PhysicsBack to Key Information
To complete the full A Level in Physics students must complete all six modules and be assessed on all six at the end of two years of study – i.e. in Year 13. The A Level is no longer formed of ‘AS’ plus ‘A2’. However, students can choose to study Physics for just one year (modules 1-4) and complete the relevant exams to attain an AS Level in Physics.
A Level Physics prepares students for a wide range of courses in Higher Education such as: Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biophysics, Dentistry, Economics, Engineering, Medicine, Optics, Optometry, Radiography, and many others. The practical skills, experience of data analysis and the ability to express oneself concisely and accurately are useful attributes and help to prepare a young person for a career in a wide variety of fields.
Physics is one of the most challenging subjects available at A Level. Approximately 40% of the course involves high level Mathematics.
Students applying to study A Level Physics must have achieved at least a grade 6 in GCSE Combined Science, or GCSE Physics if doing Triple Science.
Students should ideally also have a grade 6 or above in GCSE Mathematics, although this may be lowered to a 5 on a case by case basis; students who have achieved less than a grade 5 will not be permitted to study A Level Physics as they are highly unlikely to be able to access the Mathematics required for the course.FPP
In a change from previous years, to complete the full A Level in Physics students must complete all six modules and be assessed on all six at the end of two years of study – i.e. in Year 13. The A Level is no longer formed of ‘AS’ plus ‘A2’. However, students can choose to study Physics for just one year (modules 1-4) and complete the relevant exams to attain an AS Level in Physics.
Students choosing to only study Physics to AS Level complete four modules and will need to sit two exams, each of an hour and a half. All four modules will be assessed on both papers, which is a significant change from previous courses.
Module 1 – Development of Practical Skills in Physics
The content of this module is taught in the context of the physics taught in other modules to ensure practical skills are developed when learning other topics. This module is designed to develop the skills of planning, implementing practical methods, analysis of results and evaluation. Evaluating methods and interpreting results of practical investigations will feature on exam papers; furthermore, practical skills will be assessed by the teacher throughout the course and students receive a pass/fail practical certificate alongside their grade at the end (this is for full A Level Physics only).
Module 2 – Foundations of Physics
This module presents the basic foundations of Physics – continuing from content taught at GCSE level. This includes areas such as units, symbols, quantities and formulae. This is arguably the most important unit of the entire course, as it forms the basis of all the other modules. Students are expected to have a good grasp of this module within the first few weeks so that we can move on to the other modules.
Module 3 – Forces and Motion
In this module, learners will learn how to model the motion of objects using mathematics, understand the effect forces have on objects, learn about the important connection between force and energy, appreciate how forces cause deformation and understand the importance of Newton’s laws of motion.
Module 4 – Electrons, Waves and Photons
The aim of this module is to ultimately introduce key ideas of quantum physics. Electromagnetic waves (e.g. light) have a dual nature. They exhibit both wave and particle-like behaviour. The wave–particle dual nature is also found to be characteristic of all particles (e.g. electrons). Before any sophisticated work can be done on quantum physics, learners need to appreciate what electrons are and how they behave in electrical circuits. A basic understanding of wave properties is also required.
Students who choose to study Physics to A level will complete two years of study and will be assessed on their learning across those two years at the end of Year 13. All content, right from the start of Year 12, will be assessed at this time – this is often referred to as a ‘linear’ course (rather than the previous ‘modular’ course). In addition to the four modules described above, students complete two further modules that stretch the content to higher levels.
Module 5 – Newtonian World and Astrophysics
The aim of this module is to show the impact Newtonian mechanics has on physics. The microscopic motion of atoms can be modelled using Newton’s laws and hence provide us with an understanding of macroscopic quantities such as pressure and temperature. Newton’s law of gravitation can be used to predict the motion of planets and distant galaxies. In the final section we explore the intricacies of stars and the expansion of the Universe by analysing the electromagnetic radiation from space. As such, it lends itself to the consideration of how the development of the scientific model is improved based on the advances in the means of observation
Module 6 – Particles and Medical Physics
In this module, learners will learn about capacitors, electric fields, electromagnetism, nuclear physics, particle physics and medical imaging.
Assessment of AS Physics
Students complete two written papers, both lasting 1 hour 30 minutes. They are entitled ‘Breadth in Physics’ and ‘Depth in Physics’, and are equally weighted. Both papers will assess content from all four AS modules, including practical skills.
Assessment of A Level Physics
There are three written papers to assess A Level Physics. ‘Modelling Physics’ and ‘Exploring Physics’ are each 2 hours 15 minutes, and each account for 37% of the A Level. The former assesses modules 1, 2, 3 and 5, the latter assesses content in modules 1, 2, 4 and 6. The third exam is called ‘Unified Physics’, and is a 1 hour 30 minute paper. This accounts for the remaining 26% of the A Level. The practical skills of students are assessed throughout the course, leading to a separate comment on the certificate called ‘Practical Endorsement in Physics’ – this is simply pass/fail depending on skills shown throughout the course.