Physics, defined as “the study of matter and energy over space and time”, seems at first glance deceptively straightforward. Yet its constituent branches of study are far from simple; they are complex, dynamic, and at times even uncertain. As a result, H2 A Level Physics never fails to challenge and confound students islandwide. The vast amounts of content to be learnt are required to be applied critically at almost every turn of the A Level Physics Paper. Among the 3 sciences on offer at the A Levels, Physics stands out as the most rigorously application-heavy subject. That is why at Zenith, our JC Physics tuition programme develops rational and application-driven thought processes to help our tutees tackle the A Level Physics syllabus with ease. Fundamentally, H2 Physics opens the door to a wide range of career paths as it produces knowledge and skills highly coveted in Singapore’s technologically-driven economy. With that said, let's dive right into a comprehensive A Level Physics revision guide brought to you by the top Physics tuition center in Singapore!
Unpacking the syllabus
Fig 1. An overview of the H2 Physics curriculum
From Fig.1, we see that underpinning the entirety of the A Level Physics syllabus is the topic of Measurements. Due to the different facets of Physics, it is inevitable that there will be a variety of techniques needed to collate and calculate the types of data required. Therefore, measurements do not feature as a standalone topic per se in the A Level Physics syllabus, but are an important backbone that allows the complexities of Physics to come into existence.
Regarding its difference to O Level Physics, it should come as a relief that A Level Physics does not overly deviate from the content that you have previously learnt in Secondary School. Unlike Chemistry and Biology, A Level Physics builds on a relatively unchanged core of four chapters that characterize the O Level syllabus. These four are namely: Newtonian Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Oscillations and Waves, and Electricity and Magnetism. However, the A Level Physics syllabus demands a deeper and more critical inquiry into the content of these four key pillars. One pillar that may be foreign to you would be that of Modern Physics which touches on Nuclear and Quantum Physics.
A breakdown of the total mark allocation shows that Paper 1 (MCQ) stands at 15% of the entire A Level Physics grade, Paper 2 (Structured Questions) consists of 30%, Paper 3 (Longer Structured Questions) with 35%, and Paper 4 (Practical) which forms the last 20%. Hence, it is of paramount importance that you invest most of your time into scoring well for the structured questions portion of the A Level Physics paper, since a significant ⅔ of it contributes to your final grade!
Tip 1: Adopt a mathematically-sound thought process
The most important revision technique that you should begin with is to appreciate the role of math in allowing A Level Physics to flourish. Math provides the foundational basis for the systems in Physics to flourish and supports a variety of laws that are pivotal to a physicist’s workings. For instance, each unique topic in A Level Physics contains a multitude of laws, concepts, and formulae that are usually interrelated with one another. Take the formula for the specific heat capacity of a substance, which simply put, is defined by the amount of heat needed to produce a unit change in temperature per unit mass (Fig 2.):
Fig 2. The formula for specific heat capacity and the Power formula with interchangeable variables
Where the specific latent heat, c, is obtained by dividing the total heat supplied, Q, over the product of the substance’s mass with the change in temperature. Or the formula for power delivered by a component (Fig 2.), P, which can be at any one time, the current I multiplied by the voltage V, where V can be again represented by the product of I and R, resistance. From here, we see how math lends credence to two important pillars of A Level Physics, Thermodynamics and Electricity, and that the formulas can be fluid and interchangeable, requiring adept mathematical minds to tinker with. This applies very much to the other chapters of Forces, Waves, and even Quantum Physics.
That is why, at Zenith, we aim to cultivate mathematically-inclined A Level Physics students, with a keen eye for spotting the skeletal math structure that defines each individual exam question. Understanding the mathematical beauty of A Level Physics allows you to see through even the most challenging problems easily! If you’re in need of help with mathematics, Zenith also offers an excellent JC Mathematics program for all students!
Tip 2: Applying concepts contextually
Another important revision technique is the ability to mould the concepts you have learnt to fit the requirements of different question models, especially for A Level Physics where close to every question demands active application of content. This is a key skill that our JC Physics tuition programme seeks to develop in our tutees, which identifies closely with one of the assessment objectives of the A Level Physics syllabus: “Knowledge with understanding”.
Fig 3. An A Level question on Magnetism
With reference to Fig 3, a typical “Magnetism” based question at the A Level Physics papers, we see that students are expected to closely study the diagram in question and then make informed inferences based on the given parameters of the drawn model. This means that you cannot blindly regurgitate content, because you are bound by the demands of the Physics system in the given question. In particular, we see how three important concepts of Magnetism (Faraday’s Law, Lenz’s Law, and Fleming’s Left-Hand Rule) are integrated in accordance with the question’s fixed structure, in this case, a rectangular magnetic field generating coil. This highlights how students are required to fit the multitudes of content learnt into specific requirements in a coherent and scientifically sound manner.
Fig 4. A continuation of Fig 3 demanding application of math
In addition, understanding the relation of mathematical concepts and theories (as in tip 1) with the demands of the question is also equally important (Fig 4.). Over here, we can only arrive at the correct magnetic flux linkage value if we extract our base values from the given magnetic coil as in Fig 3.
The above question types demonstrate how A Level Physics students are required to, firstly, integrate the knowledge of Physics in their heads with complex mathematical concepts, and then subsequently to fit specific question models. But fret not, for at Singapore’s top Physics tuition center, we constantly go the extra mile to mentor our students, ensuring that they are able to seamlessly blend their knowledge of Physics, mathematical concepts, and contextualization skills together.
Tip 3: Practice, practice, practice!
The final key revision tip is to practice! For Papers 2 and 3 of the A Level Physics syllabus, applying content to novel question types is a very crucial skill. That is because for the MCQ portion, adopting a strategy of elimination through logical and methodological calculations can be much more effective. There is simply no more need to tediously phrase your answers to fit the structure of the question, as we otherwise do in Papers 2 and 3.
Fig 5. A MCQ question on the topic of gases
From Fig 5., we note that we can arrive at the final answer, A, through a relatively straightforward calculation of Work done (W)= Pressure (P) x Change in volume (Delta V). While mathematical foundations are still called upon, there becomes less of a need for Physics A Level students to detail long lines of theory and math to fit the skeleton of the question. What is required is more mindful practice, given the tight time frame of 1 hour allocated for the MCQs. It is extremely important that students answer the Paper 1 questions accurately and speedily; there is simply no time to waste. Over time, grinding out MCQs from ten-year series and past year papers will allow you to fine-tune just that skill, securing you a precious 15% of the total A Level Physics grade.
Lastly, let’s not neglect the practical portion of the A Level Physics exam, Paper 4, which at 20% overall could make or break that coveted A. Being able to confidently conduct A Level Physics practicals demands high levels of practice and hard work since the lab assignment can only be derived from one of multiple topics! Don’t fall into the trap of dismissing this section of the examinations as many other students have done.
In summary, A Level Physics is complex and extremely application-centric in nature. Yet we hope that our revision guide has identified a general guide that can help you to do better in the A Level Physics examinations. At the top JC Physics tuition center in Singapore, Zenith advocates a fun and supportive learning culture that aims to propel our students to their desired distinctions.
We hope you’ve found this A Level Physics revision guide insightful. Zenith’s JC Physics tuition program welcomes you here with open arms!