IA Physics is a definite step-up from A-level, more so than some other IA subject. Many people will find it tough compared to other subjects due to the change in pace from secondary school Physics. As with Maths, Supervisions are crucial for this subject due to the challenging concepts you cover. To get the most from them you should make sure you have had a solid attempt at any work set. If you do get stuck, there’s a good chance someone else is also stuck, so ask other students, working in groups is very helpful for that as well. Remember that your supervisor is there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask them lots of questions in your supervision.

The Physics course covers the fundamentals of Physics, including Dynamics and Electromagnetism, Oscillations & Waves as well as a bit of Special Relativity and Quantum Theory.

Physics practicals are once a fortnight in the Cavendish Laboratory, and last for four hours. It can sometimes be a bit of a rush to get them done, so it’s best to get there on time. The practicals in the first term get off to a slightly slow start (rolling a ball down a slope…) as they introduce ideas required for the later ones, but be assured they do get more interesting! They are continuously assessed, but don’t worry too much about this, one mark won’t make a big difference for your grade. Nobody cares if you get the ‘correct’ answer or not, the main thing assessors do care about is whether you’ve considered lots of possible sources of error in the experiment.

You’ll also have to write two formal reports: The first on one of the Michaelmas term practicals over the Christmas holidays, the second over Easter holidays. The first is a shorter version, basically a practice exercise for the longer one over Easter. Both reports are assessed but only count for a small percentage. Don’t worry about them too much; you are given guides and an example report to help you. Again it is quite important to consider sources of error, as well as write scientifically (write correct units for every result etc).

All the material you need is in the lecture notes, but it can sometimes be difficult to understand some of the concepts. Supervisions are useful for this, but if you’re brave you could also try reading the Feynman Lectures on Physics. These are very lengthy and go way beyond the scope of the course, but some sections are very readable. They’re expensive, but if you’re a hardcore Physicist they could be worth the investment, as they explain most topics from first principles incredibly well and will be useful in later years.

Link to course website:

The Natural Sciences Society of St John's College