Curriculum – Physics

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Curriculum – Physics

What study A Level Physics?

Physics is an extremely challenging and stimulating subject. Physics is crucial to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. Physics challenges our imaginations with concepts like relativity and string theory, and it leads to great discoveries, like computers and lasers, that lead to technologies which change our lives—from healing joints, to curing cancer, to developing sustainable energy solutions. Physics covers the very small: atoms and electrons, to the very large: stars and galaxies. In physics we attempt to answer the fundamental questions– how did it all begin and how will all end?

A level OCR Course Content

Module 1: Development of practical skills in physics

Physics is a practical subject. The development and acquisition of practical skills is fundamental. The Physics A course provides learners with the opportunity to develop experimental methods and techniques for analysing empirical data. Skills in planning, implementing, analysing and evaluating, and will be assessed in the written papers.


Year 1

Module 2: Foundations of physics

The aim of this module is to introduce important conventions and ideas that permeate the fabric of physics. Understanding of physical quantities, S.I. units, scalars and vectors helps physicists to effectively communicate their ideas within the scientific community.

Module 3: Forces and motion

This module provides knowledge and understanding of key ideas used to describe the motion of objects. What happens when several forces act on an object? This important question is of paramount importance to a civil engineer building a bridge or to a car designer aiming to break the world speed record. The material covered in this module on motion is used to understand the safety features and navigation systems (GPS) used in modern cars. The important principle of conservation of energy is applied to a range of situations including a rollercoaster. All around us we have building structures under tension or compression. Such forces alter the shape and dimensions of objects. Using the appropriate materials in construction is important. In this module we explore the properties of materials.

Module 4: Electrons, waves and photons

Section 1 of this module introduces the ideas of charge and current. Understanding electric current is essential when dealing with circuits.

In section 2, the module sets out reviewing and consolidating students’ prior knowledge about waves and wave properties. The wavelength of light is too small to be measured directly using a ruler; however, experiments can be done in the laboratory to determine wavelength of visible light using a laser and a double slit. The module concludes by considering stationary waves formed on strings and in pipes.

In section 3 of this module there are opportunities to discuss how theories and models develop with the Young’s double-slit experiment. The aim of this module is to introduce the concept of quantum behaviour. How do we know that light is a wave? The evidence for this comes from diffraction of light. However, this wave-like behaviour cannot explain how light interacts with electrons in a metal. A revolutionary model of light (photon model), developed by Max Planck and Albert Einstein, is needed to describe the interaction of light with matter.

Year 2

Module 5 – Newtonian world and astrophysics

The aim of this module is to show the impact Newtonian mechanics has on physics. The microscopic motion of atoms can be modelled using Newton’s laws and hence provide us with an understanding of macroscopic quantities such as pressure and temperature. Newton’s law of gravitation can be used to predict the motion of planets and distant galaxies. In this module, learners will learn about thermal physics, circular motion, oscillations, gravitational field, astrophysics and cosmology.

Module 6 – Particles and medical physics

In this module, learners will learn about capacitors, electric field, electromagnetism, nuclear physics, particle physics and medical imaging.

Content Overview


Assessment Overview


A Level physics content is split into six teaching modules:

Module 1 – Development of practical skills in physics

Module 2 – Foundations of physics

Module 3 – Forces and motion

Module 4 – Electrons, waves and photons


Module 5 – Newtonian world and astrophysics


Module 6 – Particles and medical physics

Modelling physics (01)

100 marks

2 hours 15 minutes written paper



of total A level

Exploring physics (02)

100 marks

2 hours 15 minutes written paper



of total A level

Unified physics (03)

70 marks

1 hour 30 minutes written paper



of total A level

Practical endorsement in physics (04)*

(non exam assessment)

Reported separately



NCS Physics Enrichment

  • Lectures from professors and research students
  • Particle Physics Masterclass at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
  • Cambridge Colleges Physics Experience
  • Attending ‘Physics in Action’ day at IOE
  • UCL physics tutorial scheme


Further reading

  • Jim Al-Khalili, Quantum: A Guide For The Perplexed
  • George Gamow, The New World of Mr Tompkins
  • John Gribbin, The Search for Schrodinger’s Cat
  • Michael White & John Gribbin , Einstein
  • Russell Stannard, The Time and Space of Uncle Albert
  • Pythagoras’ Trousers, Margaret Wartheim

Examination Board: OCR A        

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