A Level: Physics

Course title: Advanced GCE in Physics

Exam board: AQA

Subject specific entry criteria: Grade 7 in GCSE Physics or Grade 7-7 in GCSE Combined Science and a Grade 7 in GCSE Mathematics. In addition, due to the content of the new GCSE specifications, we recommend that pupils have taken separate sciences at GCSE. Due to the similarities between subjects and future progression, students wishing to take A Level Physics must also take A Level Mathematics.

Course overview

1. Measurements and their errors

While practical skills are continuously assessed throughout the course, the first topic of learning is the basics of measurements and how to conduct investigations.

2. Particles and radiation

We start the new A Level content at the cutting edge of scientific research with Particle Physics. This introduces students to the fundamental properties and nature of matter, radiation and quantum phenomena, as well as explaining what neutrinos, quarks and Higgs bosons are.

3. Waves

This section extends GCSE studies on waves and optics by developing in-depth knowledge of the characteristics, properties and applications of waves, including refraction, diffraction, superposition and interference.

4. Mechanics and materials

This unit introduces vectors and develops knowledge and understanding of forces and energy. Materials are studied in terms of their bulk properties and tensile strength.

5. Electricity

The study of electricity builds on previous GCSE studies, and leads students to a deeper understanding of current electrical technologies.

6. Further mechanics and thermal physics

This section studies momentum and introduces circular and oscillatory motion. Also, the thermal properties of materials and the properties and nature of gases are studied in depth.

7. Fields and their consequences

This unit applies previous learning to gravitational, electric and magnetic fields, together with basic electromagnetic induction. Electric fields lead into capacitors and how quickly they charge and discharge through a resistor. Magnetic fields lead into the generation and transmission of alternating current.

8. Nuclear physics

This section looks at the characteristics of the nucleus, the properties of unstable nuclei and how energy is obtained from the nucleus.

9. Astrophysics

The final part of the course offers an opportunity to study an optional topic to gain deeper understanding and awareness of a selected branch of physics. The option module is likely to be Astrophysics, (focusing on stars and galaxies) but this may change based on the interests of the students.

Assessment overview

Paper 1 (2 hours 85 marks  34% of A Level)

  • Sections 1 to 5 and 6.1 (Periodic motion) Questions
  • 60 marks of short and long answer questions
  • 25 multiple choice questions on content

Paper 2 (2 hours 85 marks 34% of A Level)

  • Sections 6.2 (Thermal Physics), 7 and 8 Questions
  • 60 marks of short and long answer questions
  • 25 multiple choice questions on content

Paper 3 (2 hours 80 marks 32% of A Level)

  • Section A Compulsory section: Practical skills and data analysis
  • Section B: Astrophysics Questions
  • 45 marks of short and long answer questions on practical experiments and data analysis
  • 35 marks of short and long answer questions on optional topic
Future progression

Entry requirements for a Physics degree are from A*A*A – ABC depending on the institution. Both Physics and Mathematics are a necessity.

Potential careers

A Physics degree is a great foundation for most careers – it shows that you are numerate, can use a computer, and have been taught to think through and to solve problems logically. Many graduates continue to research physics in some way, other graduates use their degree in a non-degree specific field and many can be found in banking, scientific journalism, patent law, medical imaging etc. This is due to the fact that a Physics degree is a varied degree and can be applied to many careers due to the problem-solving skills you develop. With further study, it is certainly possible to get into engineering as well.

How to succeed in Physics

You will:

  • take a keen interest in Physics
  • realise that effort is required to succeed
  • enjoy and be good at Mathematics
  • have strong practical, analytical and thinking skills.