Course Details
Careers and Higher Education


AS/A level Physics aims for students to: sustain and develop their enjoyment of, and interest in, physics; develop essential knowledge and understanding in physics; develop the skills needed for the use of this knowledge and understanding in new and changing situations where appropriate; and develop an understanding of the link between theory and experiment

Students will also need to: appreciate how physics has developed and is used in present day society; show how physics links with social, philosophical, economic, industrial and environmental matters; recognise the quantitative nature of physics; understand how mathematical expressions relate to physical principles; bring together knowledge of ways in which different areas of physics relate to each other; and study how scientific models develop. A level physics is suitable for students who: have an interest in, and enjoy physics; want to find out about how things in the physical world work; enjoy applying their mind to solving problems; enjoy carrying out investigations by the application of imaginative, logical thinking; want to use physics to support other qualifications or progress onto further studies or employment.

AS physics is also suitable for students who: want to go on to the full A level; want a grounding in a relevant worthwhile qualification; want to broaden their educational experience before making a decision about which A levels to take; are taking A levels in the other Sciences and/or Mathematics or other relevant courses such as Design and Technology and want to take another course that will support their studies.

Entry Requirements

Students are expected to have achieved at least a GCSE Grade B in Physics or BB in Science (Double Award).It is necessary to have followed a course in Mathematics to higher level GCSE and to have gained at least a grade B.

Course Details

The following information is based on the Edexcel draft specification for 2015. Some aspects of this may change slightly before teaching begins.

The AS course involves the study of 4 topics:

Topic 1: Mechanics –  rectilinear motion, forces, moments, energy, power and efficiency, momentum and its conservation.
Topic 2: Electric Circuits – current, voltage, resistance and power, resistivity and drift velocity.

Topic 3: Materials – behaviour of fluids, density, upthrust, viscosity, laminar and turbulent flow, behaviour of solids under tension and compression.

Topic 4: Waves and Particle Nature of Light – reflection, refraction, diffraction, polarisation, interference and lenses; the particle nature of light, the photoelectric effect and line spectra.

The A2 course involves all of the material covered in the AS course as well as the following topics:

Topic 5: Further Mechanics – conservation of momentum in 2 dimensions, elastic and inelastic collisions, energy and circular motion.

Topic 6: Electric and Magnetic Fields – electric fields and capacitors including the exponential nature of capacitor discharge, magnetic fields, Faraday’s Law, Lenz’s Law and electromagnetic induction.

Topic 7: Nuclear and Particle Physics – atomic structure, particle accelerators and detectors, the behaviour of charged particles in magnetic and electric fields, the equation E = c2m and the Standard Model of Particle Physics

Topic 8: Thermodynamics – specific heat capacity, specific latent heat, internal energy and ideal gases, gas laws and black body radiation.

Topic 9: Space – measuring astronomical distances, the behaviour of stars, redshift and the expansion of the Universe.

Topic 10: Nuclear Radiation – radioactive decay, types of nuclear radiation, binding energy and decay equations.

Topic 11: Gravitational Fields – the equation of gravitation and gravitational potential.

Topic 12: Oscillations – simple harmonic motion, resonance and damping.

Pastoral Support

All Physics teachers are available to offer help to any students have a problem. Extra help is available particularly to those who are not studying Mathematics to ‘A’ or ‘AS’ level.


AS/A Level Physics – Edexcel

AS Level

Paper 1: Core Physics 1 (1 hour 30 minutes)  –  50% – Topics 1 and 2
Paper 2: Core Physics 2 (1 hour 30 minutes)  –  50% – Topics 3 and 4

These papers will be taken at the end of Year 12

A2 Level

Paper 1: Advanced Physics 1 (1 hour 45 minutes)  –  30% – Topics 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7
Paper 2: Advanced Physics 2 (1 hour 45 minutes)  –  30% – Topics 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Paper 3: General and Practical Principles in Physics (2 hours 30 minutes)  –  40%

Questions in this paper may draw on any of the topics in this specification. The paper will include synoptic questions that may draw on two or more different topics. For example, a question could ask students to compare electric fields with gravitational fields. The paper will include questions that assess conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods (indirect practical skills) that will draw on students’ experiences of the core practicals.

Science Practical Endorsement

Practical competency will be assessed by teachers as students carry out a series 16 experiments throughout the course. Students will be awarded either a ‘pass’ or a ‘fail’.

Careers and Higher Education

Physics leads on to a wide range of courses and careers. Physics can support other qualifications or help progression onto further studies or employment. This could be, for example, courses ranging from Physics, the Sciences, Medicine to Engineering and Computing; Chemical Engineering and related programmes; radiography; and biotechnology. In fact Physics is recognised as an entry qualification for a wide range of Higher Education courses and employment.