PHYSICS at GCSE
The Separate Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) at GCSE level are intended to stretch and challenge those pupils hoping to follow a science career. Pupils choosing the GCSE Physics option will study the subject for four or five periods per week throughout years 11 and 12, taught by specialist teachers.
The course is currently assessed in three ways: an external written exam at the end of year 11 lasting 1hr30min comprising 35% of the final grade, another at the end of year 12 lasting 1hr45min comprising 40% of the final grade, and one controlled assessment task (CAT) completed during the course and marked by the teacher, contributing 25% of final grade.
The GCSE qualification is awarded on an eight grade scale A*–G, with A* being the highest. Candidates who fail to attain a grade G have their results reported as unclassified (U).The results of individual assessment units are reported on a uniform mark scale that reflects the assessment weighting of each unit.
The Physics course is divided into 3 units:
Unit 1: Force and Motion, Energy, Moments and Radioactivity
Students have opportunities to investigate the relationships between forces and motion. They meet Newton’s first and second Laws of Motion and use the mathematical form of the Second Law to carry out calculations. They study graphical methods of describing motion and momentum, and how momentum is taken into account when designing the safety features of cars.In studying energy, pupils examine the various forms of energy and the Principle of Conservation of Energy. They study the environmental impact of the use of various energy resources and the concept of efficiency. Students also make calculations of work, power, kinetic and potential energy.In theradioactivity topic, they examine radioactivity as a consequence of unstable nuclei and study the properties of alpha, beta and gamma radiation. They are introduced to the terms background radiation and half-life, discuss the damaging effect that nuclear radiations have on our bodies and learn about fusion and fission as sources of energy.
Unit 2: Waves, Sound and Light, Electricity, and the Earth and Universe
Students are introduced to the two main categories of waves, as well as the terms used to describe the various wave properties. They study ultrasound and its applications, explore the electromagnetic spectrum and examine the use of the various types of electromagnetic wave. Students also investigate the reflection and refraction of light. Students study electrostatics and how it is applied in practical situations. They examine series and parallel circuits, investigate the rule for currents and voltages in each type of circuit and draw them using the correct symbols. They study the transfer of electrical energy and the use of electricity in the home. In the Earth and Universe section students are introduced to the variety of objects that make up our Solar System, learn how the objects move and the force that keeps them in orbit. The nebular model of the formation of the Solar System is outlined, along with the Big Bang theory and supporting evidence. The layered structure of the Earth and the cause of earthquakes and volcanoes are also covered.
Unit 3: Practical Skills
The acquisition and development of the skills needed for controlled assessment will form part of normal classroom teaching and learning, and time is taken at the end of year 11 and in the first half-term of Year 12 to complete the two Controlled Assessment Booklets. Each student plans and carries out one practical from a choice of two, in normal class time, then sits a one hour examination covering experimental methodology and data analysis. Teachers mark both Booklets and CCEA moderates the results.
If you intend to study any science at A-level, Physics in particular, you are strongly advised to take Further Mathematics at GCSE. In fact, the knowledge and skills gained by following this course will greatly assist you when it comes to studying any A-level science.
A course based on this specification will help prepare students for the study of science subjects at a more advanced level, for example GCE AS and A2 Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Increasingly, Universities require prospective students of any science-based subject (including medicine, dentistry, etc.) to have studied all three sciences at GCSE level. For those progressing directly into employment, a science GCSE is relevant not only to the field of science but also to areas of commerce and public service that value problem-solving and practical skills.
There are too many to list here, but some examples of where Physics can lead are:
Radiographer, Geophysicist, Optician, Pilot, Sound technician, Science journalist, Telecommunications engineer, Weather forecaster, Software developer, Architect, Laser physicist, Air-traffic controller, Forensic physicist, Nuclear scientist, Photographer