Physics is the study of matter and energy, from inside an atom to beyond galaxies. It looks for patterns in the world around us and searches for the basic rules from which all Science depends. Students will see Physics at work in a range of situations: from Music and Medicine to Communication and Cosmology, following the Salters Horners context-led approach to Physics.

Maths and Chemistry are the traditional partner subjects, but in fact Physics can be successfully combined with Biology, Computer Science, Music, Music Technology and Philosophy. We also welcome students taking less common subject combinations who have the courage to think independently.

Physics affects many different areas of modern life and Physics graduates are in high demand. They have a wide range of career pathways open to them, including:

  • Research and Development
  • Engineering
  • Technical Management
  • The City and financial institutions
  • Computing and Software Design
  • Energy or the Health Service
  • Media, Marketing, and Teaching
  • Education

See what some of our former Physics students have gone on to do.

The teaching units in this context-led course cover all the “core Physics” from more traditional courses, but are based around more modern applications. Topics include:

Year One:

  • Sports Performance
  • Playing and Recording Music
  • Materials e.g. food products
  • Powering a Satellite
  • Physics in Archaeology
  • Medical uses of Physics

Year Two:

  • Rail transport
  • Communications
  • Particle Physics
  • Earthquakes and Building Design
  • Astrophysics

Course Specific Trips, Visits & Experiences

Physics students have the opportunity to take part in a variety of course related experiences. In recent years, these have included:

  • A visit to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. The visit reinforced the final A Level teaching unit which is based on Astrophysics. The visit also aimed to introduce wider aspects of the subject beyond the confines of the syllabus and was also of interest to students considering taking Physics, Mathematics or a related course at university.
  • A visit to the Diamond Light Source synchrotron at Harwell in Oxfordshire. The synchrotron is a particle accelerator, where electrons are accelerated to close to the speed of light, which links to our unit on particle physics. The x-rays produced are used to study new medicines, treatments for diseases, and were instrumental in finding a vaccine for Covid-19.
  • The Physics Live! event in London: a day of presentations from a range of speakers including cutting-edge researchers, Physics educators and national figures such as the broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili and the Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees.
  • The opportunity to take part in the national Physics Olympiad.

In addition to course specific experiences, students also have the opportunity to get involved in the College’s Activities Programme.

All students need to gain an experience of the work place during their time at College and for students studying vocational courses it should ideally be linked to one of their subject areas.

This course is assessed through written examinations. The course also includes a series of compulsory Core Practicals and the exams will test students’ knowledge and understanding of these experiments. On completion of the two year course, students receive a Teacher Assessment of Competence in practical work, which will be required for some university courses.

The exam board for Physics is Pearson Edexcel.

All students need to have at least five GCSEs at Grade 4 or above (and a satisfactory school reference) in order to be accepted on an A Level/BTEC Level 3 Programme. 

In addition, students should meet the following minimum GCSE requirements:  

  • Grade 6 in Maths (Higher Tier) and either 6 in Physics or 6,6 in Combined Science

Students will enjoy this course and be successful if they:

  • Have wide interests (it’s a big subject!)
  • Have a can-do attitude and aren’t put off by set-backs
  • Like Mathematics and logical reasoning
  • Always want to know WHY
  • Enjoy science shown on TV and YouTube

Physics students should enjoy and be good at problem-solving and working with other people. They should be able to calculate with large and small numbers, deal with simple algebra, and use diagrams and other graphics to explain their ideas.

What are the key topics covered on the course?

We cover all the principal Physics topics such as mechanics, electricity and circuits, optics, material properties, gravitation, radioactivity, electrical and magnetic fields and fundamental particles.

How much practical work is there?

There are a number of practicals and demonstrations as part of the course, on average one element of practical work once a week. There are 16 core practicals that we have to include to comply with the exam board (Edexcel).

Is Physics A Level difficult?

A Level Physics is known as a difficult A Level. It is certainly harder than GCSE and some students find it quite a challenge and a step-up in level.  However, if you find Physics interesting, are prepared to work hard and think about your physics on a regular basis, then you should succeed.

What support is there if I find it difficult?

There is a drop-in session once per week where you can get problems answered. There are also extra support lessons should you need them.  Your teachers are always happy to answer questions by email or after the lesson.

How many are there in a class?

There are usually between 16 and 20 students in a class.

How is the course assessed?

There are three external exam papers at the end of the two years.  You are also assessed by your teachers in your practical competency (pass or fail only). You will have an internal progression exam at the end of the first year which is linked to your UCAS predicted grade. In addition you will also have internal tests at the end of every topic.

How is the course taught?

We follow a context-led course (Salters Horners) rather than a concept-led course. This  means that rather than teach the individual topics one at a time, we take a scenario, such as how a top athlete achieves, and look at all the physics concepts that link together to understand this e.g. projectiles, energy and forces. We find that it allows students to see links across the specification and turns them into more able physicists with the analytical skills that so many employers look for.  

Do I need A Level Maths to study Physics?

No, as long as you are really interested in Physics. There are only a couple of mathematical techniques that you need to learn outside of GCSE (Higher paper) to cover the course. However, most of our students do take A Level Maths and usually find the two courses complement each other. 

How much homework should I expect each week?

You should spend between four and five hours outside of lesson time each week in independent study. This time will include your homework, but you should also spend time preparing your own revision notes and practising extra questions.

Are students set by ability?

No, none of the classes at College are set. 

How to Apply

Applications for entry September 2024

Please apply (from 19 September 2023) via the link on this page:

Please see the Admissions timetable for information about the College’s enrolment process.

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