Advanced search

Physics A levels

(25 Posts)
Nimble2014 Thu 05-May-16 22:25:27

My daughter is choosing her a levels. She enjoys some aspects of physics, but not others. Does anyone know the spread of teaching in physics? Ie how much of the course is nuclear and particle physics, thermodynamics etc. I love the thought of her studying physics, but don't want her to regret her choice.

PurpleDaisies Thu 05-May-16 22:32:18

That's the specification for the a level course (I've picked AQA because that's the most common one round here, she could check with her school what she'd be doing). In any subject there are interesting and boring bits. I absolutely love physics (that's my degree) but there are some parts I find incredibly dull. She's probably best having a conversation with her gcse physics teacher and looking through some textbooks.

Is she thinking of doing a level maths too? What grades is she expecting to get at GCSE for science and maths? Physics a level is a big jump, especially in the maths content. Had she got thoughts about uni/jobs yet?

BikeRunSki Thu 05-May-16 22:33:09

Surely this will depend on the exam board?

When I did A Level Physics (slightly after they'd split the atom)* the "norm" for A level wanna scientists was physics, maths and chemistry, as there is quite a lot of overlap between physics and the other 2. It was still a lot of work! But nearly 30 years later, there are aspects of my Physics A level I used nearly every day at work.

* it was actually 1989, but one of or school Physics teachers was Ernest Rutherford's great nephew.

PurpleDaisies Thu 05-May-16 22:35:53

Surely this will depend on the exam board?

There's not a huge amount of difference really. There's a bit of difference in the level of detail covered but the main topics are the same.

catslife Fri 06-May-16 09:17:30

There is some difference in the emphasis for different exam boards, particularly if the school use a more applied syllabus i.e. Salters (which is more unusual), but the topics are essentially the same.
For A level Physics would recommend taking A level Maths.
There isn't as much overlap in Science A levels as there used to be Bikeski. Radioactivity used to be covered (when we did A levels) in both Chemistry and Physics whereas now (apart from Salters) it's only covered in Physics. Thermodynamics in Physics is very different from that studied in Chemistry so doesn't really overlap either.

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 18:01:35

Oops - sorry I haven't replied earlier. This thread fell to the bottom of my watch list.
Thank you to everyone who replied. The link was useful, and her exam board isAQA.
She hopes to get an A in science, and most likely a B in maths. She wants to do maths, physics, chemistry and art. I realise that art will be a massive commitment in terms of time, but she insists that she loves it, and finds it relaxing.
I've heard that maths is a big leap at A-level too, and much as I'm proud of her for being ambitious, am worried that she will be putting herself under tremendous pressure.
Any advice from parents of children who have done similar would be greatly appreciated.

titchy Wed 18-May-16 18:39:25

To be blunt she has picked four VERY intense subjects, and B in Maths at GCSE tends to mean D or E at A level. If she drops one subject she might have a chance, but there won't be enough hours in the day to keep up all four to a decent standard.

titchy Wed 18-May-16 18:41:28

Science - is she doing triple? Or double?

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 18:50:54

Yes that's what I thought Titchy. She is very determined. I have told her this, but she pooh poohs me. Are you a teacher or a parent?
Her maths teacher also pointed out how the marks will translate at A level.
She has massively exceeded her projected GCSE predictions on projects and

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 18:51:29

Other assessments (posted too soon)

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 18:52:35

Double science

catslife Wed 18-May-16 19:12:52

I have a dd in Y11 and none of the sixth forms that she has applied for (all state schools/colleges) would allow someone to take A level Maths with a grade B at GCSE. At this stage though it's the final GCSE exams that count so if she really wants to take this subject, she needs to be aiming for an A and this could be possible if the predictions are too low.
Taking A level Physics and Chemistry with AA in Double Science would be possible but there is a bigger gap than if pupils have taken Triple Science and it would mean working quite hard at the start of the AS course. Ideally the sixth form should teach pupils with Double Science in a different teaching group as they can become fairly demoralized if they are put in a group with a Triple Science background who have done some of the work before.

kitkat1968 Wed 18-May-16 19:14:38

A level physics is very very different to GCSE ISAs!!
I think your DD should have a look at some past A level papers to give her an idea of what she is getting into.
People who are good at physics tend to be ones that are good at maths, I think they both require a certain sort of mind and to an extent ditto chemistry.I hate to be mean but I don't think a B in maths bodes well for her being successful in these A levels

jellycake Wed 18-May-16 19:15:35

You need to be prepared for the big step up. My son is doing maths, physics, chemistry and computing he got As at GCSE but has really found it a struggle. He did his first maths paper today and said it was far more difficult than the past papers that they have been doing confused

Veterinari Wed 18-May-16 19:19:10

I got a b in maths at GCSE and an triple a science (old gimmer tho) and didn't take maths but got a B in physics at a level,

Not sure how useful A level maths is for physics - I found physics much easier and more applied than maths

kitkat1968 Wed 18-May-16 19:21:40

Ideally the sixth form should teach pupils with Double Science in a different teaching group as they can become fairly demoralized if they are put in a group with a Triple Science background who have done some of the work before.

