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Physics is a subject which many people see as essential to understanding the world around us. It’s the how things work and why. It is reputedly the most fundamental Science subject and encompasses everything in the Universe, from the smallest atom to the largest galaxy.
Physics is about finding out how the universe works. Over the centuries, by doing Physics, scientists have gained some knowledge of the workings of the Universe and have used that knowledge to develop civilisation and give us the lifestyle we enjoy today. For example, different methods of electricity generation provides us with the energy needed for our TVs, microwaves, hairdryers, heating systems etc. We will follow in the footsteps of scientists and their discoveries about light, sound, pressure, space and many other areas.
Studying Physics helps your analytical skills, enhances problem solving and generally just makes you think logically.
The aim of the Physics Department is to provide pupils with a wide knowledge and understanding of Physics and its applications and an ability to apply this knowledge to unseen challenges and situations.
This is done through the provision of a high quality of teaching and learning, following the syllabuses laid down by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
In order to address our aims we have the following objectives:

  • To promote an appreciation of the world around us and to encourage pupils to use their developing skills to investigate our environment and our role within it.
  • To enable our pupils to reach their full potential, and obtain as high a qualification as they are capable of, so that they can take full advantage of the rewards of that success.
  • To allow pupils to develop their life skills, both socially and academically.
  • To assist pupils to see the relevance of physics to their everyday life
  • To assist pupils in assessing evidence about environmental, social and moral questions relating to physics and its applications.
  • To encourage pupils to enjoy the study of physics.
  • To prepare pupils to go on to further study in physics and applied physical science subjects.

Physics is a science which provides many career opportunities. It is essential for further studies in areas, such as, engineering, electronics, telecommunications, armed forces, civil service and all science based careers. It would also be useful for trades such as electricians, car mechanics, heating engineers and many others.
When choosing physics, it should be a subject which you have enjoyed studying the science course in initial years at secondary school. It is an extremely valuable subject to gain an award in, whether you intend to study it in the future or not.

S3 Physics

The course is an excellent balance of theory and practical (experiments) and by completing this course; learners will develop important and relevant skills, attitudes and attributes related to physics, including: scientific and analytical thinking skills; an understanding of the role of physics in industry and the environment and understanding of relevant applications of physics in society.
Course Content -Electricity and Energy
Conservation of Energy
Electric charge carriers and electric fields
Practical electronic and electric circuits
Ohm’s Law
Electrical power
Specific heat capacity
Gas laws and the kinetic model
As well as developing specific scientific and investigative skills, learners will also gain valuable transferrable skills, for learning life and work.

S4-5 National 4 and National 5

The main units of study for National 4 and National 5 are outlined below and although these units are similar in content there is a greater degree of difficulty within the National 5 course. Learners will be opting for the subject and not the level of study. This will be discussed and decided by the class teacher.
The following links provide detailed information and documents from the SQA relating to the courses offered in the senior phase.
National 4 Physics
National 5 Physics
Unit 1 – Electricity and Energy

  • Energy conservation;
  • Heat
  • electricity

Unit 2 – Waves and Radiation

  • Waves
  • Nuclear radiation
  • Motion

Unit 3 – Dynamics and Space

  • Forces and gravity
  • Information from space
  • The position of the Earth in our universe

N4 Assessment

Added value unit
Learners will investigate a topical physics issue using knowledge and skills drawn from the 3 units above.

N5 Assessment

An Assignment worth 20 marks to be completed in school and SQA marked.
A final exam in May comprised of multiple choice and written questions.
S4 National 4 course –  S5/6 National 5 Physics
S4 National 5 course – S5/6 Higher Physics

CFE Higher Physics

The Higher Physics Course develops learners’ curiosity, interest and enthusiasm for physics in a range of contexts. The skills of scientific inquiry and investigation are developed throughout the Course, and the relevance of physics is highlighted by the study of the applications of physics in everyday contexts.
The unit topics for Cfe Higher Physics are listed as:
Electricity and Energy
The Unit covers the key areas of: Monitoring and measuring a.c., Current, potential difference, power and resistance, Electrical sources and internal resistance, Capacitors, Conductors, semiconductors and insulators and p-n junctions.
Our Dynamic Universe
The Unit covers the key areas of:
Motion – equations and graphs, Forces, energy and power, Collisions, explosions and impulse, Gravitation, Special relativity and The Expanding Universe.
Particles and waves
The Unit covers the key areas of:
The standard model, Forces on charged particles, Nuclear reactions, Wave particle duality, Interference and diffraction, Refraction of light and Spectra.
Learners will research issues, apply scientific skills and communicate information related to their findings, which will develop skills of scientific literacy.
Learners who complete this Unit will be able to:
1 Apply skills of scientific inquiry and draw on knowledge and understanding of the key areas of this Unit, to carry out an experiment/practical investigation
2 Draw on knowledge, and understanding of the key areas of this Unit and apply scientific skills
Research in Physics
The general aim of this Unit is to develop skills relevant to undertaking research in Physics. Learners will collect and synthesize information from different sources. They will plan and undertake a practical investigation and analyse results.
The Unit offers opportunities for collaborative and independent learning. Learners will develop knowledge and skills associated with collecting, recording and processing information from a number of different sources. Equipped with knowledge of standard laboratory apparatus, they will plan and undertake a practical investigation related to a chosen physics topic.

