The physics syllabus aims to give students both an understanding of the fundamental principles of physics and their application to everyday life. It offers a general education in physics for all students, enabling them to develop an understanding of the scientific method and their ability to observe, to think logically, and to communicate effectively. Science, technology and society (STS) is an integral part of the syllabus so that students can be aware of the principles of the applications of physics in the everyday world. The physics studied is broken into eight topics;
(a) six compulsory
(b) two option sections (one to be done)
Compulsory sections are:
1. Optics / Waves: the study of light and sound and real life applications of the theory
2. Mechanics: time, space, distance, speed and acceleration
3. Heat: changes of state, energy conversions and mathematical problems
4. Electricity: develops on from simple circuits to more detailed concepts
5. Electricity and Magnetism: gravity, relationship between electricity and magnetism, study of how a motor works, ac. and dc. circuits and phenomena with real world applications
6. Atomic Physics: cathode rays, x-rays, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, nuclear reactors and real world applications
Two optional sections are:
1. Particle Physics: recent type of physics, delving into the new discoveries leading to a better understanding of the formation of the universe and where we came from
2. Applied Electricity: detailed study of electricity and the working of a motor developing from electricity already studied
At Higher level, there is a deeper, more quantitative treatment of physics. The two option sections are omitted from the ordinary level course.
The course also consists of 24 core mandatory experiments complimenting each section in an aim to develop students’ technical skills and enhance understanding and reinforce key concepts.
Leaving Certificate Physics is assessed by means of one terminal examination paper at each level. Students are required to keep a record of their practical work over the two years of the course. The Leaving Cert physics exam is three hours in duration.
Answer 3 out of 4 questions
120 marks: 40 marks per question
Questions are based on experimental procedures and use of results
Answer 5 out of 8 questions
280 marks: 56 marks per question
Questions are more broad and theory based
While there is an element of maths in the physics course, honours maths is not a requirement to do honours physics. Students should not avoid physics on the basis of not having honours maths. It is entirely possible to get on well in honours physics without honours maths.
Pupils should become able to draw and read graphs and be competent in using a calculator throughout the course. The physics syllabus has strong links with the other science subjects especially chemistry. There are strands of physics which overlap with woodwork and construction especially the electricity and heat sections.
Pupils who will gain the most from studying physics are those who have an interest in science at Junior Cert level and those who enjoy learning about how things work. The science, technology and society section allows students the chance to see where the physics they are learning applies as in TVs, car motors and electricity in the home and also, to see some of the industrial applications of certain topics.
It should be noted that, where student numbers allow, an ordinary class is provided in sixth year. The division of students into higher level and this ordinary level class will be based on student’s exam results throughout fifth year. [The vast majority of the fifth year course covers ordinary level topics]