Accessibility links

Physics A Level at Truro and Penwith College

Course description

Physics allows you to understand the fundamental structure of the universe from atoms (or smaller!) to galaxies (or bigger!) and how the matter within the universe interacts. You will discover that the same underlying physical laws can be applied from everyday situations such as electric circuits or theme park rides to complex situations like particle accelerators or black holes!

In your first year of study you’ll begin by exploring classical (Newtonian) mechanics, allowing you to understand how objects move and interact in terms of everyday forces. You’ll then progress into explaining electric circuits in terms of current, potential difference and resistance, by considering the motion of charge carriers. You will also learn about material properties and how different materials behave when exposed to different forces before moving on to consider classical wave theory, followed by more contemporary physics, such as using observational evidence to argue for a quantum mechanical treatment of light.

In your second year of study you will build upon the concepts already met by initially considering more complex mechanics such as circular motion and momentum transfer, followed by a thorough analysis of electric and magnetic fields (and their applications.) This content is then brought together to consider how particle accelerators and detectors function, and the particles we have discovered as a result. You then move on to studying a more mathematical representation of oscillations, followed by the physics of nuclear decay and thermodynamic systems, which are then brought together (with an understanding of gravitational fields) to consider how stars are formed. From this you will then consider star life cycles (including neutron stars and black holes), astronomical measurements and galaxy motion, leading to the idea of an expanding universe – culminating in addressing current astrophysical concepts such as the Big Bang, dark matter, dark energy and the ultimate fate of the universe.

Course content

For AS Level, the first two topics in Units 1 and 2 are studied and assessed at the end of the one year linear course as a stand-alone qualification. For A Level, all twelve topics are studied over the two years and are assessed at the end of the two year linear course. Topics studied include Newtonian mechanics, materials, electric circuits, wave theory, the physics of fields, thermodynamics, nuclear and particle physics and astrophysics. The role of the physicist in today’s society is also considered along with modern advances in technology.
Unit 1 - Advanced Physics I (exam) - Topics covered are:

  • Mechanics (Motion and Forces)
  • Electric Circuits
  • Further Mechanics (Momentum and Circular Motion)
  • Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • Nuclear and Particle Physics

Unit 2 – Advanced Physics II (exam) - Topics covered are:

  • Materials
  • Waves and Particle Nature of Light
  • Thermodynamics
  • Space
  • Nuclear Radiation
  • Gravitational Fields
  • Oscillations

Unit 3 – General and Practical Principles in Physics (exam)

  • Problems based on synoptic contexts that require solutions that draw on two or more different topics already met.
  • Assessment of conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods (including practical skills).

Unit 4 – Science Practical Endorsement (continuous assessment)

You will build practical skills throughout the A Level course which will lead to a practical endorsement. You will be required to undertake 12 core practical investigations, but you will experience many more throughout the course as practical work is fundamental to physics and reinforces theory met. The practical skills developed throughout the A Level programme will be assessed by your lecturers and will be based on direct observation of your competency in a range of skills that are not assessable in written exams. Evidence to support the practical endorsement is gained over the course of the two years and is assessed on a pass or fail basis. (You may also take a stand alone AS Level in this subject, which takes some of the components from the A Level course but does not include the practical endorsement.)

Entry requirements

Minimum of 5 GCSEs grades A*- C including at least GCSE B in relevant science subjects (i.e. Core Science and Additional Science OR Physics) and at least GCSE grade B in Mathematics and English. (Note: Students who want to study a degree in physics at university are expected to study A Level Mathematics as well.)


Your achievement in this subject is dependent upon excellent attendance, punctuality and effort. You will learn in a friendly atmosphere, using a variety of assessment methods:

  • You will be assessed through end of topic tests under timed conditions in class, regular homework questions and through completion of class activities. You will then be given detailed feedback on your progress.
  • Investigative skills and understanding are a vital part of the scientific process and you will be expected develop your practical proficiency throughout the course.
  • You will review your own performance in 1:1 sessions with your tutor.
  • You will undertake mock examinations on each unit in advance of your final exams.
  • You will sit formal A Level exams at the end of your two years of study. You will also be required to sit AS Level exams at the end of your first year to gain an AS Level qualification. A Level grades will be based only on marks for written exams, and your practical endorsement will be assessed separately as pass or fail.

Future opportunities

A Level Physics is designed to lead to Higher Education. Physics is a highly respected A Level that is valued for most degree subjects. It is also valued by employers worldwide. If you want to study physics, electronics or engineering you will need A Level Physics. However, an understanding of physics is desirable for a variety of university courses including mathematics, computer science, chemistry, geology, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, environmental science. Studying the physical sciences at university level provides you with many skills such as problem solving, communication, creativity and teamwork; hence physical scientists are much sought after and can pursue careers in many exciting and varied fields of work including meteorology, finance, law and journalism.

Further information

You will be expected to undertake at least 4-6 hours of independent study time per week. Throughout the year you will be able to access additional support through drop-in sessions, dedicated revision workshops, tailored 1-to-1 provision, as well as a variety of additional opportunities to stretch and challenge the most able students. We encourage you to proactively engage with the support available in order to reach your full potential.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Truro and Penwith College directly.

Last updated date: 15 June 2016

Key information