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A-Level Physics: A Complete Guide

A-Level Physics: A Complete Guide

10 min Read|June 10 2024
|Written by:

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa


Thinking about taking Physics for your A-Level? It's a big decision. Physics is a key subject that can lead you to exciting careers in areas like engineering and space science. But what's so special about A-Level Physics? Is it the challenge of understanding how things work, from tiny particles to massive planets? Is it worth it to dive into A-Level Physics with its reputation for being tough? Whether you're a student making choices about your future, a parent helping your child decide, or a teacher guiding students, knowing what A-Level Physics includes is important for making the right choice.

Is Physics A-Level worth it?

Deciding on A-Level Physics is a significant step, and the benefits are clear when looking at the bigger picture. According to experts, students who pursue Physics at A-Level often find themselves in a strong position when applying to university. They also have a variety of career options. Physics is a facilitating subject, meaning it's preferred by top universities for a wide range of courses.

  • Universality: Physics A-Level provides a solid foundation for careers in not only science and engineering but also in sectors like finance and computer science, thanks to its problem-solving and analytical skills focus.
  • Earning Potential: Statistics show that individuals with a background in Physics tend to have higher earning potentials. A study from the Institute of Physics (IoP) suggests that Physics graduates earn about 30% more than the national average.
  • Demand in Job Market: With the growing emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), the demand for physics knowledge is high. Employers value the analytical and quantitative skills Physics A-Level students bring.

Choosing A-Level Physics opens a multitude of doors, providing a strong foundation for both higher education and a successful career path.

Here is what an expert A-Level Physics tutor has to say:

"A-Level Physics is challenging yet rewarding and is taken by approximately 30,000 students annually in the UK. It offers a good understanding of principles like Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermal physics, which lays the groundwork for 75% of these students to pursue STEM-related degrees at university."
number of students who took A-Level Physics exams in the past 10 years

Graph showing number of students who took A-Level Physics exams in the past 10 years in the UK

Is A-Level Physics that hard?

A-Level Physics is renowned for its complexity and depth, which often leads students to question its difficulty level. With a pass rate of approximately 95%, slightly lower than the average for A-Levels, A-Level Physics presents a challenge that requires dedication and a solid understanding of both theoretical concepts and practical skills. This lower pass rate is indicative of the subject's rigorous assessment standards and the complexity of its material. The difficulty of A-Level Physics can be attributed to several key factors:

  • Introduction of New, Complex Topics: A-Level Physics covers new areas such as Quantum Physics and Particle and Nuclear Physics, which are more abstract compared to topics covered at GCSE level.
  • Increased Depth of Study: The subject goes into much greater detail than at GCSE, with a higher density of content within each topic.
  • Demanding Mathematical Skills: About 40% of the exam focuses on mathematics, demanding a solid grasp of mathematical concepts. A-Level Maths can prove to quite benenficial if taken along physics.
  • Rigorous Assessment Standards: The exams include complex questions that require a methodological approach to solve, often testing students on their ability to apply knowledge in unfamiliar contexts.
  • High Expectations for Practical Skills: Students must complete and document various experiments, demonstrating their practical skills in addition to theoretical knowledge.
  • Emphasis on Deep Understanding Over Memorisation: Unlike at GCSE level, A-Level Physics requires a deep understanding of principles, moving away from rote memorisation towards critical thinking and application.


Table showing A-level Physics grades distribution

From a survey of 200 teachers and university lecturers; Physics is considered to be the 2nd hardest A-Level subject. Despite these challenges, it is not insurmountable. It demands a strategic approach to learning, including consistent revision, a strong foundation in mathematics, and a commitment to understanding the underlying principles of physics. Students who engage actively with the material, utilise past papers, and seek help when needed can find A-Level Physics both manageable and rewarding. The subject's rigor prepares students for further education and careers in a variety of fields, emphasising problem-solving skills and a deep understanding of the physical world..

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What does A-Level Physics involve?

A-Level Physics is a deep dive into the principles that govern the universe, from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. It is a subject that balances theoretical knowledge with practical application, designed to challenge and expand students' understanding of the physical world.

