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Physics A Level at Harris Academy South Norwood

Course description

Students choosing to only study Physics for one year to AS Level will complete the first five sections of the subject content. They will then be assessed on their learning with two papers, at the end of Year 12. All five sections will be assessed on both papers, a significant change from previous courses.

Subject Content

Core Content

SECTION 1 – MEASUREMENTS AND THEIR ERRORS

The content in this section is a continuing study for Physics. A working knowledge of the specified fundamental (base) units of measurement is vital. Likewise, practical work in the subject needs to be underpinned by an awareness of the nature of measurement errors and of their numerical treatment. The ability to carry through reasonable estimations is a skill that is required throughout the course and beyond. ‘Measurements and their errors’ includes: use of SI units and their prefixes; limitations of physical measurement and estimation of physical quantities.

SECTION 2 – PARTICLES AND RADIATION

This section introduces students to both the fundamental properties of matter and to electromagnetic radiation and quantum phenomena – a new interest and knowledge dimension beyond GCSE. Through a study of these topics, students become aware of the way ideas develop and evolve in Physics. They will appreciate the importance of international collaboration in the development of new experiments and theories in this area of fundamental research. ‘Particles and radiation’ includes: constituents of the atom; stable and unstable nuclei; particles, antiparticles and photons; particle interactions; classification of particles; quarks and antiquarks; application of conservation laws; the photoelectric effect; collisions of electrons with atoms; energy levels and photon emission and wave-particle duality.

SECTION 3 – WAVES

GCSE studies of wave phenomena are extended through a development of knowledge of the characteristics, properties, and application of travelling waves and stationary waves. Waves includes: progressive waves; longitudinal and transverse waves; principle of superposition of waves and formation of stationary waves; interference; diffraction and refraction at a plane surface.

SECTION 4 – MECHANICS AND MATERIALS

Vectors and their treatment are introduced followed by development of the student’s knowledge and understanding of forces, energy and momentum. The section continues with a study of materials considered in terms of their bulk properties and tensile strength. Mechanics and materials includes: scalars and vectors; moments; motion along a straight line; projectile motion; Newton’s laws of motion; momentum; work, energy and power; conservation of energy; bulk properties of solids and the Young modulus.

SECTION 5 – ELECTRICITY

This section builds on and develops earlier study of these phenomena from GCSE. It provides opportunities for the development of practical skills at an early stage in the course and lays the groundwork for later study of the many applications that are important to society. Electricity includes: basics of electricity; current-voltage characteristics; resistivity; circuits; potential divider and electromotive force and internal resistance.

SECTION 6 - FURTHER MECHANICS AND THERMAL PHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

The earlier study of mechanics is further advanced through a consideration of circular motion and simple harmonic motion (the harmonic oscillator). A further section allows the thermal properties of materials, the properties and nature of ideal gases, and the molecular kinetic theory to be studied in depth. Further mechanics and thermal physics includes: circular motion; simple harmonic motion; simple harmonic systems; forced vibrations and resonance; thermal energy transfer; ideal gases and molecular kinetic theory model.

SECTION 7– FIELDS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES
(A LEVEL ONLY)

The concept of field is one of the great unifying ideas in Physics. The ideas of gravitation, electrostatics and magnetic field theory are developed within the topic to emphasise this unification. Many ideas from mechanics and electricity from earlier in the course support this and are further developed. Practical applications considered include: planetary and satellite orbits, capacitance and capacitors, their charge and discharge through resistors, and electromagnetic induction. These topics have considerable impact on modern society.

SECTION 8– NUCLEAR PHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

This section builds on the work of Particles and radiation to link the properties of the nucleus to the production of nuclear power through the characteristics of the nucleus, the properties of unstable nuclei, and the link between energy and mass. Students should become aware of the Physics that underpins nuclear energy production and also of the impact that it can have on society. Nuclear physics includes: Rutherford scattering; alpha, beta, and gamma radiation; radioactive decay; nuclear instability; nuclear radius; mass and energy; induced fission and safety aspects.

OPTIONAL UNITS

SECTION 9 – ASTROPHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

Fundamental physical principles are applied to the study and interpretation of the Universe. Students gain deeper insight into the behaviour of objects at great distances from Earth and discover the ways in which information from these objects can be gathered. The underlying physical principles of the devices used are covered and some indication is given of the new information gained by the use of radio astronomy. The discovery of exoplanets is an example of the way in which new information is gained by astronomers.

SECTION 10 – MEDICAL PHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

Students with an interest in biological and medical topics are offered the opportunity to study some of the applications of physical principles and techniques in medicine. The Physics of the eye and ear as sensory organs is discussed. The important and developing field of medical imaging, with both nonionising and ionising radiations is considered. Further uses of ionising radiation are developed in a section on radiation therapy.

SECTION 11 – ENGINEERING PHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

This option offers opportunities for students to reinforce and extend the work of core units by considering applications in areas of engineering and technology. It extends the student’s understanding in areas of rotational dynamics and thermodynamics. The emphasis in this option is on an understanding of the concepts and the application of Physics. Questions can be set in novel or unfamiliar contexts, but in such cases the scene is set and any relevant required information is given.

SECTION 12 - TURNING POINTS IN PHYSICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

This option is intended to enable key concepts and developments in Physics to be studied in greater depth than in the core content. Students will be able to appreciate, from historical and conceptual viewpoints, the significance of major paradigm shifts for the subject in the perspectives of experimentation and understanding. Many present-day technological industries are the consequence of these key developments and the topics in the option illustrate how unforeseen technologies can develop from new discoveries.

SECTION 13 - ELECTRONICS
(A LEVEL ONLY)

This option is designed for those who wish to learn more about modern electronic technologies as a development of their core work in electricity. A variety of discrete devices is introduced followed by discussions of both analogue and digital techniques ranging from the operational amplifier to digital signal processing. The option ends with a look at the issues surrounding data communication.

Entry requirements

Students need to have studied a minimum of two GCSEs in science, reaching grade B at least in both. They should attain an overall grade B in their Year 11 GCSE, including grade B on the Physics exam paper (thus they must have done the higher tier paper).  Students also need grade B in English and grade B in Maths. Students must also study A Level Maths. Please see the generic entry requirement document for more details.

Assessment

There are three written papers to assess A Level Physics. ‘Paper 1’ and ‘Paper 2’ are each 2 hours, and each account for 34% of the A Level. The former assess sections1 - 5. The latter assess content in sections 6 - 8.  The third exam, ‘Paper 3’ also lasts for 2 hours. It accounts for the remaining 32% of the A Level assessing practical knowledge and understanding, data analysis and optional topic one of section 9,10,11,12 or 13. 

There is no coursework of controlled assessment. Students will do at least 12 practical activities across the two-year A Level. Practical knowledge and understanding will be assessed in the written paper accounting for 15% of the total A Level marks. A separate endorsement of practical work will be assessed by teachers throughout the course, leading to a separate certificate called ‘Practical Endorsement in Physics’ – this is simply pass/fail depending on skills shown throughout the course. It will be reported on their certificate along with their A Level grade.

Future opportunities

A Level Physics is an excellent preparation for further study in Higher Education and physicists are in demand for many types of careers. Physicists have gone on to work in Medicine, Computing, Telecommunications, Electronics, Engineering, Research and any disciplines requiring a high degree of numeracy and/or problem solving e.g. Accountancy.  

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Harris Academy South Norwood directly.

Last updated date: 07 April 2017
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