Physics

Overview

PhysicsPhysics is the most fundamental of the sciences, with its ultimate goal being to understand any and all aspects of how our universe, from the apparently simple (e.g. the motion of a dropped object) to the highly complex (e.g. the search for the Higgs Boson at CERN). This course is for those who want to know just how and why the natural world works as it does, and covers a wide range of physics topics from the tiniest scale of sub-atomic particles to the evolution of the cosmos. It aims to develop an interest and enthusiasm for the subject along with the full skill-set needed to be successful within it (practicing Physics requires a high level of mathematical, communication and thinking skills).

Course Outline

Over the two years of the course, the following topics will be studied:
Particles and Quantum Phenomena – wave-particle duality, quantisation and the standard model of particle physics.
Electricity – basic electrical properties, electrical components and circuits.
Mechanics and Energy – forces and motion (including Newton’s laws and projectile motion), energy and power, momentum, tuning effects and circular motion.
Materials – the properties of materials (density, elasticity, etc.) and their uses.
Waves and Oscillations – the basic properties of waves, refraction, diffraction, interference, simple harmonic motion, resonance and damping.
Fields – investigates the similarities and differences between gravitational and electric fields in terms of the forces they apply and the energy transfers within them, along with applications of the motion of particles within them.
Capacitance – the effect of capacitance and the use and operation of capacitors.
Electromagnetism – investigates the magnetic fields produced by the flow of a current, including the forces applied by them and electromagnetic induction.
Nuclear Physics – the structure of the nucleus, radioactivity, nuclear instability and the uses of this, including nuclear energy.
Thermal Physics – the thermal properties of materials, ideal gases and the kinetic theory of gases.
Astrophysics – the physics of stars and cosmology.

Practical Skills – completion of a set of exam-board specified practicals developing the student’s ability to select and use equipment, make observations and measurements, process and present data using standard scientific conventions, analyse and evaluate results, calculate uncertainties of quantities and link outcomes to theory.

It should be noted that few of the above topics can be taken in isolation; most build on previous work (e.g. the Mechanics and Energy topic needs to be understood before the Fields topic can be successfully completed).

Assessment

100% exam (no coursework). All papers to be sat the end of the second year of the course. This includes two theory papers assessing topics across the two years of the course, using a mixture of multiple-choice and written responses (the majority of marks for the latter) and one paper testing practical knowledge, including practical design, analysis of specimen data and links to theory. In addition to this, a certificate of practical competence is awarded, dependent upon performance within specified practical work.
Examining Board – AQA.

Special Entry Requirements

Students must have either:
• Grade 6 in Maths and grade 7 in Physics or grade 6-7 in Combined Science OR
• Grade 7 in Maths and grade 6 in Physics or grade 6-6 in Combined Science.
Students enrolling on A level Physics must also choose A level Maths. In addition, standard A level entry requirements apply.

Prohibited Options

Statistics is not a suitable course to study with Physics; instead students should choose Mathematics.

Career and Progression Opportunities

Physics is a useful qualification for many university courses or career paths, particularly within the physical sciences, and is directly applicable to those involving engineering and information/communication technology. It also directly links to careers within design, the armed forces and sports science. The skills it develops are also valued within a wide range of other careers, such as the financial industry.

Teaching Methods

A variety of approaches to learning are used, with a strong emphasis on practical work (typically there is one practical write-up per week), problem solving and developing independent learning skills. Learning is supported by study guides for all topics (which are often used as set reading prior to classes), and students consistently gauge their progress via weekly work on examination level questions. The full range of question types is practiced in the context of individual work, pairs and groups. Use is made of IT to log data from experiments, analyse results using spreadsheets and investigate the theory involved via simulation software. The paper-based study guides are supplemented by a wide range of online materials and quizzes. Tests are set at the end of each topic area to allow students to assess their level of understanding within it.

This information is correct for September 2019 entry.

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