GCSE Physics - Syllabus, Past Papers, Questions and Solutions

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GCSE Physics

Before going on with gcse physics, here's a brief on physics itself. Physics is the study of the physical universe. It studies energy, forces, mechanics, atoms and waves. Physics is one of the oldest sciences. Initially, physics was considered as part of natural philosophy but with the scientific revolution of the 17th century it emerged, along with other natural sciences, as a unique field of research on its own.

Physics interacts with other scientific disciplines such as biophysics and new ideas in physics are constantly being developed, as well as new products and innovation in existing products.

There are several bodies that conduct GCSE physics online exams and offer qualifications in GCSE Physics. Though each has its own syllabus, the general coverage of topics is about the same. These bodies are

  • AQA
  • CCEA
  • Edexcel
  • Eduqas
  • OCR
  • WJEC

We shall take a look at the syllabus of each body, so that you get a clear idea of what each body requires and thus will be able to make an informed choice on the examining entity for physics gcse.

AQA Physics Syllabus

AQA is an education charity that conducts GCSE exams, among others. It also offers resources for teachers such as research programs and training. AQA conducts a majority of the GCSEs and A-Level exams in the UK, and its qualifications are accepted across the world.
The AQA Syllabus hold following physics gcse topics:

EnergyChanges in energy stores 
Work, power and efficiency 
Energy and heating 
Energy demands
ElectricityElectric circuits 
Mains electricity 
Static electricity
Particle model of matterDensity of materials 
Temperature changes and energy 
Particles in gases
Atomic structureModels of the atom 
Atoms, isotopes and ions 
Radioactive decay 
Uses and dangers of radiation 
Nuclear fission and fusion
ForcesScalar and vector quantities 
Contact and non-contact forces 
Forces and elasticity 
Moments, levers and gears 
Pressure in fluids 
Describing motion 
Forces, acceleration and Newton's Laws 
Momentum - Higher
WavesProperties of waves 
Transverse and longitudinal waves 
Reflection and refraction 
Sound and ultrasound - Higher 
Black body radiation
Magnetism and electromagnetismMagnetic fields 
Electromagnetic induction - Higher 
Transformers - Higher 
Space physicsThe Solar System 
The life cycle of a star 
The expanding Universe 

CCEA GCSE Physics Syllabus

CCEA, or Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, is a non-departmental public body funded by the Department of Education (DE).

The CCEA GCSE Syllabus for Physics is as follows:

MotionTypes of motion 
Distance-time graphs 
ForceForce and Newton's laws 
Mass and weight 
Hooke's law 
Moment of a force
Kinetic theoryMeasuring density 
States of matter
EnergyEnergy forms 
Energy resources 
Work, power and efficiency 
Kinetic and gravitational potential energy 
Heat transfer
Atomic and nuclear physicsThe structure of the atom 
The structure of the nucleus 
Radioactive decay and half-life 
The dangers and uses of radiation 
Nuclear fission 
Nuclear fusion
WavesTypes of wave 
Amplitude, wavelength and frequency 
Reflection and refraction of waves 
Echoes and sonar 
Electromagnetic waves and radar
LightReflection and refraction of light 
Critical angle and total internal reflection - Higher 
ElectricityConductors and insulators 
Charge, current and voltage 
Ohm’s law, electric power and energy 
Calculating resistance 
Electricity in the home
Magnetism and electromagnetismMagnetic fields 
The motor effect - Higher
The a.c. generator 
The transformer 
Space physicsThe solar system 
The Universe 
Space travel and life on other planets
PracticalsSpeed and height 
Hooke's law 
The principle of moments 
Mass and volume 
Personal power 
Angles of incidence and refraction 
Ohm's law 
The resistance of a metallic conductor 
The strength of a magnetic field 

Edexcel Physics Syllabus

Pearson, an academic body, offers qualifications in various subjects under the brand name of Pearson Edexcel. These qualifications are accepted by a wide number of institutions and employers across the world. It also gives resources like edexcel gcse physics past papers for students and also provides technical support to teachers.

The syllabus for the Edexcel GCSE physics is as follows:

  • Key concepts of Physics: Base units and derived units in the SI Units system
Topics Sub-topics
Motion and forcesScalar and vector quantities 
Newton's laws 
Momentum - Higher
Motion of vehicles
Conservation of energyChanges in energy 
Energy sources
WavesProperties of waves 
Reflection and refraction 
Sound and ultrasound
Light and the EM spectrumThe behaviour of light 
Electromagnetic waves
Nuclear radiation 
Uses and dangers of radioactivity 
Nuclear power
AstronomyChanges in energy 
Power and efficiency
Forces and their effectsForces 
Effects of forces 
Electricity and circuitsElectric circuits 
Mains electricity 
Static electricity
Magnetism and the motor effectMagnets and magnetic fields 
Electromagnets - Higher 
Electromagnetic inductionElectromagnetic induction 
The particle modelDensity of materials 
Temperature changes and energy 
Particles in gases
Forces and matterForces and elasticity 
Pressure in fluids

Eduqas Physics Syllabus

Eduqas is the English brand name of the WJEC examination board. Qualifications that were being offered in England by WJEC are now called Eduqas and those offered in Wales continue to be called WJEC.

