Physics A-Level | Surbiton High School
PHYSICS
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Physics A-Level

Examination Board: AQA

Physics is arguably the most fundamental science, allowing you to understand the universe from the very smallest scales to the very largest. A-level Physics builds on what you encountered at GCSE with a new mathematical rigour, as well as expanding your horizons with introductions to other key pillars of modern physics such as particle physics, quantum mechanics and material science. As you peek behind the curtain of the universe you will see the truth behind the adage that “the real world is messy” and learn how physicists deal with this underlying uncertainty to make useful simplifications that allow the creation of models that can be applied to real-life situations.

We follow the AQA Physics Specification 7408 and are essentially unique as a school in allowing students to enter for the Paper 3 Options topic that is most relevant to them (popular ones include Engineering Physics, Astrophysics and Medical Physics). As such, it is a very versatile qualification that is complementary to all the other sciences and provides excellent training in applied mathematics and logical reasoning that can be considered useful for a wide array of future degrees and professions.

Experimental skills are a key component of studying a physical science and you will be assessed over 12 practicals carried out across the two years, taking you from a GCSE starting point to a fully-fledged scientist ready for degree-level work in the lab. On this journey, you will develop and refine the skills necessary to plan and execute a successful experiment, as well as problem solving real-world complications and challenges.

A-level Physics is essential for a degree in Physics or Engineering at university, which can lead to all sorts of future careers, be it working to get humans to Mars or finding technological solutions to climate change, and is highly desirable for degrees in other STEM subjects. It can also be an excellent choice for those that wish to broaden their Sixth Form studies due to the many transferable skills.

A GCSE grade 8 or above in both Maths and Physics is required to study A-level Physics. Due to the highly mathematical nature of the subject, it is strongly recommended that at least A-level Maths is also taken, although this is only essential for those that want to take Physics or Engineering at university. For students who want to do such degrees at the most competitive universities, taking A-level Further Maths is highly advantageous.

A-level

Core content

1. Measurements and their Errors
2. Particles and Radiation
3. Waves
4. Mechanics and Materials
5. Electricity
6. Further Mechanics and Thermal Physics
7. Fields and their Consequences
8. Nuclear Physics

You can then pick one A-level option topic from

9. Astrophysics
10. Medical Physics
11. Engineering Physics
12. Turning Points in Physics
13. Electronics

Paper 1 

Sections 1 – 5 and 6.1 (Periodic motion)
Assessed
■ Written exam: 2 hours
■ 85 marks
■ 34% of A-level
Questions
60 marks of short and long-answer questions and 25 multiple-choice questions on content.

Paper 2 

Sections 6.2 (Thermal Physics), 7 and 8
Assumed knowledge from sections 1 to 6.1
Assessed
■ Written exam: 2 hours
■ 85 marks
■ 34% of A-level
Questions
60 marks of short and long-answer questions and 25 multiple-choice questions on content.

Paper 3 

Section A: Compulsory section: Practical Skills and Data Analysis
Section B: Students enter for one of sections 9, 10, 11, 12 or 13
Assessed
■ Written exam: 2 hours
■ 80 marks
■ 32% of A-level
Questions
45 marks of short and long-answer questions on practical experiments and data analysis.
35 marks of short and long-answer questions on an optional topic.

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Lola Anderson