The syllabus has been designed to build on and extend the content coverage at O level. Candidates will be
assumed to have knowledge and understanding of Physics at O level, either as a single subject or as part of
a balanced science course.
The aims of a course based on this syllabus should be to:
1. provide students with an experience that develops their interest in physics and builds the knowledge,
skills and attitudes necessary for them to become scientifically literate citizens who are well-prepared for
the challenges of the 21st century.
2. develop in students the understanding, skills, ethics and attitudes relevant to the Practices of Science,
including the following:
2.1 understanding the nature of scientific knowledge
2.2 demonstrating science inquiry skills
2.3 relating science and society
3. develop in students an understanding that a small number of basic principles and core ideas can be
applied to explain, analyse and solve problems in a variety of systems in the physical world.
Science as a discipline is more than the acquisition of a body of knowledge (e.g. scientific facts, concepts, laws, and theories) it is a way of knowing and doing. It includes an understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge and how this knowledge is generated, established and communicated. Scientists rely on a set of established procedures and practices associated with scientific inquiry to gather evidence and test their ideas on how the natural world works. However, there is no single method and the real process of science is often complex and iterative, following many different paths. While science is powerful, generating knowledge that forms the basis for many technological feats and innovations, it has limitations.
The Practices of Science are explicitly articulated in this syllabus to allow teachers to embed them as learning objectives in their lessons. Students’ understanding of the nature and the limitations of science and scientific inquiry are developed effectively when the practices are taught in the context of relevant science content. Attitudes relevant to science such as inquisitiveness, concern for accuracy and precision, objectivity, integrity and perseverance should be emphasised in the teaching of these practices where appropriate. For example, students learning science should be introduced to the use of technology as an aid in practical work or as a tool for the interpretation of experimental and theoretical results.
The Practices of Science comprise three components:
- Understanding the Nature of Scientific Knowledge
1.1 Understand that science is an evidence-based, model-building enterprise concerned with the natural world
1.2 Understand that the use of both logic and creativity is required in the generation of scientific knowledge
1.3 Recognise that scientific knowledge is generated from consensus within the community of scientists through a process of critical debate and peer review
1.4 Understand that scientific knowledge is reliable and durable, yet subject to revision in the light of new evidence
- Demonstrating Science Inquiry Skills
2.1. Identify scientific problems, observe phenomena and pose scientific questions/hypotheses
2.2 Plan and conduct investigations by selecting appropriate experimental procedures, apparatus and materials, with due regard for accuracy, precision and safety
2.3 Obtain, organise and represent data in an appropriate manner
2.4 Analyse and interpret data
2.5 Construct explanations based on evidence and justify these explanations through reasoning and logical argument
2.6 Use appropriate models to explain concepts, solve problems and make predictions
2.7 Make decisions based on evaluation of evidence, processes, claims and conclusions
2.8 Communicate scientific findings and information using appropriate language and terminology
- Relating Science and Society
3.1. Recognise that the application of scientific knowledge to problem-solving could be influenced by other considerations such as economic, social, environmental and ethical factors
3.2 Demonstrate an understanding of the benefits and risks associated with the application of science to society
3.3 Use scientific principles and reasoning to understand, analyse and evaluate real-world systems as well as to generate solutions for problem-solving
- • Physics encompasses the study of systems spanning a wide scale of distances and times: from 10–15 m (e.g. sub-atomic particles) to larger than 1030 m (e.g. galaxies), from near-instantaneous events such as current flow with a flick of a switch to slow-evolving phenomenon such as the birth and death of a star.
• A small number of basic principles and laws can be applied in the study and interpretation of this wide variety of simple and complex systems. Similarly, a few core ideas that cut across traditional content boundaries can be introduced in the curriculum to provide students with a broader way of thinking about the physical world.
• These Core Ideas are fundamental in the study of physics and help students integrate knowledge and link concepts across different topics. They provide powerful analytical tools which can explain phenomena and solve problems.
- Systems and Interactions
1.1. Defining the systems under study (by specifying their boundaries and making explicit a models of the systems) provides tools for understanding and testing ideas that are applicable throughout physics.
1.2. Objects can be treated as having no internal structure or an internal structure that can be ignored. A system, on the other hand, is a collection of objects with an internal structure which may need to be taken into account.
1.3. Physical events and phenomena can be understood by studying the interactions between objects in a system and with the environment.
1.4. Students should be able to identify causal relationships when analysing interactions and changes in a system.
1.5. Interactions between objects in a system can be modelled using forces (e.g. a system of forces being applied to move a mass; a system of two masses colliding; a system of the moon orbiting around the earth; a system of electrical charges; a system of current in a straight wire placed in a magnetic field).
1.6. Fields existing in space are used to explain interactions between objects that are not in contact. Forces at a distance are explained by fields that can transfer energy and can be described in terms of the arrangement and properties of the interacting objects. These forces can be used to describe the relationship between electrical and magnetic fields.
1.7. Equilibrium is a unique state where the relevant physical properties of a system are balanced (e.g. equilibrium in a single particle arises if there is no resultant force acting on it, a rigid body is considered to be in equilibrium if, in addition, there is no resultant moment about any point).
1.8. Simplified microscopic models can explain macroscopic properties observed in systems with complex and random interactions between a large number of objects:
1.8.1. Microscopic models are applied in the study of electricity. Macroscopic properties (e.g. current) are used to investigate interactions and changes in these systems.
1.8.2. These macroscopic properties can be linked to complex interactions at the microscopic level, for example: the half-life of unstable nuclei decaying randomly.
1.8.3. Such complex systems may also be better characterised by statistical averages (e.g. half-life) as these quantities may be more meaningful than the properties and behaviours of individual components (e.g. which unstable nuclei is decaying and when).