  • Core Topics: Students will explore a range of core topics including mechanics, electricity, waves, and modern physics. These areas cover everything from the motion of objects and the forces acting upon them to the behavior of light and sound waves, as well as the peculiarities of quantum physics and relativity.
  • Mathematical Applications: Physics at this level involves a significant amount of mathematics, with approximately 40% of the content requiring the application of mathematical skills to solve physics problems.
  • Practical Assessments: Practical skills are an essential part of A-Level Physics, with students required to carry out experiments and investigations. These not only help to consolidate learning but also contribute to the final grade.
  • Advanced Theories: Beyond the basics, students will delve into more complex theories and concepts, such as particle physics, astrophysics, and nuclear physics, each requiring a deep understanding of both theoretical and mathematical principles.

CIE A-Level Physics Syllabus

The CIE A-Level Physics syllabus offers a concise program that covers fundamental and advanced physics principles. It's split into AS Level, focusing on core concepts and skills, and A Level, which delves into more complex topics. This curriculum prepares students for further studies or careers in physics and related fields.

Topic No.AS LevelTopic No.A Level
1Physical quantities and units1 - 11All topics from AS Included
2Kinematics12Motion in a circle
3Dynamics13Gravitational fields
4Forces, density and pressure14Temperature
5Work, energy and power15Ideal gases
6Deformation of solids16Thermodynamics
8Superposition18Electric fields
10D.C. circuits 20Magnetic fields
11Particle physics21Alternating currents
22Quantum physics
23Nuclear physics
24Medical physics
25Astronomy and cosmology

Table showing CIE A-Level Physics syllabus

AQA A-Level Physics Syllabus

The AQA A-Level Physics course provides an in-depth study of physics, starting with basic principles at the AS Level and advancing to complex topics at the A-Level. It combines theoretical understanding with practical skills, preparing students for further education or careers in physics and related sectors.

Topic No.Core contentTopic No.Options
1Measurements and their errors9Astrophysics
2Particles and radiation10Medical physics
3Waves11Engineering physics
4Mechanics and materials12Turning points in physics
6Further mechanics and thermal physics
7Fields and their consequences
8Nuclear physics

Table showing AQA A-Level Physics syllabus

OCR A-Level Physics Syllabus

The OCR A-Level Physics course enhances understanding of fundamental to advanced physics, blending theory with practical experiments across modules like mechanics and quantum physics. It develops analytical and practical skills, preparing students for science or engineering paths.

1Development of practical skills in physics
2Foundations in physics
3Forces and motion
4Electrons, waves and photons
5Newtonian world and astrophysics
6Particles and medical physics

Table showing OCR A-Level Physics syllabus

What is the A-Level Physics exam structure?

The A-Level Physics exam typically involves a combination of written papers that assess both theoretical understanding and practical skills. While the exact structure can vary slightly between exam boards (such as AQA, OCR, Edexcel, and WJEC), the general format is as follows:

  • Written Papers: There are usually three written exams taken at the end of the two-year course. These exams cover the breadth of the syllabus, including core physics concepts, applied physics, and potentially an option unit.
  • Practical Assessments: In addition to written exams, students are assessed on their practical skills, which may be through a separate practical endorsement or integrated into the written papers. This component evaluates students' abilities to design, execute, and analyse experiments.
  • Assessment Objectives: The exams are designed to assess a range of skills such as understanding and recall of physical concepts, application of knowledge to solve problems, analysis and evaluation of scientific information. Practical skills in an experimental context as part of the assessment as well.
  • Grading: The exams are graded from A* to E at A-Level, with the overall grade being a combination of the marks from the written papers and, in some cases, the practical assessment.

CIE A-Level Physics Exam Structure

The CIE A-Level Physics exam format is structured to comprehensively assess students' understanding of physics, blending theoretical knowledge with practical skills. It typically includes a variety of question types, such as multiple choice, short answer, and extended response, across several papers.

