First Steps in Physics

Now – as the new school year finally gets under way – is probably a good time to talk a little bit about starting out in A level physics and the value of setting off on the right foot.

One of the very first things that I urge all of my physics tutees to do is to download and print out a copy of the exam board's syllabus! This is very easy to do, so there is genuinely no excuse for not doing it, yet I marvel at how few students actually do do so (and how often teachers neglect to get their students to do it too, at least until the exams are imminent!).

The syllabus is like your physics road map, helping you to navigate the wild and varied landscape of your A level course. Physics syllabuses do vary (some are much more useful and intelligible documents than others), but in general they outline exactly what you need to know and usefully indicate where particular topics fit in with the rest of the course.

As young adults it is incumbent upon you to share responsibility for your own learning. Whilst your school teachers have a duty to teach you physics properly so that you can successfully pass your exams, it doesn't necessarily follow that you can rely upon them to do the hard work for you, nor should you be complacent that every single tiny little wrinkle of the A level physics course will be covered to the requisite level (of course it should be, but it would imprudent for you to take it for granted).

By using your A level physics syllabus as a working document throughout your course you can use it as a dependable checklist of topics as they are completed in class, and as a handy checklist of your knowledge and understanding as you revise for your exams.

At this stage in the year such matters may seem a long way off or simply unimportant; the road to mastering A level physics is a long one (with occasional pitfalls along the way), but every journey begins with a single step and with your trusty ‘physics map’ in hand you will assuredly have every chance of completing the journey and reaching your ultimate destination!

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