- Models and Representations
2.1. Models use reasonable approximations to simplify real-world phenomena in order to arrive at useful ways to explain or analyse systems.
2.2. The awareness of the approximations used in a proposed model allows one to estimate the validity and reliability of that model.
2.3. Models are tested through observations and experiments and should be consistent with available evidence; models can evolve and be refined in light of new evidence.
2.4. The assumptions made in defining a system will determine how interactions are described and analysed. Understanding the limits of these assumptions is a fundamental aspect of modelling.
2.5. The use of representations is inherent in the process of constructing a model. Examples of representations are pictures, motion diagrams, graphs, energy bar charts and mathematical equations.
2.6. Mathematics is an important tool in physics. It is used as a language to describe the relationships between different physical quantities and to solve numerical problems.
2.7. Representations and models help in analysing phenomena, solving problems, making predictions and communicating ideas.
- Conservation Laws
3.1. Conservation laws are fundamental among the principles in physics used to understand the physical world.
3.2. When analysing physical events or phenomena, the choice of system and associated conservation laws provide a powerful set of tools to use to predict the possible outcome of an interaction.
3.3. Conservation laws constrain the possible behaviours of objects in a system, or the outcome of an interaction or process.
3.4. Associated with every conservation law in classical physics is a physical quantity, a scalar or a vector, which characterises a system.
3.5. In a closed system, the associated physical quantity has a constant value independent of interactions between objects in the system. In an open system, the changes of the associated physical quantity are always equal to the transfer of that quantity to or from the system by interactions with other systems.
3.6. In physics, charge, momentum, mass-energy and angular momentum are conserved.
3.7. Examples of how conservation laws are used in our syllabus:
3.7.1. conservation of momentum in collisions and explosions allowing prediction of subsequent motion of the objects or particles.
3.7.2. conservation of energy to calculate change in total energy in systems that are open to energy transfer due to external forces (work is done).
3.7.3. conservation of mass-energy, charge and nucleon number in nuclear reactions to enable the calculation of relevant binding energies and identification of the resulting nuclides.
The Practices of Science, Core Ideas in physics and Learning Experiences are put together in a framework
(Fig. 1) to guide the development of the H1 Physics curriculum.
The Practices of Science are common to the natural sciences of physics, chemistry and biology. These practices highlight the ways of thinking and doing that are inherent in the scientific approach, with the aim of equipping students with the understanding, skills, and attitudes shared by the scientific disciplines, including an appropriate approach to ethical issues. The Core Ideas help students to integrate knowledge and link concepts across different topics, and highlight important themes that recur throughout the curriculum. The syllabus content is organised into sections according to the main branches and knowledge areas of physics, i.e. Newtonian Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, and Nuclear Physics to allow for a focused, systematic and in-depth treatment of topics within each section.
The Learning Experiences refer to a range of learning opportunities selected by teachers to link the physics content with the Core Ideas and the Practices of Science to enhance students’ learning of the concepts. Rather than being mandatory, teachers are encouraged to incorporate Learning Experiences that match the interests and abilities of their students and provide opportunities to illustrate and exemplify the Practices of Science, where appropriate. Real-world contexts can help illustrate the concepts in physics and their applications. Experimental activities and ICT tools can also be used to build students’ understanding.
The assessment objectives listed below reflect those parts of the aims and Practices of Science that will be assessed in the examination.
A Knowledge with understanding
Candidates should be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding in relation to:
- scientific phenomena, facts, laws, definitions, concepts, theories
- scientific vocabulary, terminology, conventions (including symbols, quantities and units)
- scientific instruments and apparatus, including techniques of operation and aspects of safety
- scientific quantities and their determination
- scientific and technological applications with their social, economic and environmental implications.
The syllabus content defines the factual knowledge that candidates may be required to recall and explain. Questions testing these objectives will often begin with one of the following words: define, state, describe or explain.
B Handling, applying and evaluating information
Candidates should be able (in words or by using symbolic, graphical and numerical forms of presentation) to:
- locate, select, organise and present information from a variety of sources
- handle information, distinguishing the relevant from the extraneous
- manipulate numerical and other data and translate information from one form to another
- use information to identify patterns, report trends, draw inferences and report conclusions
- present reasoned explanations for phenomena, patterns and relationships
- make predictions and put forward hypotheses
- apply knowledge, including principles, to novel situations
- bring together knowledge, principles and concepts from different areas of physics, and apply them in a particular context
- evaluate information and hypotheses
- demonstrate an awareness of the limitations of physical theories and models.
These assessment objectives cannot be precisely specified in the syllabus content because questions testing such skills may be based on information that is unfamiliar to the candidate. In answering such questions, candidates are required to use principles and concepts that are within the syllabus and apply them in a logical, reasoned or deductive manner to a novel situation. Questions testing these objectives will often begin with one of the following words: predict, suggest, deduce, calculate or determine.
All school candidates are required to enter for Papers 1 and 2.
||Type of Paper
Paper 1 (1 h, 30 marks)
This paper will consist of 30 multiple-choice questions. All questions will be of the direct choice type with 4 options.
Paper 2 (2 h, 80 marks)
This paper will consist of 2 sections. All answers will be written in spaces provided on the Question Paper.
Section A (60 marks)
This section will consist of a variable number of structured questions including one or two data-based questions, all compulsory. The data-based question(s) will constitute 15–20 marks.
Section B (20 marks)
This section will consist of two 20-mark questions of which candidates will answer one. The questions will require candidates to integrate knowledge and understanding from different areas of the syllabus.
Weighting of Assessment Objectives
|Knowledge with understanding
||Papers 1, 2
|Handling, applying and evaluating information
||Papers 1, 2
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