Paper No.12345
AssessmentMultiple Choice QuestionsAS Level Structured QuestionsAdvanced Practical SkillsA Level Structured QuestionsPlanning, Analysis and Evaluation
Time1 hr 15 min1 hr 15 min2 hr2 hr1 hr 15 min
Total Marks40604010030
Syllabus AS Level syllabus contentAS Level syllabus contentPractical skills assessmentA Level syllabus contentPractical skills of planning, analysis and evaluation
% of the A Level15.5%23%11.5%38.5%11.5%

Table showing CIE A-Level Physics exam structure

AQA A-Level Physics Exam Structure

The AQA A-Level Physics examination framework aims to rigorously test students’ knowledge and application of physics principles. It encompasses diverse question formats like multiple choice, short answers, and detailed responses, distributed across a series of papers, each focusing on specific areas of the physics syllabus.

Paper No.123
AssessmentAS Level QuestionsA2 Level QuestionsA Level Questions
Time2 hr2 hr2 hr
Total Marks858580
SyllabusSections 1-5, 6.1 (Periodic Motion)Sections 6.2 (Thermal Physics), 7 and 8Practical skills and data analysis & one section from 9-13
% of the A Level34%34%32%

Table showing AQA A-Level Physics exam structure

OCR A-Level Physics Exam Structure

The OCR A-Level Physics exam setup is carefully crafted to evaluate students' mastery and practical implementation of physics concepts. It includes a variety of question types, such as multiple choice, short answers, and comprehensive responses, arranged in different exam papers to comprehensively cover the physics curriculum.

Paper No.123
AssessmentModelling physicsExploring physicsUnified physics
Time2 hr 15 min2 hr 15 min1 hr 30 min
Total Marks10010070
SyllabusModules 1, 2, 3 and 5Modules 1, 2, 4 and 6Modules 1-6
% of the A Level37%37%26%

Table showing OCR A-Level Physics exam structure

Choosing the Right Exam Board

Selecting the appropriate exam board for A-Level Physics is a crucial decision that can impact both the teaching and learning experience. In the UK, the main exam boards offering A-Level Physics are AQA, Edexcel (Pearson), OCR, and CIE (Cambridge International Examinations). Each board has its unique approach to content, assessment style, and resources, making the choice significant for students, teachers, and schools. Here are key considerations and statistics from the UK in 2023:

  • AQA: With 20,003 candidates, AQA is known for its comprehensive coverage of physics principles, focusing on real-world applications and scientific literacy.
  • Edexcel: Edexcel, with 3,738 candidates, offers a structured approach, emphasizing mathematical skills and conceptual understanding, suitable for students interested in both theoretical and applied physics.
  • OCR: 11,000 candidates gave exams in this board, OCR is appreciated for its engaging content that connects theory to practical experiments, encouraging deeper understanding of the subject.
  • CIE: CIE is recognized internationally, offering a global perspective on physics education, beneficial for students looking to study abroad.

When choosing an exam board, consider the following:

  • Content and Syllabus: Review the syllabus of each exam board to ensure it aligns with your interests and strengths in physics.
  • Assessment Format: Understand the types of assessments, including the balance between written exams and practical evaluations.
  • Resources and Support: Look for the availability and quality of support materials like textbooks, online resources, and past papers.
  • Future Plans: Consider your future academic or career goals. Some boards might be more aligned with certain university courses or career paths.

The choice of an exam board can influence the direction of your A-Level Physics study, affecting how you engage with the subject and prepare for future opportunities. It's essential to research and discuss with teachers and advisors to make an informed decision that best suits your educational and career objectives.

How do I prepare for A-Level Physics?

Mastering the fundamentals of A-Level Physics requires a strategic approach that combines understanding theoretical concepts with practical application. Given the subject's depth and complexity, here are essential steps to ensure effective preparation:

  • Strengthen Mathematical Skills: Approximately 40% of A-Level Physics involves mathematics. Enhance your maths skills, focusing on algebra, calculus, and trigonometry, which are integral to solving physics problems.
  • Understand the Syllabus: Familiarize yourself with the exam board's syllabus to know the topics covered, their weightage in the exam, and the style of questions asked.
  • Use a Variety of Resources: Don't rely solely on textbooks. Utilise online resources, videos, and interactive simulations to understand complex concepts better.
  • Practise Past Papers: Regular practise with past exam papers and mark schemes from your specific exam board is crucial. This helps in understanding the exam format, time management, and identifying areas needing improvement.
  • Engage in Practical Work: A-Level Physics requires practical understanding. Participate in lab work, and understand experimental methods and data analysis.
  • Join Study Groups: Collaborating with peers can provide new insights, help clarify doubts, and offer moral support.
  • Seek Feedback: Regularly seek feedback from teachers or expert A-Level tutors on your work to understand your strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Revision Plan: Create a revision timetable that covers all topics, allocating more time to challenging areas. Use a mix of revision techniques, including flashcards, mind maps, and summarizing notes.
Grades distribution of A-Level Physics in UK 2021-2023

