See Combined Science & Triple Award Science for more information.
Physics offers a fascinating course, taking students on a journey from understanding the particles at the very heart of matter to observing the most distant objects in the universe. Through understanding fundamental principles of waves, mechanics and electricity students are able to tackle some of the big questions about the nature of matter, the possible solutions to major problems such as energy production and the challenges ahead such as space flight.
The College expects students to have
Grade 5, 6 or above in Combined Science or Grade 5,5,6 in separate Sciences (Grade 6 must be in Physics). Minimum Grade 6 in Mathematics.
Employers of Physics graduates include academic institutions, government research organisations and industry. Industries employing physicists include aerospace, defence, engineering, manufacturing, oil, gas and telecommunications. Physicists are also welcomed in a range of careers not directly connected to Physics such as ICT, financial services, the legal sector and business.
Unit 1: Particles and Radiation
The structure of matter, the particle zoo, including how quarks and leptons interact and the nature of antimatter are all introduced. Students will investigate the photoelectric effect and other quantum mechanical phenomena.
Unit 2: Waves and Optics
The properties of progressive and standing waves are investigated and students learn how to use an oscilloscope. Through practical and theory they will investigate total internal reflection, interference from Young’s double slits and diffraction gratings, polarisation and wave harmonics.
Unit 3: Mechanics and Materials
The principle of moments and the conditions required to maintain equilibrium are examined. Students also study dynamics, Newton’s laws of motion, energy and momentum and the way in which forces cause materials to deform.
Unit 4: Electricity
Students will study the nature of electrical current and potential difference and how they relate to DC circuits. The use of potential dividers, the effects of internal resistance and resistivity are all considered through a combination of practical and theoretical work.
Unit 5: Practical Skills
This is an introduction to lab work, including dimensions, standard form, orders of magnitude and estimation. Students also consider how to reduce experimental errors and uncertainties in physical measurements.
Unit 6: Further Mechanics and Thermal Physics
Building on mechanics from the first year of the A Level course students study circular motion, simple harmonic motion and resonance. They also use their knowledge of energy and momentum to explain thermal physics and how ideal gases behave.
Unit 7: Fields
Various types of fields and forces are considered; including gravitational fields and how they can explain phenomena such as satellite motion, electrical and magnetic fields and how electrical fields can be generated. The nature of and use of capacitors are also covered.
Unit 8: Nuclear Physics
The topic builds on the earlier topics to explain radioactivity, radioactive decay, nuclear binding energy and the nature of nuclear fission and fusion. The ideas are considered in the context of nuclear reactors and the reactions at the core of stars.
Unit 9: Optional Topics
An optional topic chosen from Medical Physics, Astrophysics or Engineering Physics. Each of these options offers the opportunity to explore a single area of Physics in much greater detail.