A level Physics

Exam Board: AQA

What is the A level about?

Physics is one of the most challenging subjects, but the most interesting one as well. Physics is the study of the world around us and understanding why it works in the way it does. You will study the mechanics and fundamental constituents of the universe, of matter and energy, which ranges from the fundamental particles inside atoms to the complexities of space. The subject appeals to those with an inquisitive mind, a natural aptitude for mathematics and a keen eye for detail. Practical activities are used to consolidate and extend classroom learning, and the knowledge and understanding of these experiments are examined at the end of the course.

What does the A level consist of?

We use the AQA exam board for Physics. It is a traditional course. We study a concept through theory, practicals and questions to explore it further. The topics that are covered over the two years are:

  • Measurement & their errors
  • Particles and Radiation
  • Waves
  • Mechanics and Materials
  • Electricity
  • Further Mechanics and Thermal Physics
  • Fields and their consequences
  • Nuclear Physics

There is also an option block in the second year of:

  • Engineering physics
  • Turning points
  • Medical physics
  • Electronics
  • Astrophysics

A-level Physics is examined through three exams, each 2 hours long, which are taken at the end of U6th. Practical skills are worked on throughout the year, through various practicals including 12 required practicals in the 2 year course. The practical skills are also examined as part of one of the 3 papers.

Do I need to have studied the subject at GCSE? 

To be eligible for this course pupils will need to have, in addition to the requirements set by the school for entry to the sixth form, a minimum of two grade 6s in Science at GCSE. It will be advantageous to have studied triple Science and they will be accepted onto this course if they have achieved at least a grade 6 for Physics overall and passed the other two Sciences with a 5 grade or above. If they have done a Double Award (Combined Science), they will need to have achieved a pass of 6-6. In addition to this, pupils will also need to have passed Mathematics with a grade 6 as there is quite a high level of mathematical skill required throughout the course.

Whom does the subject suit?

A-level Physics is an excellent subject for pupils who are interested in anything that has to do with understanding the world around them. It suits someone who is naturally inquisitive and is not afraid of a little bit of intense study. Because it is such a broad course, it caters for those who enjoy, on the one hand, finding out about how the world is made up from the tiniest particles (hadrons and leptons) to those, on the other hand, who delight in exploring the Universe.

What skills should I have?

Those who do best at Physics have a great command of the English language, have a good vocabulary and an ability to learn new key terms and definitions to allow them to cope with what, at times, seems to be a different language. Being able to pay attention to detail and the ability to communicate complicated ideas using precise terminology. There is a high demand for good mathematical skills and although this won’t be at a higher level than GCSE Mathematics, it can often seem tricker because it is mathematics that is applied to a different context.

What might the subject lead to?

Studying Physics at A-level means that you keep your options open for longer. During the course we will find that Physics trains your brain to think beyond boundaries. The skills that you will develop are to be analytical, numerate and be able to problem solve. All these skills are highly sought after by a wide range of employers.

A-level Physics is a useful stepping stone to future study of a vast array of degree courses, further study and careers such as:

  • 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
  • Energy resource distribution and management
  • Air traffic control
  • Material Science
  • Law
  • Accountancy

What trips are involved?

We take the L6th pupils to the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham which 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?

It might be helpful to consider what other subjects you could do alongside Physics which would complement the subject. The obvious ones are Biology, Chemistry, Animal Management, Sports Studies and Mathematics. Other students have also studied DT or Art or English as all of these subjects help to develop analytical and observational skills that are very useful in Physics.

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?'.

  • 'A short history of nearly everything' by Bill Bryson
  • 'Six easy pieces' by Richard Feynmann
  • 'Paradox - The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics' by Jim Al-Khalili

Who will teach me?

Mr McFaul and Mr Petra