Graph showing grades distribution of A-Level Physics in UK 2021-2023

Effective preparation for A-Level Physics goes beyond memorizing formulas and concepts; it involves developing a deep understanding of physical principles and applying them to solve complex problems. Adopting these strategies early in your A-Level course can significantly enhance your performance and confidence in physics.

What are the best A-Levels to take with Physics?

For students passionate about Physics, selecting A-Levels that bolster their understanding and application of the subject is vital for pursuing careers in engineering, astrophysics, and other science-intensive fields. Guidance from educational experts and university admissions requirements suggest the following subjects are most beneficial alongside Physics:

  • A-Level Maths: Essential for solving complex problems in physics, maths provides the critical analytical skills needed in nearly all physics-related fields.
  • A-Level Further Maths: Offers an even deeper understanding of mathematical theories, highly recommended for those pursuing degrees in physics or engineering.
  • A-Level Chemistry: Complements physics well, especially for students interested in materials science, chemical engineering, or environmental science.
  • A-Level Computer Science: Enhances computational skills and programming knowledge, useful for theoretical physics, simulation, and modeling work.

Statistics from leading STEM universities show a clear preference for students who combine Physics with Maths and Further Maths, with over 80% of engineering undergraduates having taken both A-Levels. The Institute of Physics also highlights the importance of these subjects, noting that students with a strong foundation in mathematics are significantly more successful in physics degree courses. This combination not only prepares students for rigorous university programs but also equips them with skills applicable to a wide range of high-tech careers.

Best A-Level Physics Resources

Maximizing your A-Level Physics preparation involves a blend of traditional and modern resources tailored to enhance understanding and retention. Integrating a variety of materials caters to different learning preferences and addresses the comprehensive A-Level syllabus. Here's a curated list of essential resources, including the newly suggested additions:

  • Textbooks and Revision Guides: Essential for foundational knowledge, select the latest editions aligned with your exam board. These guides often break down complex concepts into manageable sections and provide exam-style questions for practise. Books like: "AQA Physics: A Level", "Edexcel A level Physics Student Book 2", "Cambridge International AS & A Level Physics Coursebook" and "A Level Physics for OCR A Student Book".
  • Online Platforms and Websites: Supplement your learning with platforms offering interactive content, such as Khan Academy for visual and auditory learners.
  • Past Exam Papers and Mark Schemes: These are invaluable for understanding exam formats and expectations.
  • YouTube Channels: Channels like CrashCourse and DrPhysicsA offer concise explanations and visual aids to complex topics.
  • Online Forums and Study Groups: Engage with peers on platforms online for advice, resources sharing, and moral support.
  • Tutoring Services: Personalized tutoring can address individual challenges, providing tailored explanations and strategies to overcome specific hurdles.
  • Study Notes and Resources: Creating comprehensive notes and utilising notes from platforms like TutorChase can offer insights and different perspectives on difficult topics. Additionally, A-Level Physics Q&A Revision Notes can be incredibly helpful for pinpointing areas that need more focus and reinforcing key concepts through structured question-and-answer formats.

Leveraging these resources effectively requires a strategic approach. Begin by laying a strong foundation with textbooks and class notes, then expand your understanding and application skills through interactive and visual resources. Regular practise with past papers will hone your exam technique, while forums and study groups can offer support and tips. If necessary, consider a tutor to address personal learning challenges, ensuring a tailored approach to mastering the curriculum.

Have a look at our comprehensive set of A-Level Physics Study Notes developed by expert A-Level teachers and examiners!

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

A-Level Physics, while rewarding, presents several common challenges to students. Addressing these effectively can significantly enhance one’s learning experience and academic performance.

