GCSE Physics Syllabus: What You Need to Know01/06/2023 / Science Tuition
GCSE Physics introduces students to a wide variety of topics relating to the universe and everything inside it. The subject matter brings together a diverse and interesting collection of topics, and you learn how they are applied in practice in areas such as engineering, research and science.
As a result, GCSE Physics opens up a wealth of opportunities to those with an appetite for delving into complex concepts. So, what exactly is included in the GCSE Physics syllabus, and how can you prepare for the exam? Below, we look at the type of content covered and how this syllabus is assessed to help you get the most out of the course.
Reasons to study GCSE Physics
Broadly speaking, Physics is the area of science that relates to the universe and many aspects of it. While this subject is particularly appealing for those wanting to move into science roles in the future, it also fits into many other fields such as medicine, business, law and engineering, among others.
The diverse set of skills you achieve from succeeding in GCSE Physics provides you with transitional proficiencies as you enter higher education and the world of work. This makes it an ideal subject to focus on in your studies further into your A-Levels.
Combined Science or separate Physics GCSE?
There are typically two choices when studying science GCSEs – combined subjects and separate subjects. But what’s the best option for your education?
Everyone is different, and this answer should be suited to your educational background, strengths and future course choices. The combined course is the most common, given that science is one of the three core subjects at GCSE. However, many schools offer the separate route too, for those who are particularly keen on or proficient in science subjects.
In the combined course, students study Biology, Chemistry and Physics but receive two GCSEs. On the other hand, you come out with three GCSEs if they’re taken as separate subjects.
What is the subject content for the GCSE Physics syllabus?
During your studies throughout years 10 and 11, your teacher will cover the aspects you need to learn, which will be included in some way in the final exam. The subject variation in Physics can be challenging to master, especially in a classroom setting. So, it’s vital to understand what is required from the different topics and how to differentiate between them.
There are several bodies that conduct the Physics syllabus, and there are slight differences between them. However, on the whole, each follows general subjects and getting familiar with what’s required will help you prepare for your studies and the exam.
As an example, AQA lists the following topics and areas of study:
Energy – work, power and efficiency, energy demands, changes in energy stores.
Electricity – circuits, mains and static electricity.
Particle model of matter – particles in gases, temperature changes and density of materials.
Atomic structure – atoms, ions, nuclear fission and fusion, uses and dangers of radiation.
Forces – gravity, motion, Newton’s Laws, momentum, scalar and vector quantities.
Magnetism and electromagnetism – transformers, induction, electromagnets, magnetic fields.
Space physics – expanding universe, stars, the solar system.
Note – some of the above topics only relate to the Higher Tier paper, so it’s essential to look at the specific requirements for your exam entry.
How is the Physics GCSE syllabus assessed?
Throughout your study, you’ll work towards completing two final exams. Your grade wholly depends on how you answer the questions in these assessments.
The GCSE Physics qualifications are only assessed by examinations, and they do not carry any coursework grading.
The papers cover specific topics you study throughout your course, and they are also split into Foundation and Higher Tier papers depending on what you have been entered for.
There are several awarding bodies that run GCSE Physics exams, and each has its own syllabus. However, they generally cover the same topics and final assessment areas.
You may be assessed by one of these awarding bodies:
What is the structure of the questions on the GCSE Physics exam?
The examination papers consist of a variety of question structures. These include:
- Multiple choice
- Structured questions
- Closed short answers
- Open response
It’s important to get a feel for the style of questions you might get on the exam, and past papers can help you practise the type of answers you need to give.
What’s assessed on each paper?
The Physics exam consists of two papers, each accounting for 50% of your grade. Each paper has a possible 100 marks, and you get 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete them.
Paper 1 covers the topics:
- Particle model of matter
- Atomic structure
Paper 2 consists of:
- Magnetism and electromagnetism
- Space physics
Additional resources for your exam
In 2023, the GCSE Physics exam will also come with an equations sheet. In most cases, the paper will include an insert with the question paper, so you have this as a reference during the exam. There is also the option to download the resource from the awarding body (if available).
Now you know the basics of what your GCSE Physic syllabus covers – let’s discuss the best way to tackle the course matter…
How can I prepare for the GCSE Physics exams?
It’s undeniable that GCSE Physics can be a complex subject, especially for those that struggle with specific concepts within the syllabus. However, there are some things you can do to make studying more straightforward and more streamlined. Plus, several revision techniques that assist with examination success.
Use classroom time effectively
With the teacher trying to communicate the subject and topic areas to students of varying proficiencies, it’s easy to get lost in the mix and feel confused by the subject matter.
While some people leave the questions to others, it’s essential to speak up when you’re feeling like a fish out of water. Physics can present some daunting concepts to master. But asking for help should never be out of the question. Even arranging a time to speak with your teacher outside the classroom can help demystify things as you’re away from the bustle of student chatter.
It’s also important to remember that classroom time is limited, so it’s vital to utilise the support when you have it.
Utilise past Physics papers to practise
Past GCSE papers are an excellent resource for study, particularly towards exam season. Here you will get a feel for the type of questions you might be asked, and while it’s helpful to gauge the topics that might appear, it’s vital to practise the structure of the questions too.
The GCSE Physics paper is made up of a variety of question types such as multiple choice, open response and closed short answers. Practising the style of answer you need will ensure you read the question correctly and complete it as required.
There are many cases of incorrect answers where a student has not responded according to the requirements of the question, even though they were sure of the solution.
Across the subject matters of Physics, there are various terms to learn along the way. Understanding these will help you gain the best marks possible, as achieving success isn’t just about getting the correct answer in many cases. If you struggle with Physics terminology, you may misread a question or find areas of the paper more challenging.
For example, the AQA Physics GCSE syllabus requires students to know keywords and phrases such as centripetal force, diffraction and ionisation. You’ll also need to be aware of some of the laws of Physics, including Hooke’s and Newton’s laws.
As part of your studies, your teacher will cover the main terms and the concepts behind them. However, making sure you get to grips with each will support your understanding and exam success.
Hire a tutor
Whether you’re finding certain subject areas in physics difficult, or you want to get from a grade 8 to grade 9 in your GCSE, hiring a private tutor can help.
Due to limited time and resources, it’s challenging for teachers to cover every detail you might need for the exams. Accessing additional help will give you an enhanced opportunity for success. This option is available in one-to-one or group sessions and covers Physics in more detail. Learning can also be tailored to your strengths and weaknesses to help you prepare for the exam.
Get to know the GCSE Physics syllabus with online tuition
Getting to grips with the GCSE Physics syllabus can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be with a helping hand from Principal Tutors. Our network of qualified science teachers is available to help with all aspects of the curriculum, including areas such as revision techniques and exam focus points.
You’ll get a GCSE Physics tutor matched to your child’s abilities and needs. Plus, access to our online tutoring platform to monitor progress. Find out more about how Principal Tutors can help your child. Contact us on 0800 772 0974 or request a tutor.
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