A level - Physics

The physics A level course is designed to reflect modern developments in physics and its applications. At the same time it provides a sound foundation for further study whilst remaining a standalone qualification of significant merit. We do encourage students who wish to pursue physics to also take A level Mathematics.

The course is very practical, encouraging students to discover, prove or explore for themselves how the world around us works. We are all born with an urge to understand the world around us. Maybe those who haven't outgrown this urge are on the road to becoming a Physicist and should consider taking A-level Physics


This specification is designed to encourage candidates to:

  • progress smoothly from previous GCSE studies in physics
  • develop in-depth knowledge and understanding of the principles of physics
  • gain hands-on practical skills and data analysis skills
  • appreciate how science works and its relevance beyond the laboratory
  • see how physics links to other sciences and how the subject underpins important technologies

AS outline

At AS, this specification introduces new topics as well as building on previous studies in physics. The two AS theory units provide alternative starting points for the AS course:

  • Unit 1: Particles, Quantum Phenomena and Electricity

This unit involves two contrasting topics in physics: particle physics and electricity. Through the study of these topics, students should gain an awareness of the on-going development of new ideas in physics and of the application of in-depth knowledge of well-established topics such as electricity. Particle physics introduces students to the fundamental properties and nature of matter, radiation and quantum phenomena. In contrast, the study of electricity in this module builds on and develops previous GCSE studies and provides opportunities for practical work and looks into important applications. 

Examination - written paper 75 mins. Taken in January. 40% of AS, 20% of full A level.

  • Unit 2: Mechanics, Materials and Waves

This AS unit is about the principles and applications of mechanics, materials and waves. The first section introduces vectors and then develops knowledge and understanding of forces and energy from GCSE Additional Science. In the second section, materials are studied in terms of their bulk properties and tensile strength. The final section extends GCSE studies on waves by developing in-depth knowledge of the characteristics, properties and applications of waves, including refraction, diffraction, superposition and interference. 

Examination - written paper 75 mins. Taken in June 40% of AS 20% of full A level.

  • Unit 3 Investigative and Practical Skills

Assessed by PSA activities and either an ISA or EMPA practical exam.

20% of AS 10% of full A Level.

A2 outline

At A2, this specification builds on AS physics (A) and includes optional topics:

  • Unit 4: Fields and Further Mechanics

This is the first A2 module, building on the key ideas and knowledge covered in AS physics. The first section advances the study of momentum and introduces circular and oscillatory motion and covers gravitation. Electric and magnetic fields are covered, together with basic electromagnetic induction. Electric fields lead into capacitors and how quickly they charge.

Examination - written paper 105 minutes including structured and multiple choice questions. Taken in January. 20% of A level.

  • Unit 5: This unit comprises two sections
    • Section A: Nuclear and Thermal Physics
    • Section B: Option Units

This module consists of two sections. The first part of Section A 'Nuclear and Thermal Physics' looks at the characteristics of the nucleus, the properties of unstable nuclei and how energy is obtained from the nucleus. In the second part of section A, the thermal properties of materials and the properties and nature of gases are studied in depth.

Section B offers an opportunity to study one of the following optional topics to gain deeper understanding and awareness of a selected branch of physics;

  • A Astronomy and cosmology,
  • B. Medical Physics,
  • C Applied Physics

Examination - written paper 105 mins.  Taken in June. 20% of A level

  • Unit 6: Investigative and Practical Skills

10% of full A level.

Further Studies and Careers 

The possibilities for a student with an Advanced GCE qualification in Physics are many and varied. It is advantageous for virtually all science courses studied at university. Careers in engineering are especially rewarding, particularly if you are prepared to travel abroad. There are many openings in the electronics industry, especially with the rapid advances in microelectronics and robotics. There are job opportunities, worldwide in this area.

It is an important Advanced GCE for entry into Medical and Dental Schools; indeed many physicists work in the medical field dealing with apparatus such as body scanners, x-rays, radioactive tracers etc. Physics today is assuming an ever more important role in geography and geology and there are openings for Geophysicists in the oil industry. Finally, physics is still one of the subjects in which there is a shortage of teachers, so there are still openings in the field of education.