Subject information


Physics at Bales College is an exciting and challenging subject that will help you to build up your problem solving, research and analytical skills.  It is concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy including: mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, the structure of the atom and the physical nature of the universe.

We offer an educational experience that enables every student to make the most of their abilities and, through a sympathetic approach, gain a self confidence that will serve them well as they progress through tertiary education.

In addition to the generous allocation of teaching hours, students will attend a number of educational trips; for example: The Greenwich Observatory, The Science Museum, Thorpe Park and the Emirates Aviation Experience.


Physics, along with mathematics, forms the basis of all science and technology.  In its purest sense, it is the study of the physical world and the only goal is knowledge for its own sake.  However, its link with technology is inescapable and there are numerous examples where this search for knowledge has led to technological advances that have had a huge impact on society.  Possibly one of the most significant was the development of LASER light which, when originally produced, was hailed as ‘a solution looking for a problem’.

There is a huge underlying simplicity to physics as it tries to explain the world in the most basic terms; this, paradoxically, makes it quite a difficult but a hugely rewarding subject.  If you are not certain what career path you wish to follow, physics is an excellent choice as it will open so many doors for you.


Physics is an incredibly useful, if not essential, subject for the majority of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.  Physicists are found everywhere in industry, transport, government, universities, the armed forces, the secret service, games companies, research labs and more.

Physics is especially helpful for jobs that involve building things and developing new technologies, including: engineering, astronomy, robotics, renewable energies, computer science, communications, space exploration, science writing, sports and games technology, research and nanotechnology.

However, students who choose to study physics should not be under the commonly held belief that they have made a decision that precludes them from a non scientific or technical career.  Due to the challenging and problem solving nature of the subject, it is highly regarded by employers from all areas.


At Bales College, we are very proud of the fact that we do not force students into certain option groups and the answer to this question is that any subject goes well with physics; particularly if you are undecided about your career path as mention in the previous section.  If you choose it due to an interest in pursuing physics or a related subject, such as engineering, it is almost certain that you would have to study mathematics as well.  The other obvious subjects would be Chemistry and, to a lesser extent, Biology – unless you wish to study medicine.


The Pearson Edexcel Level 3 Advanced GCE in Physics consists of three externally examined papers and the Science Practical Endorsement.

The content for this qualification is presented in a concept-led approach that begins with a study of the laws, theories and models of physics and finishes with an exploration of their practical applications.

Overview of Content

Paper 1: Advanced Physics I

This Paper examines the following topics:

  • Working as a Physicist
  • Mechanics
  • Electric Circuits
  • Further Mechanics
  • Electric and Magnetic Fields
  • Nuclear and Particle Physics

Paper 2: Advanced Physics II

  • Working as a Physicist
  • Materials
  • Waves and Particle Nature of Light
  • Thermodynamics
  • Space
  • Nuclear Radiation
  • Gravitational Fields
  • Oscillations

Paper 3: General and Practical Principles of Physics

Questions in this paper may draw on any of the topics in this specification.

The paper will include synoptic questions that may draw on two or more different topics.

The paper will include questions that assess conceptual and theoretical understanding of experimental methods (indirect practical skills) that will draw on students’ experiences of the core practicals.

Physics Practical Endorsement

The assessment of practical skills is a compulsory requirement of the course of study for A level physics.  It will appear on all students’ certificates as a separately reported result, alongside the overall grade for the qualification.

Students must carry out a minimum of 12 practical activities from the prescribed subject content.  The practical activities prescribed in the specification provide opportunities for demonstrating competence in all the skills identified, together with the use of apparatus and techniques.  However, students can also demonstrate these competencies in any additional practical activity undertaken throughout the course of study.


Edexcel A Level Physics Student Book 1

Hodder Education

Mike Benn and Graham George

Edexcel A Level Physics Student Book 2

Hodder Education

Tim Akrill and Graham George



Physics World (IOP Publishing)

Physics Review (Hodder Education)

New Scientist (Reed Business Information)


The following list of authors is far from comprehensive but just gives an idea about the of popular science books that are available.  It is highly recommended that at least one of these books is read every term.

Richard Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988)

Richard Feynman was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the development of quantum electrodynamics.  He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

Feynman developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behaviour of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world.  In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time.

