Even the sharpest pupils say, to find A-Level Physics to be challenging. How accurate is the reputation that A-level physics has gained for being exceedingly tough, even though everyone appears to think so?
For those of you who are either too busy or too sleepy to read the entire essay, there is a brief response to the subject of “How Hard is A-Level Physics?” below.
The intricacy of the mathematical techniques utilized in A-level physics is of a comparatively low grade, even though A-level physics primarily relies on fundamental GCSE and A-level maths skills.
Therefore, in contrast to popular opinion, there is only the fundamental core knowledge required for A-Level Physics.
In this article, we will analyze how hard A-level physics is.
Table of contents
- How Much Content Is There in the Physics A-Level Syllabus?
- How Hard is the A-Level Physics Content?
- How Hard Are the Actual A-Level Physics Exams?
- What Are The Typical Grade Boundaries For A-Level Physics?
- What Exams Do You Take For A-Level Physics?
- Why Is A-Level Physics So Difficult?
- Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Content Is There in the Physics A-Level Syllabus?
The Physics A-Level syllabus is, as we’re sure you already figured, far longer than its GCSE equivalent. The GCSE and A-Level curricula frequently overlap and cover a lot of the same material, including electric circuits, moments, and nuclear radiation, as you might have also predicted.
Additionally, lecturers (and your tests) automatically expect that you can retain and apply all prior physics knowledge you learned at the GCSE level when you are studying A-level physics.
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. For instance, three of the students in my A-Level Physics class are yet to complete their GCSEs, and it is essential to note that they struggled greatly in their first year.
In terms of the actual quantity of material you must study from GCSE Biology, many individuals contend that A-level biology is a considerably greater step up.
Returning to the actual amount of material covered by the A-Level syllabus, the following comparison is intriguing and effectively demonstrates the differences between the GCSE and the A-Level.
In contrast to the 296 learning objects (items to learn) in the GCSE Physics specification, the A-Level Physics specification includes 191 learning objectives (items to study).
The GCSE syllabus initially appears to be the larger and bulkier one, but if you look a little closer, the opposite is true. When you look into it, you will see that each learning objective on the A-Level curriculum contains more material (or, to put it another way, has a greater knowledge per LO density).
As a result, the overall amount of material in the A-Level curriculum increases. Finally, each learning objective on the A-Level syllabus is much more difficult to understand; this beautifully transitions to the following heading.
See also: How Long Are A-Level Exams?
How Hard is the A-Level Physics Content?
It depends, is the succinct response. Additionally, this is the least helpful response. You might be wondering, “What does it depend on?” Well, that depends on your areas of strength and the A-level physics topics you are currently studying. Let’s examine the specific aspects of the A-Level that make it harder than the GCSE equivalent to be more helpful.
When learning A-level physics, the major thing that stands out to most students is how much more you have to comprehend specific units of various amounts. For instance, you only learn at GCSE that the unit for force is the Newton, abbreviated N.
In contrast, you must be able to create new SI units from more basic foundation SI units for A-Level. Of course, this is only one illustration, but we believe it successfully illustrates the extra step that the A-Level takes.
To put it bluntly, GCSE Physics is primarily on memorization and recall of knowledge at the surface level, but A-level physics strives for an in-depth understanding of topics and places less emphasis on memorization and more on how you communicate your grasp of a topic.
A-Level Physics is challenging on a theoretical level, but it is also heavily practical. All essential practicals for A-Level Physics are required of every student. They must also follow the scientific process at all times when doing the many tests and documenting the results professionally.
Despite not receiving a physical mark for finishing the “lab book” as it is known, you do receive a Fail or Pass grade. You must pass your practical write-up to earn your A-Level! This can be a deal breaker for you if you have trouble writing practical write-ups.
How Hard Are the Actual A-Level Physics Exams?
We often say that A-Level test questions are “more mathsy” to describe them. Although I’m not convinced that’s the correct terminology, that’s definitely how I felt when taking the examinations. Most of the problems on A-Level Physics exams will require you to perform calculations to arrive at the correct answer.
You think that there were many questions of this sort in GCSE Physics, and you wouldn’t be mistaken. There were a lot of calculation questions in GCSE Physics, but they did not write them in the same way as the A-level examinations.
Calculating answers for GCSE Physics problems typically has a fairly simple format: take the data from the question, plug them into a formula you’ve learned, and presto! A-Level questions, on the other hand, tend to be far more abstract and lack a simple pattern that you may use to guide your search for an answer.
99% of the questions on the A-level physics exam will be mixed into a scenario that will make things extremely confusing; in this case, you are required to use the techniques you have learned to eliminate extraneous details and use your knowledge to reduce the problem to a single figure.
You can read this: The 10 Most Popular A-Level Subjects | 2023 Ranking
What Are The Typical Grade Boundaries For A-Level Physics?
Just to be clear, A-level grades range from A* to U rather than 9 to 1, as they do for GCSEs. They list the Edexcel grade boundaries for the 2019 school year below (read more here):
A*–68.7% | A — 58.7% | B — 49.3% | C — 40% | D — 30.7% | E — 21.7%
Most time, when individuals see these grade limits, their initial impression is how low they appear to be. It must be simple.
