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 AQA Course Content

Year 1 

Mod 1: Measurements and their errors

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.

Mod 2: Particles and radiation

This section introduces students both to the fundamental properties of matter and to electromagnetic radiation and quantum phenomena. Teachers may wish to begin with this topic to provide 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. They will appreciate the importance of international collaboration in the development of new experiments and theories in this area of fundamental research.

Mod 3: Waves

GCSE studies of wave phenomena are extended through a development of knowledge of the characteristics, properties and applications of travelling waves and stationary waves. Topics treated include refraction, diffraction, superposition and interference.

Mod 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.

Mod 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 electrical applications that are important to society.


Year 2

Mod 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.

Mod 7: Fields 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 emphasise this unification. Many ideas from mechanics and electricity from earlier in the course support this and are further developed. Practical applications considered include: planetary and satellite orbits, capacitance and capacitors, their charge and discharge through resistors and electromagnetic induction. These topics have considerable impact on modern society.

Mod 8: Nuclear 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.

Mod 9: Option: Turning points in physics

This option is intended to enable key concepts and developments in physics to be studied in
greater depth than in the core content. Students will be able to appreciate, from historical and conceptual viewpoints, the significance of major paradigm shifts for the subject in the perspectives of experimentation and understanding. Many present-day technological industries are the consequence of these key developments and the topics in the option illustrate how unforeseen technologies can develop from new discoveries.


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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