He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and became known to a wide public in the 1980s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.


There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

Six Easy Pieces

Six Not So Easy Pieces

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

Stephen Hawking (born 8 January 1942)

Stephen Hawking is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.  Hawking was the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.  His book, A Brief History of Time, appeared on the British Sunday Times best-seller list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

Hawking has a rare early-onset, slow-progressing form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that has gradually paralysed him over the decades.  He now communicates using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech-generating device.

In 1993 his synthesiser voice was recorded for the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking”, and in 1999 for an appearance on The Simpsons.


  • A Brief History of Time
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays
  • The Universe in a Nutshell
  • On The Shoulders of Giants
  • God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History
  • The Dreams That Stuff Is Made of
  • My Brief History

Paul Davies (born 22 April 1946)

Paul Davies is an English physicist, writer and broadcaster, a professor at Arizona State University as well as the Director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science.  He is affiliated with the Institute for Quantum Studies at Chapman University in California.  He has held previous academic appointments at the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, University of Adelaide and Macquarie University.  His research interests are in the fields of cosmology, quantum field theory, and astrobiology.  He has proposed that a one-way trip to Mars could be a viable option.


  • The Physics of Time Asymmetry
  • The Runaway Universe
  • Stardoom
  • Other Worlds
  • The Search for Gravity Waves
  • The Edge of Infinity
  • The Accidental Universe
  • Quantum Fields in Curved Space
  • God and the New Physics
  • Superforce
  • The Ghost in the Atom
  • The Cosmic Blueprint
  • Superstrings: A Theory of Everything
  • The Matter Myth
  • The Mind of God
  • The Last Three Minutes
  • Are We Alone?
  • About Time: Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution
  • The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life
  • How to Build a Time Machine
  • The Origin of Life
  • The Goldilocks Enigma
  • Quantum Aspects of Life
  • The Eerie Silence

Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics

Jameel Sadik “Jim” Al-Khalili (Arabic: جميل صادق الخليلي‎‎; born 20 September 1962)

Jim Al- Khalili is a British Iraqi theoretical physicist, author and broadcaster.  He is currently Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey.  He has presented a number of science programmes on BBC television and is a frequent commentator about science in other British media.

In 2014, Al-Khalili was named as a RISE (Recognising Inspirational Scientists and Engineers) leader by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).  He was President of the British Humanist Association between January 2013 and January 2016.


Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines

Nucleus: A Trip into the Heart of Matter

Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed

The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Science

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology

Brian Cox (born 3 March 1968)

Brian Cox is an English physicist who serves as professor of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester.  He is best known to the public as the presenter of science programmes, especially the Wonders of… series and for popular science books, such as Why Does E=mc²? and The Quantum Universe. He has been the author or co-author of over 950 scientific publications.

Cox has been described as the natural successor for BBC’s scientific programming by both David Attenborough and Patrick Moore.  Before his academic career, Cox was a keyboard player for the bands D:Ream and Dare.


  • Why Does E=mc²? (And Why Should We Care?) with Jeff Forshaw
  • Wonders of the Solar System (with Andrew Cohen)
  • Wonders of the Universe (with Andrew Cohen)
  • The Quantum Universe (And Why Anything That Can Happen, Does) with Jeff Forshaw
  • Wonders of Life: Exploring the Most Extraordinary Phenomenon in the Universe (with Andrew Cohen)
  • Human Universe (with Andrew Cohen)
  • Forces of Nature (with Andrew Cohen)
  • Universal: A Guide to the Cosmos with Jeff Forshaw

William McGuire “Bill” Bryson ( born December 8, 1951)

Bill Bryson is a best-selling Anglo-American author of books on travel, the English language, science, and other non-fiction topics.  Born in the United States, he has been a resident of Britain for most of his adult life, returning to the United States between 1995 and 2003. He served as the chancellor of Durham University from 2005 to 2011.  Bryson came to prominence in the United Kingdom with the publication of Notes from a Small Island (1995), an exploration of Britain, and its accompanying television series. He received widespread recognition again with the publication of A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003), a book widely acclaimed for its accessible communication of science.

Scientific Publications:

  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • A Really Short History of Nearly Everything