, but the approach at A-Level will be much more mathematical and will really stretch students’ basic understanding of these areas. New topics include materials and quantum physics, in which the familiar world around us is tipped on its head. As a result of the increase in demand from GCSE, it is usual for students to struggle in the first few weeks, until they take more responsibility for their own learning. We as teachers will support and encourage them to work effectively and proactively.
Alongside the theory, students will develop numerical and practical skills, which will be applied to the eight core practicals undertaken in Year 1. The skills developed as well as knowledge of the practicals themselves will be tested in written examination papers at the end of the course.
Students must be competent in their use of mathematics and have a certain affinity for numerical work. It is vital that they can rearrange equations with relative ease, e.g. v2 = u2 + 2as to make s the subject, and understand whether or not answers using standard form are likely to be correct. An ability to substitute new quantities into an equation is also important, e.g. 4/3 p r3 r g to represent the weight of a sphere, given r is the sphere’s density. Being able to rearrange equations into the form y = mx + c is also important 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.
Most of the topics covered in Year 2 will be new to students. These include momentum and circular motion, electric and magnetic fields, nuclear and particle physics, thermodynamics, analysing stars, nuclear radiation and oscillations. Mathematical and practical skills will continue to be developed from Year 1, and the ability to link different topics will become more important in Year 2, in order to prepare students for the synoptic element of the written examination papers. Students will undertake a further eight core practicals in 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 use of skills in the sixteen core practicals.
Academic Challenges and Successes
Our brightest physics students may wish to attend extension sessions, where their minds will be stretched further, thinking deeply and laterally to solve problems. They can enter the AS Physics Challenge in March of Year 1 or the British Physics Olympiad in November of Year 2.