  • Complex Mathematical Concepts: Many students find the integration of advanced mathematics into physics daunting. To overcome this, reinforce your maths skills through additional practise and apply them in physics contexts to build confidence.
  • Abstract Theoretical Concepts: Topics like quantum mechanics or relativity can seem intangible. Utilise visual aids, simulations, and real-world examples to better grasp these concepts.
  • High Volume of Content: The breadth of the syllabus can be overwhelming. Break down the content into manageable sections and use a study planner to ensure all topics are covered systematically.
  • Practical Skills Application: Some struggle with translating theoretical knowledge into practical experiments. Participate actively in lab sessions and practise with at-home experiments or virtual labs to improve.
  • Time Management in Exams: Completing all questions within the allotted time can be stressful. Practise past papers under timed conditions to develop effective time management techniques.
  • Staying Motivated: Long-term preparation for A-Level Physics can test your motivation. Set short-term goals, celebrate achievements, and remind yourself of your long-term aspirations to stay motivated.

Overcoming these challenges requires a proactive approach, utilising a variety of resources, and seeking support when needed. By addressing each hurdle methodically, students can enhance their understanding and performance in A-Level Physics, paving the way for academic and future career success.

Past Papers and Practise Questions

Utilising past papers and practise questions is a cornerstone of successful A-Level Physics preparation. This approach offers several advantages, directly impacting students' understanding and exam readiness:

  • Familiarity with Exam Format: Regularly working through past papers acquaints students with the structure, style of questions, and marking schemes specific to their exam board.
  • Application of Knowledge: Practise questions allow students to apply theoretical knowledge to various scenarios, enhancing problem-solving skills.
  • Identification of Weak Areas: Engaging with a wide range of questions helps highlight topics needing further review or understanding.
  • Time Management Skills: Timed practise sessions mimic exam conditions, aiding in the development of effective time management strategies during the actual exam.

To maximize the benefits:

  • Start Early: Integrate past papers and practise questions into your study routine well ahead of the exam period.
  • Review Mark Schemes: After attempting past papers, review mark schemes to understand examiner expectations and how marks are allocated.
  • Seek Feedback: Discuss your answers with teachers or tutors to gain insights into how you can improve your responses.
  • Vary Your Practise: Include questions from different years and exam boards (if applicable) to cover a broader spectrum of topics and question types.

Incorporating past papers and practise questions into your revision strategy not only boosts confidence but also significantly enhances your ability to tackle the A-Level Physics exam with competence.

Opportunities with A-level Physics

A-Level Physics delves into the fundamental principles governing the universe, equipping students with critical analytical and problem-solving skills. This rigorous academic discipline opens up a spectrum of opportunities for further education and diverse career paths, emphasizing the importance of physics in understanding and innovating within the natural world.

Gender distribution across A-Level Physics

Pie chart showing gender distribution across A-Level Physics

Majors in Higher Education:

  • Astrophysics: Prepares students for exploring the cosmos, focusing on the physics of galaxies, stars, and phenomena beyond Earth.
  • Mechanical Engineering: Essential for designing and improving mechanical systems, from vehicles to energy production.
  • Quantum Computing: Offers insights into the use of quantum theory for developing computing technologies that surpass classical computation.
  • Renewable Energy: Provides the knowledge needed to innovate and improve sustainable energy solutions.
  • Medical Physics: Combines physics and healthcare, crucial for developing and improving diagnostic imaging and cancer treatments.

Career Paths:

  • Technology and Innovation: In roles focused on developing new technologies or improving existing ones.
  • Education and Research: Teaching the next generation of physicists and conducting research in cutting-edge physics topics.
  • Space Exploration: Working with agencies like NASA or ESA on missions that expand our understanding of the universe.
  • Environmental Science: Applying physics principles to address climate change and environmental conservation.
  • Engineering: Designing, analyzing, and improving systems and structures from civil infrastructure to electronic devices.

Skills Development:

  • Critical Thinking: Sharpening the ability to tackle complex problems and hypothesize solutions.
  • Mathematical Proficiency: Enhancing the understanding and application of advanced mathematics in physical contexts.
  • Technical Skills: Gaining proficiency in using sophisticated instruments and computational tools.
  • Innovation: Encouraging creative approaches to scientific and technological challenges.
  • Communication: Cultivating the ability to clearly articulate complex ideas to a non-specialist audience.

