Exam Board: AQA

What is GCSE Physics about?

Physics is one of the natural sciences and encompasses the study of the universe from both macro and micro perspectives. From the largest galaxies, some millions of light years away, to the smallest subatomic particles such as quarks, mesons and strings, Physics studies them all.

Physics is based on observation and experimentation and seeks to understand how our universe is so finely tuned as to enable life to exist. It is the study of space and time and how they interact with one another. Physics involves using various formulae to define physical quantities and for understanding how the fundamental laws of the universe apply in different circumstances, and how those laws can be applied; from sending astronauts into space on Space X to searching for subatomic particles in the CERN Hadron Collider. Physics explains the fundamental laws of the universe and introduces concepts that are also important for the study of Biology and Chemistry.

In GCSE Physics, the essential scientific concepts of energy, electricity, the particle theory of matter, atomic structure, forces, waves, magnetism and electromagnetism and space physics will be studied through investigating, observing, experimenting or testing out ideas and thinking about them. This will involve talking about, reading and writing about physical concepts, doing practical experiments, as well as representing Physics in its many forms both mathematically and visually through models.

GCSE Physics encourages the development of knowledge and understanding in science through opportunities for working scientifically. Working scientifically is the sum of all the activities that scientists do and is key in studying not just Physics but all natural sciences. There is a huge range of practical experiments that we do throughout the GCSE Physics course, which allow pupils to develop a much deeper understanding of how Physics works.

What does the GCSE Physics course consist of?

There are four main areas of study over the course. There are chapters within each of these and each chapter is broken down into a number of lessons. Here are the four main areas of study:

  • Energy and energy resources: conservation and dissipation of energy, energy transfer by heating, and energy resources
  • Particles at work: electric circuits, electricity in the home, molecules and matter, and radioactivity.
  • Forces in action: Forces in balances, motion, force and motion, and force and pressure.
  • Waves, electromagnetism and space: Wave properties, electromagnetic waves, light, electromagnetism and space.

Do I need to have studied GCSE Physics to study Physics at A level?

If you are entertaining the slightest thought of studying Physics at A level then you should be studying GCSE Physics. Also, if you are wanting to keep your options open just in case you might develop an interest in any of the careers below, then GCSE Physics is a brilliant option.

Whom does the subject suit?

Physics suits both girls and boys who have a curiosity about how and why things are the way they are or why they work the way they do. If you have watched TV programmes such as “The Planets” presented by Professor Brian Cox, or the Horizon episode “Hubble: The Wonders of Space Revealed” or “Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity” and found yourself engrossed in them - Physics is undoubtedly for you. If your passion for Physics is not like that but you want to understand more about the physical world you live in, then GCSE Physics is also for you.

What skills should I have?

To be successful in any science a 'can do' attitude is extremely important, along with a determination to work independently to understand the difficult concepts; Physics is no exception. A sound grasp of mathematics is beneficial, particularly being able to rearrange equations and interpret their meaning. A good grasp of the English language and an ability to write descriptions and explanations in a concise manner using scientific terms is important. These are skills you will develop throughout the course.

What might the subject lead to?

A level Physics is a useful stepping stone to future study of a vast array of degree courses, for example:

  • Physics (Theoretic or applied)
  • Architecture and construction
  • A range of engineering courses such as Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Automotive Engineering, and Aeronautical Engineering.
  • Computer science Information technology
  • Research and design
  • Medicine
  • Space exploration

The skills and knowledge you learn in studying any science related degree course will equip you to work collaboratively, apply good investigative techniques, analyse results, and solve problems. These skills are in high demand and useful in non-scientific sectors of commerce such as banking and finance.

What trips are involved?

The annual trip to the Big Bang Fair in the fourth form is not just a spectacular Science fair with some awesome shows, but introduces pupils to the vast array of careers that use Physics. A bi-annual field trip to CERN (Switzerland) for A level pupils is a great opportunity to see international scientific collaboration at its finest and how Physics in action is helping scientists around the world understand quantum physics better and investigate how the universe came about.

What else should I consider before choosing?

GCSE Physics, like all the Triple Sciences, is a challenging course and should not be chosen as an option just because other subjects in the option block do not appeal. This is because it is a relatively demanding subject and may make your brain hurt! It is a great option if you are prepared to work consistently hard from the start and persevere with the mathematics involved.

What books should I read?

Helpful magazines and periodicals are Science Focus and The New Scientist. The KHS library also has some good journals available including the Physics Review Magazine, which is more geared towards A level Physics but applies physics concepts in real life situations. Issues considered are "How was the Great Pyramid built?", "What is the quickest route to Mars?", "Electric cars" and "How is BB-8 constructed?".

Who will teach me?

Mr Petra, Mrs McFarlane or Mr McFaul.