They must have been really difficult because they appear to be so low. Additionally, it most likely indicates that students who sat the A-Level Physics exam in 2019 did not perform well because of how challenging the test was.
What Exams Do You Take For A-Level Physics?
Students studying for A-Level Physics test will complete three separate exams after their two years of (hopefully) fruitful study. In addition, to the practical lab book stated above, students will have developed one with write-ups for each of the several experiments they conducted over the course. They offer only a Pass or Fail grade for this practical book.
Only Edexcel Physics students should use the breakdown of the papers that are provided here. Other exam boards may have different policies!
Students must complete their first two hours and 45 minutes (1.75 hours) of physics exams. Additionally, as each exam is worth 90 points, it accounts for 30 percent of the overall qualifying.
A test to measure your practical physics knowledge is the final exam pupils take. Your understanding of experimental physics will be useful here; the in-class practicals served a useful function. You should be well knowledgeable about how each practical operates and how you would design your experiments to test various theories.
This final exam takes two and a half hours to complete and is worth 120 points, or 40% of your overall A-Level Physics score. This is not an exam to fail.
Also, read this: Top 10 Hardest University Degrees in the UK | 2023 Ranking
Why Is A-Level Physics So Difficult?
Here are some reasons A-Level Physics is so difficult:
Due to its mathematically based difficulties, physics calls for exceptional problem-solving abilities. And the only way to hone that expertise is through repetition. Writing essays and memorization of materials are therefore insufficient, unlike in other courses.
Physics Is More Than Maths
While fundamental mathematical concepts are present in physics, other scientific hypotheses are also present. Why does that matter? It implies that practicing entering values into mathematical formulas is insufficient.
Additionally, you must correctly comprehend which formula works with which issue! And the justification for your beliefs. Therefore, mastering critical thinking abilities is necessary to ace A-level physics.
But don’t let the challenge deter you. The plus side is that you learn two of the most in-demand abilities.
Professors May Focus On One More Than The Other
Some teachers may concentrate more on the mathematical side of physics due to the subject’s complexity. Others, however, concentrate more on scientific hypotheses. Students may become confused because they need to comprehend both things to understand what is happening.
According to the proverb, “The student is only as good as their teacher.” Let’s say you decide to study Physics in college. If so, we strongly advise you to apply to one of these top UK universities for physics.
You will get access to some of the best physicists in the world if you attend one of the top universities in the UK. assisting you in becoming more knowledgeable about the topic.
However, perhaps more crucially, attending Top Schools will increase your prospects of success.
Each Topic Builds On The Previous
As you go through the levels of physics, they introduce you to more and more formulas. What is the toughest part? They created a few of the new formulas from earlier ones.
Therefore, you will need to go back if you want to understand the new topic but haven’t caught up with the prior one.
It can be confusing and time-consuming to go back while attempting to understand the current concept. As you move through the course, be careful to stay current on each topic.
Undoubtedly, A-Level Physics is a difficult study. However, that does not imply that it is impossible to do well in it. But, it requires a lot of effort, concentration, and practice.
So, if you feel up to the task, go for it! You won’t regret it, we guarantee. A good career can result from studying physics, which is a fantastic subject. So long as you put forth the work, you will succeed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A-Level Biology Harder Than Physics? Yes, A-Level Biology is quite harder than Physics based on the percentage of students who received A*s and As.
You’ll have to study difficult topics such as Further Mechanics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, Thermodynamics, Nuclear Radiation, and Oscillations at a high level during this A-Level, so if you just scraped your grade at GCSE you might find this subject especially challenging.
If you’re applying to Maths and Physics, you must take Physics; even if you’re not, it’s a good idea to enroll in the course. If you are not applying to Oxford, Cambridge, or a prestigious US university, you might get away with doing Computing or Statistics for your fourth A-Level instead of Chemistry.
Level AQA Astrophysics, particles, radiation, and mechanics are all studied in physics. Along with improving your knowledge and skills in the field, you’ll also develop a genuine passion for it. For those interested in engineering, science, or medicine, physics is a great choice.
JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) is one of India’s most challenging and competitive examinations. The exam tests students’ knowledge and aptitude in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. However, mathematics is widely considered the most difficult among these subjects.
Due to a wide curriculum, tough ideas, lab components, and challenging tests involving a lot of maths, A-level Physics is one of the most difficult A-level disciplines. The rigorous maths involved in A-levels is the main reason most people find them difficult.
Having said that, A-level physics particularly values a student’s approach to a question because these questions frequently require you to step outside of your comfort zone and use prior knowledge.
This implies that the true difficulty of the A-Level may depend on how well you can approach unfamiliar question types methodically.
Here are A-Level Physics pass rates for a clearer picture of things. The average pass rate for all A-Levels (those who received an A*-E) is 97.6%.
Physics has a pass percentage of 95.3%, in contrast. A-Level Physics is therefore more difficult than the typical A-Level, as evidenced by the pass rates.
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