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Physics A Level at The Harris Academy Orpington

Course description

Students must complete all eight core sections and be assessed on all eight in addition to one optional section at the end of two years of study.

Course 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.

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.

Section 3 – 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.

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.

Section 6 - Further mechanics and thermal physics - 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.

Section 7Fields and their consequences - 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 emphasize this unification. Many ideas from mechanics and electricity from earlier in the course support this and are further developed.

Section 8Nuclear physics - 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 Content

Section 9– Astrophysics

Section 10– Medical physics

Section 11–Engineering physics

Section 12-Turning points in Physics

Section 13 - Electronics


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 assesses sections 1 - 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 The Harris Academy Orpington directly.

Last updated date: 03 October 2017
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Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: 2 years