Aim of the course
We place a strong emphasis on practical work in our teaching of physics. Lessons are designed to give each student hands-on experience of tackling a problem, in order for them to grasp a concept. This, plus our focus on thinking skills and our commitment to stretching students beyond the syllabus, helps to ensure that students feel confident facing the more complex challenges they will encounter at university.
The A level course gives students a firm foundation in classical physics, along with an introduction to some intellectually stimulating modern concepts, and we often go deeper into topics such as special relativity, quantum physics and astrophysics. The course develops students’ understanding of the historical development of some concepts of physics, and the link between experiment and theory. Students can explore the role of physics in the real world in, for example:
- Space exploration
- Global energy solutions
- Environmental issues
At this level, physics requires a good level of competency with maths, and we very strongly advise students studying physics to choose at least single maths as well. Studying A level physics helps students develop problem-solving techniques in order to reach solutions to mathematical problems.
Students start with classical mechanics with one teacher, providing plenty of opportunity to develop practical and analytical skills. With their other teacher, students investigate wave effects, such as standing waves and interference, and the mathematical skills introduced here will be developed later on in describing oscillating systems.
Alongside some foundational work in matter physics and electricity, students see the power of calculus in their first foray into classical field theory when we consider Newton’s law of gravitation. The year ends with an introduction to astronomy and cosmology and some bonus material in special relativity and quantum physics.
Classical field theory is pushed further as we begin in Upper Sixth with electric fields and electromagnetism. Physics of matter is extended in kinetic theory, thermodynamics and entropy. On the other side of the course, students undertake experiments with radioactivity and learn the mathematical tools to describe this, as well as applying Einstein’s famous E = mc2.
Throughout the course, students develop year their skills in measurement and analysis and becoming increasingly independent in designing experimental projects.
Students go on a number of trips, such as a tour of Sizewell Power Station and a visit to Diamond Light Source (the UK’s national synchrotron science facility), as well as to lectures at the Cambridge Physics Centre.
We support students taking part in external challenges, such as the British Physics Olympiad. In 2021, 15 students achieved Gold awards, with seven of these in the top 50 in the country and two were selected for national teams. One of these students won Gold representing the UK at the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics.
We also offer extension maths classes, which offer STEP and STEP 1 preparation.
Three written papers – all in the Upper Sixth – and an internally-assessed practical component.
Please note that Covid may have implications on the way exam boards award grades at this current time.