Embarking on A-Level Physics not only deepens your comprehension of how the world works at both the cosmic and quantum levels but also furnishes you with versatile skills applicable across a vast array of scientific and engineering disciplines. It paves the way for engaging in some of the most exciting and innovative fields today, making A-Level Physics graduates highly valued in many sectors.

What are common misconceptions about studying A-Level Physics?

There are several common misconceptions about studying A-Level Physics that can impact students' understanding and approach to the subject:

  • Physics is only for those who are naturally gifted in maths and science: While a strong foundation in mathematics is beneficial, success in physics also comes from hard work, practise, and a genuine interest in understanding how the physical world operates.
  • Physics is just memorizing formulas: Although formulas are important, physics primarily focuses on understanding concepts, principles, and their applications. Problem-solving in physics often requires a deep understanding of these concepts rather than rote memorization of formulas.
  • Physics has no real-world application: This misconception overlooks the vast impact of physics on technology, engineering, medicine, and everyday life. From smartphones to medical imaging techniques and beyond, physics principles are fundamental to many innovations and technologies.
  • Physics is too hard and inaccessible: While physics can be challenging, it's designed to be accessible to all students with the right support and resources. Difficulty is subjective and can be overcome with effective study strategies, resources, and guidance.

These misconceptions can deter students from engaging with physics, but understanding that physics is a dynamic and applicable science can transform their learning experience and open up numerous academic and career opportunities.

Conclusion on A-Level Physics

A-Level Physics is a gateway to a vast array of STEM fields, equipping students with essential skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical reasoning. With the rapid advancement in technology and increasing focus on innovation, individuals with a physics background are increasingly sought after across diverse sectors. By carefully selecting study resources, engaging with the curriculum, and exploring related scientific fields, students can lay a solid foundation for both further education and a successful career. Embracing A-Level Physics today means opening doors to becoming the innovators and problem solvers of tomorrow.


Is physics harder than Biology A level?

The difficulty of A-Level subjects like Physics and Biology can vary depending on a student's strengths and interests. Physics tends to require a good grasp of mathematical concepts, making it challenging for those who struggle with math. Biology, on the other hand, involves a lot of memorization and understanding of complex terms and processes. Some sources suggest Physics might be slightly more challenging due to the higher mathematical demands, but Biology is also considered tough due to the vast amount of content that needs to be memorized. Ultimately, whether Physics or Biology is harder depends on the individual student's abilities and preferences. Physics may be more challenging for those who find mathematical reasoning difficult, while Biology could pose more of a challenge for those who struggle with memorization and understanding complex biological processes.

Is a level physics harder than chemistry?

The debate between the difficulty of A-Level Physics and Chemistry is subjective and largely depends on individual strengths and preferences. Physics is generally considered more mathematically intensive, requiring a solid understanding of mathematical principles, which can be challenging for those less comfortable with math. On the other hand, Chemistry demands a significant amount of memorization, especially in areas like inorganic chemistry, and understanding of complex concepts and reactions. While some find the mathematical aspect of Physics more challenging, others may struggle with the memorization and conceptual understanding required in Chemistry. Ultimately, whether Physics or Chemistry is harder varies from person to person, with each subject presenting its unique challenges​.

Is a level physics mostly maths?

Yes, A-Level Physics is heavily reliant on mathematics. It uses mathematical principles extensively to describe, analyze, and predict physical phenomena. Topics such as mechanics, electricity, and waves all require a good understanding of algebra, trigonometry, and sometimes calculus. While the subject is not solely about mathematics, a strong foundation in maths is essential for success in A-Level Physics. This includes skills in manipulating equations, using trigonometric functions, and applying calculus in various contexts. The mathematical demands of A-Level Physics make it imperative for students to have solid maths skills to grasp the concepts fully and excel in the subject.

Can I self study physics A-Level?

Yes, it's possible to self-study A-Level Physics, but it requires dedication, discipline, and access to the right resources. Online resources, textbooks, and general books about physics can serve as valuable study materials. Self-studying A-Level Physics allows for flexibility in learning pace and style but poses challenges, particularly with completing practical components, which are crucial for the course. Distance learning courses and online study programs, such as those offered by Open Study College, provide structured learning paths and may include tutor support to help you achieve your qualification. Success in self-studying A-Level Physics also depends on your ability to grasp complex concepts independently and your commitment to regular study​​​​​​.