The Eduqas GCSE Physics syllabus is as follows:

Topics Sub-topics
EnergyEnergy changes in a system 
Specific heat capacity and latent heat 
Conservation, dissipation and energy sources 
Energy transfers
Particle model of matterDensity of materials 
Particles in gases 
ForcesForces and their interactions 
Forces and change of shape 
Pressure and pressure differences in fluids 
Moments, levers and gears 
Forces and motionDescribing motion using graphs and equations 
Forces, acceleration and Newton's laws of motion 
Safety in vehicles
Waves in matterProperties of waves 
Reflection and refraction 
Sound and ultrasound - Higher 
Light and EM wavesElectromagnetic waves 
Black body radiation
ElectricityCurrent, potential difference and resistance 
Series and parallel circuits 
Static electricity - forces and electric fields 
Domestic uses and safety
Magnetism and electromagnetismPermanent and induced magnetism, magnetic forces and fields 
Magnetic effects of currents and the motor effect 
Induced potential and transformers 
Atomic structureNuclear atom and isotopes 
Absorption and emission of ionising radiations 
Nuclear fission and fusion
Space physicsSolar System, stability of orbital motions, satellites 
Red-shift, Big Bang and universal expansion

OCR 21st Century Physics Syllabus

OCR stands for Oxford, Cambridge and RSA. It conducts tests and provides certification in A-Level and GCSE in a large number of subjects.
The syllabus for OCR 21st Century is as follows:

Topics Sub-topics
Radiation and wavesWhat are the risks and benefits of using radiations? 
What is climate change and what is the evidence for it? 
How do waves behave? 
What happens when light and sound meet different materials?
Sustainable energyHow much energy do we use? 
How can electricity be generated?
Electric circuitsWhat is electric charge? 
What determines the current in an electric circuit? 
How do series and parallel circuits work? 
What determines the rate of energy transfer in a circuit? 
What are magnetic fields? 
How do electric motors work? - Higher 
What is the process inside an electric generator? - Higher
Explaining motionWhat are forces? 
How can we describe motion? 
What is the connection between forces and motion? 
How can we describe motion in terms of energy transfers? 
Radioactive materialsWhat is radioactivity? 
How can radioactive materials be used safely? 
How can radioactive materials be used to provide energy? 
Matter - models and explanationsHow does energy transform matter? 
How does the particle model explain the effects of heating? 
How does the particle model relate to material under stress? 
How does the particle model relate to pressure in fluids? 
How can scientific models help us understand the Big Bang? 
Ideas about scienceWhat needs to be considered when investigating a phenomenon? 
What processes are needed to draw conclusions from data? 
How are scientific explanations developed? 
How do science and technology impact society? 

OCR Gateway GCSE Physics Syllabus

The OCR Gateway Syllabus for GCSE Physics is as follows:

Topics Sub-topics
EnergyEnergy stores and transfers 
Power and efficiency 
ElectricityStatic and charge 
MatterThe particle model and density 
Energy, temperature and change of state 
Particles in gases 
RadioactivityRadioactive emissions 
Uses and dangers of radioactivity
ForcesScalar and vector quantities 
Newton's laws 
Momentum, work and power 
Forces and elasticity 
Mass, weight and gravitational field strength 
Moments, levers and gears 
Waves in matterProperties of waves 
Reflection, refraction, and sound waves 
Properties, uses and hazards of electromagnetic waves 
Lenses and ray diagrams 
Visible light and colour 
Magnetism and magnetic forcesMagnetic fields 
Uses of magnetism - Higher 
Electromagnetic induction - Higher 
Transformers - Higher 
Global challengesEveryday motion 
Energy demands and resources 
The National Grid and mains electricity 
The expanding Universe 
The Solar System, orbital motion and stars 
Uses of waves and electromagnetic radiation 

WJEC  GCSE Physics Syllabus

WJEC is the largest academic awarding body in Wales. A charitable organisation, it can trace its roots back to 1948. Since 2015 it is the sole qualification provider for state funded schools and colleges for a large number of academic courses.

The WJEC GCSE Physics syllabus is as follows:

Topics Sub-topics
Electricity, energy and wavesElectric circuits 
Generating electricity 
Making use of energy 
Domestic electricity 
Features of waves 
The total internal reflection of waves 
Seismic waves 
Kinetic theory 
Forces, space and radioactivityDistance, speed and acceleration 
Newton’s Laws 
Work and energy 
Further motion concepts 
Stars and planets 
The Universe 
Types of radiation 
Nuclear decay and nuclear energy

Methods to Prepare GCSE Physics

As can be seen, the GCSE Physics syllabus in most of the bodies is very detailed. It therefore helps to begin preparation for the examination well in advance by using GCSE physics equation sheet

The best way forward is to first pick the awarding body, whether AQA, Edexcel or any of the others. Once you have decided on the body, you can obtain sample test papers for the syllabus of that particular organisation. This helps you prepare fully using the right syllabus.

Also check online if there are video tutorials on the GCSE physics specification or specific topics for the syllabus chosen. These are very helpful in grasping the GCSE physics equations, concepts and details of each topic.

Once you have studied the topics you can attempt the test papers. Approach the gcse physics past papers and practice tests exactly as you would the final examination. Set a start and end time and inform family and friends that you are not to be disturbed for the duration of the practice. This will help you learn to pace yourself so that you answer the papers accurately and with enough time to spare to check your answers.
Practising often and diligently will help you identify topics that you haven’t grasped well. You can then study those topics more thoroughly so that you can tackle the GCSE Physics exam confidently.

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