GCSE Physics is divided into two papers.

The first paper assesses the following: energy, electricity, particle model of matter and atomic structure. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.

The second paper assesses the following: forces, waves, magnetism and electromagnetism and Space physics. Questions in the second paper may also draw on an understanding of energy changes and transfers due to heating, mechanical and electrical work and the concept of energy conservation from energy and electricity. It is a written exam of one hour and forty-five minutes, accounting for 50% of the GCSE. The exam questions feature a combination of multiple choice, structured, closed short answer and open response.

There are three assessment objectives, which are specified for students. Please find our full breakdown of GCSE Physics below, with requisite assessment details and objectives.

Paper 1

Topic 1: Energy
Energy changes in a system, and the ways energy is stored before and after such changes
Energy stores and systems
Changes in energy
Energy changes in systems
Conservation and dissipation of energy
Energy transfers in a system
National and global energy resources

Topic 2: Electricity
Current, potential difference and resistance
Standard circuit diagram symbols
Electrical charge and current
Current, resistance and potential difference
Series and parallel circuits
Domestic uses and safety
Direct and alternating potential difference
Mains electricity
Energy transfers
Energy transfers in everyday appliances
The National Grid
Static electricity
Static charge
Electric fields

Topic 3: Particle model of matter
Changes of state and the particle model
Density of materials
Changes of state
Internal energy and energy transfers
Internal energy
Temperature changes in a system and specific heat capacity
Changes of heat and specific latent heat
Particle model and pressure
Particle motion in gases
Pressure in gases
Increasing the pressure of a gas

Topic 4: Atomic Structure
Atoms and isotopes
The structure of an atom
Mass number, atomic number and isotopes
The development of the model of the atom
Atoms and nuclear radiation
Radioactive decay and nuclear radiation
Nuclear equations
Half-lives and the random nature of radioactive decay
Radioactive contamination
Hazards and uses of radioactive emissions and of background radiation
Background radiation
Different half-lives of radioactive isotopes
Uses of nuclear radiation
Nuclear fission and fusion
Nuclear fission
Nuclear fusion

Paper 2

Topic 1: Forces
Forces and their interactions
Scalar and vector quantities
Contact and non-contact forces
Resultant forces
Work done and energy transfer
Forces and elasticity
Moments, levers and gears
Pressure and pressure differences in fluids
Pressure in a fluid
Atmospheric pressure
Forces and motion
Distance and displacement
The distance–time relationship
Newton’s First Law
Newton’s Second Law
Newton’s Third Law
Forces and braking
Stopping distance
Reaction time
Factors affecting braking distance 1
Factors affecting braking distance 2
Momentum is a property of moving objects
Conservation of momentum
Changes in momentum

Topic 2: Waves
Waves in air, fluids and solids
Transverse and longitudinal waves
Properties of waves
Reflection of waves
Sound waves
Waves for detection and exploration
Electromagnetic waves
Types of electromagnetic waves
Properties of electromagnetic waves 1
Properties of electromagnetic waves 2
Uses and applications of electromagnetic waves
Visible light
Black body radiation
Emission and absorption of infrared radiation
Perfect black bodies and radiation

Topic 3: magnetism and electromagnetism
Permanent and induced magnetism, magnetic forces and fields
Poles of a magnet
Magnetic fields
The motor effect
Fleming’s left-hand rule
Electric motors
Induced potential, transformers and the National Grid
Induced potential
Uses of the generator effect

Topic 4: Space Physics
Solar system; stability of orbital motions; satellites
Our solar system
The life cycle of a star
Orbital motion, natural and artificial satellites

Key Ideas

The complex and diverse phenomena of the natural and man-made world can be described in terms of a small number of key ideas in physics. These key ideas are of universal application, and we have embedded them throughout the subject content. They underpin many aspects of the science assessment and will therefore be assessed across all papers. Key ideas in physics include:

• the use of models, as in the particle model of matter or the wave models of light and of sound
• the concept of cause and effect in explaining such links as those between force and acceleration, or between changes in atomic nuclei and radioactive emissions
• the phenomena of ‘action at a distance’ and the related concept of the field as the key to analysing electrical, magnetic and gravitational effects
• that differences, for example between pressures or temperatures or electrical potentials, are the drivers of change
• that proportionality, for example between weight and mass of an object or between force and extension in a spring, is an important aspect of many models in science
• that physical laws and models are expressed in mathematical form.

Assessment details

 Assessment Objectives
The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives:

  • AO1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific techniques and procedures.
  • AO2 Apply knowledge and understanding of: scientific ideas; scientific enquiry, techniques and procedures.
  • AO3 Analyse information and ideas to: interpret and evaluate; make judgements and draw conclusions; develop and improve experimental procedures.