What percentage do you need for a * in physics A-Level?

To achieve an A* in A-Level Physics, students must secure a grade A overall in the A Level and also achieve at least 90% of the maximum uniform mark in their A2 units. The A* grade is awarded to those who not only excel in their overall A-Level performance but also demonstrate exceptional understanding and skills in the more advanced parts of the course. This requirement ensures that the A* grade reflects a high level of achievement both broadly across the subject and specifically in the depth of understanding in the latter stages of the A-Level program.

Can anyone do A-Level physics?

In principle, anyone can take A-Level Physics if they have a keen interest in the subject and a strong foundation in mathematics. It's recommended for students to have a solid understanding of math because physics heavily relies on mathematical concepts. While there's no formal prerequisite, succeeding in A-Level Physics typically requires good grades in GCSE Physics and Mathematics. The subject is challenging and demands analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to grasp complex concepts. So, while anyone with determination and an interest in physics can pursue it, those with a strong background in math and science are more likely to excel.

What is the hardest topic in A-Level physics?

Electricity and magnetism are often cited as some of the hardest topics in A-Level Physics. These subjects involve understanding and applying concepts that are not directly observable, such as electric fields, magnetic fields, and their interactions, which can be abstract and counterintuitive. Additionally, Newtonian mechanics, particularly topics related to forces and motion, are challenging for many students. The difficulty stems from both the abstract nature of these concepts and the mathematical skills required to solve related problems. These areas demand a deep understanding of theoretical principles and the ability to apply complex mathematical equations to physical scenarios​​.

Is a level physics good for engineering?

Absolutely, A-Level Physics is highly beneficial for pursuing a career in engineering. Physics lays the foundational knowledge for understanding the principles behind engineering concepts. It teaches problem-solving, analytical skills, and the application of mathematical principles to real-world scenarios, all of which are crucial in engineering. Most engineering courses, regardless of the specialization, require A-Level Mathematics and at least one science, typically Physics, due to its relevance in the field. A-Level Physics not only prepares students for the theoretical aspects of engineering degrees but also develops the critical thinking and practical skills essential for successful engineering careers​

Can I do engineering without A-Level physics?

Yes, you can pursue an engineering degree without A-Level Physics, though it may depend on the specific field and university requirements. Many universities, especially within the Russell Group, require A-Level Mathematics and a science subject, which could be Physics, Chemistry, or Biology, with Physics often preferred. However, there are pathways to engineering that may not strictly require A-Level Physics but still necessitate a strong foundation in math and possibly another science or technical subject. It's essential to research specific university requirements as they can vary, but a keen interest in engineering and strong analytical skills can compensate for not having A-Level Physics in some cases​.

What maths skills are essential for A-Level Physics?

For A-Level Physics, several mathematical skills are crucial:

  • Algebra: Mastery in manipulating equations and solving for variables is essential. This includes being comfortable with rearranging formulae and solving equations.
  • Trigonometry: The ability to use trigonometric functions and apply them to physics problems is vital, especially in topics like waves and oscillations.
  • Calculus: Differentiating and integrating functions is used across many physics concepts, such as in mechanics and electricity.

These skills enable students to tackle the quantitative aspects of physics, from solving complex problems to understanding the mathematical foundations of physical theories​.

Can A-Level Physics help A-Level Maths studies?

Absolutely, A-Level Physics can complement and enhance A-Level Maths studies significantly. The subjects share a strong conceptual overlap, particularly in areas such as algebra, calculus, and trigonometry, which are integral to both. Studying A-Level Physics alongside Maths can help reinforce understanding of mathematical principles through practical application in physical scenarios. Physics requires and develops skills in manipulating mathematical formulas, solving complex problems, and applying theoretical math in real-world contexts, which can deepen a student's mathematical understanding and proficiency. This symbiotic relationship between the two subjects can lead to a more comprehensive grasp of both, benefiting overall academic performance and preparation for further study or careers in STEM fields​.

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Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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