Advanced Higher Physics

Course structure
There are three knowledge based units and one research based unit.
The three knowledge based units are assessed by means of an end of unit test that assesses knowledge and understanding and problem solving. In addition, one practical investigation must be submitted.
Physics: Rotational Motion and Astrophysics (Advanced Higher)
This Unit develops knowledge and understanding and skills in physics related to rotational motion and astrophysics. It provides opportunities to develop and apply concepts and principles in a wide variety of situations involving angular motion. An astronomical perspective is developed through a study of gravitation, leading to work on general relativity and stellar physics.
Physics: Quanta and Waves (Advanced Higher)
This Unit develops knowledge and understanding and skills in physics related to quanta and waves. It provides opportunities to develop and apply concepts and principles in a wide variety of situations involving quantum theory and waves. The Unit introduces non-classical physics and considers the origin and composition of cosmic radiation. Simple harmonic motion is introduced and work on wave theory is developed.
Physics: Electromagnetism (Advanced Higher)
This Unit develops knowledge and understanding and skills in physics related to electromagnetism. It provides opportunities to develop and apply concepts and principles in a wide variety of situations involving electromagnetism. The Unit develops knowledge and understanding of electric and magnetic fields and capacitors and inductors used in d.c. and a.c. circuits.
Investigating Physics (Advanced Higher)
In this Unit, learners will develop key investigative skills. The Unit offers opportunities for independent learning set within the context of experimental physics. Learners will identify, research, plan and carry out a physics investigation of their choice.

Course Assessment

Structure of the Course assessment
The Course assessment will consist of two components: a question paper and a project.
Component 1 — question paper
The purpose of this question paper is to assess breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding from across the Units.
The question paper will assess scientific inquiry skills and analytical thinking skills.
The question paper will have 140 marks and will be scaled to 100.
The question paper will contain restricted, extended response and open-ended questions.
Marks will be distributed approximately proportionately across the Units.
The majority of the marks will be awarded for applying knowledge and understanding. The other marks will be awarded for applying scientific inquiry and problem solving skills.
Component 2 — project
The project will have 30 marks.


In this assessment the candidate will carry out an in-depth investigation of a physics topic. The topic will be chosen by the candidate, who will individually investigate/research the underlying physics of the topic. The candidate must discuss the selection of possible topics with the assessor to ensure that time is not wasted on researching topics that are unsuitable. This is an open-ended task which may involve a significant part of the work being carried out without close supervision.
The project–report offers challenge by requiring skills, knowledge and understanding to be applied in a context that is one or more of the following:
familiar but investigated in greater depth
integrating a number of familiar contexts
Prior to starting this assessment candidates should have started a physics investigation. This would normally be as part of their Investigating Physics Unit. In that Unit, candidates are required to plan and carry out a physics investigation. They should keep a record of their work as this may form the basis of their project–report. This record should include details of their research, experiments and recorded data. Typically, this should consist of three to four related experiments.
The project–report submitted to SQA must have a logical structure and should be clear, concise and easy to read.
The project–report should be between 2000 and 3000 words in length excluding the title page, contents page, tables, graphs, diagrams, calculations, references, acknowledgements and any appendices. The word count should be submitted with the project–report. If the word count exceeds the maximum by 10%, a penalty will be applied. It should be written in the past tense and the impersonal voice should be used.

Assessment Conditions

Assessors must exercise their professional responsibility in ensuring that evidence submitted by a candidate is the candidate’s own work.
This assessment will be carried out over a period of time. Candidates should start at an appropriate point in the Course. This will normally be after they have started work on the Units in the Course.
Evidence which meets the requirements of this Component of Course assessment will be between 2000 and 3000 words. The word count should be submitted with the project–report. If the word count exceeds the maximum by 10%, a penalty will be applied.
There are no restrictions on the resources to which candidates may have access.
Candidates must undertake the assessment, whatever the nature, independently. However, reasonable assistance may be provided prior to the formal assessment process taking place. The term ‘reasonable assistance’ is used to try to balance the need for support with the need to avoid giving too much assistance.
Coursework in Advanced Higher may involve candidates undertaking a larger amount of autonomous work without close supervision than they have previously undertaken. Assessors may provide guidance and support as part of the normal teaching and learning process. However, assessors should not adopt a directive role or provide specific advice on how to re-phrase, improve responses or provide model answers.
Assessor comments on the selection of a topic are appropriate before the candidate starts the task.
The requirements of the project–report should be made clear to candidates at the outset.
The project–report will be conducted under some supervision and control. This means that although candidates may complete part of the work outwith the learning and teaching setting, assessors should put in place processes for monitoring progress and ensuring that the work is the candidate’s own and that plagiarism has not taken place.
Assessors should put in place mechanisms to authenticate candidate evidence.
For example:

  • regular checkpoint/progress meetings with candidates
  • short spot-check personal interviews
  • checklists which record activity/progress
  • photographs, film or audio evidence


Gavin Crawford – Teacher of Physics
Robert McNeillage – Teacher of Physics