No they won't have, A level physics is a very different level of understanging to GCSE

catslife Wed 18-May-16 19:33:35

Actually I meant for Chemistry where Triple Scientists will have done the whole range of mole calculations (amount of substance) and a greater range of Chemical reactions that Double scientists have not. If they can't have another teaching group there should be some additional support for pupils starting A level with Double science.
It isn't essential to have A level Maths for either Physics or Chemistry but options after A level are much more limited without it and it would rule out taking degrees in either Physics or Engineering. Many sixth forms do provide Maths support for students taking these subjects at A level without Maths. Please be aware though that the new linear A level in chemistry (and probably Physics too) requires a bit more Maths than old syllabus and that ISAs no longer count towards the final A level grades i.e. it's exams only.

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 19:39:06

She is in a state school that only offers double science, so the majority of her fellow students should be in the same boat.
I can suggest she has a look at past papers (after GCSEs) - that sounds like a good idea.
Because her predicted results were so low, and her coursework has been graded much higher, I think she has started to think she is invincible. (Note: she hasn't actually done the exams, so it's obviously not yet a given that she will actually get the grades she thinks she will)
She has only, in the last year or so, taken a real pride in her work and started to invest the time and effort to reflect her abilities. I'm hopeful that that this upward trajectory continues, but can't help but feel that she will crumble under the pressure.
All hypothetical until August 25th

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 19:43:16

Yes - the heavier reliance on exams will also be a disadvantage to my daughter.
Again she points to Art still being coursework based, so insists that this will take the pressure off. As I said very determined.

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 19:47:51

Could she drop a subject halfway through if it all got too much?

dottygamekeeper Wed 18-May-16 20:34:59

My DD is taking A2 Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry and is now in Yr 13, aiming to study Theoretical Physics at uni.

Her comment is that anyone who got less than an A in Maths at GCSE struggles with AS/A2 Maths or Physics, based on the people in her groups at school. She also says that her Maths has been invaluable for her Physics and that anyone who took Physics without Maths would be at a disadvantage.

My DS took Art Textiles - yes, it is all coursework based, but that proved a massive distraction from his examined subjects and just provided a continuous level of pressure throughout the whole of the 2 years in 6th form. He got his A* in Art Textiles at the expenses of lower grades in his two other A2s, for which he got Bs, having been predicted A grades. For him, it didn't matter, as he is going onto Uni to do an art based course.

What would your DD like to do after she leaves school?

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 20:56:31

I'm not really sure. Dotty. She enjoys science, and is also interested in medical professions. But she hasn't really narrowed it down yet.
Damn - I just pointed out to her what was said about a B at GCSE in maths & she has stomped off to her room in a huff with me.

Nimble2014 Wed 18-May-16 21:01:21

She thinks I think she's not smart enough, but I'm just worried that she pushes herself too hard.

Spam88 Wed 18-May-16 21:46:37

I think she'll be fine taking those subjects smile Art is a lot of work, but it'll be good for her to have a more creative subject in there. If she decides quite early on that it isn't working, colleges are usually flexible with allowing you to change subjects during the first month, and she can certainly drop a subject at any time. And there's no requirement to take the subjects right through to A Level (I believe this is still the case with the new fangled A levels?).

I would advise that, if she has a choice, she chooses to do maths with mechanics - this covers some of the same content as the physics course, so will make things a little easier in that respect.

(I took Physics, Maths and Chemistry, with French AS in first year and Ancient History AS in second year)

PurpleDaisies Wed 18-May-16 21:58:12

And there's no requirement to take the subjects right through to A Level (I believe this is still the case with the new fangled A levels?).
This is still the case but schools aren't routinely entering candidates for AS after the first year because they have to sit all the modules again at the end of A2.

I can echo what others have said about doing a level maths with a b grade at GCSE. There's a massive jump in the difficulty at a level. The mathematical content of both physics and chemistry has recently increased now the new syllabuses have started. It'll be very interesting to see how the first cohort get on.

There's absolutely no problem at all having done double award, providing your daughter is prepared to work hard to catch up if she ends up in a group with lots of triple students. A tutor could help bridge the gap over the summer if she's super keen (and you have funds!).

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now