Of all the experimental sciences none is more fundamental than Physics.

Physics is the subject which describes the nature of the physical world and even how it came into being - there are now physical models for the first millisecond of creation. A study of Physics ranges from the sub-nuclear worlds of quarks and gluons through the properties of the everyday world of solids and liquids to stars, galaxies and the universe as a whole.

In addition to these deep philosophical ideas, Physics has an immense impact on our life-style, and is quite incredibly useful. The understanding Physics gives of physical reality underpins much of modern life - electricity and electronics, communications, transport, energy resources, textiles, food production and medicine are strongly influenced by developments in Physics.

If you choose to study Physics you will meet and handle ideas which are profound and exciting, you will also acquire skills and knowledge which will equip you for a very wide range of job possibilities. Physicists are in great demand for their wide knowledge and adaptability. Above all a study of Physics will train you in problem solving - a skill which is especially valued by employers.


The department organises several visits to external lectures on topics such as Engineering and Astronomy. We also invite speakers to Glenalmond to speak to pupils about topics linked to Physics in general or aspects of the specifications. These have recently included ‘using radiocarbon dating in the whisky industry’, ‘ engineering in space’ and ‘the atomic universe’.  


Mr Dave Smith, BSc, MSc, PGCE


Second Form

The Second Form are taught two lessons per week as part of a combined science course by a subject specialist. The aim of this course is to give the pupils as much chance as possible to learn through practical work and cover the topics met  by the other pupils who will join the College in the Third Form as  part of the Common Entrance syllabus.

Third Form

The Third Form have two lessons per week and we concentrate during the first term on improving their practical skills. This will also include the use of computer simulated experiments. They will be taught the correct way to tabulate their results and how to display it in graphical form. The second part of the year is spent looking at electricity and energy again with a large amount of practical work.

Science is part of every Glenalmond pupil’s curriculum up to GCSE. From the Third Form to the Fifth Form all pupils receive two periods per week in each of the three sciences and all will study the material contained in the Edexcel Dual award specification.

This leads to a double IGCSE award which provides a solid foundation for any of the three sciences at A Level and university entrance beyond that (including Oxbridge, medicine or dentistry). The top science set will aim for separate sciences (a GCSE grade in each science) with additional specification material spread over the two year course.  

Key subject aims

  • To impart a systematic body of scientific knowledge and facts, and an understanding of scientific concepts, principles, themes and patterns

  • To further pupils’ appreciation of the practical nature of science, developing experimental skills based on correct and safe laboratory techniques

  • To develop an appreciation of the importance of accurate experimental work to scientific method and reporting

  • To develop pupils’ ability to form hypotheses and design experiments to test them

  • To sustain and develop an enjoyment of, and interest in, the scientific world

  • To foster an appreciation of the significance of science in wider personal, social, environmental, economic and technological contexts, with a consideration of ethical issues

  • To enable pupils to select, organise and present information clearly and logically, using appropriate scientific terms and conventions

  • To prepare pupils for more advanced courses in each of the three scientific disciplines that comprise this specification.

Assessment for Dual Award

  • Examination comprises of three papers, one from each of the sciences Chemistry, Biology, and Physics (each paper is 120 minutes)

  • Grading 9-1.

  • Pupils are awarded two IGCSE grades, reflecting study of the prescribed amount of subject content

  • Provides a sound foundation for progression to Advanced Level science specifications.

The course is taught in six periods per week in both Lower and Upper Sixth. The course, provided by Edexcel, follows a concept led approach. This course offers a new and stimulating approach to Physics with an emphasis on up to date contexts and applications of Physics. We feel that this approach reflects our individual approach to Physics and the image of the department.

Lower Sixth Course Description

For teaching purposes the course is divided into 2 units. There is no longer a practical but the course contains eight designated practicals which all candidates will do and these will give them the skills which will be examined as part of the ‘working as a Physicist’ section in the written papers.

Unit 1 ‘Core Physics 1’involves the study of ‘working as a Physicist’, mechanics and electrical circuits.

Unit 2 ‘Core Physics 2’ involves the study of waves, electricity and the wave/particle nature of light together with ‘working as a Physicist.

A Level Course Description

The A Level course contains all of the topics covered by the Lower Sixth course which will be examined as part of the three papers sat by the candidates. Paper 1 and 2 are both 1 hour 45 minutes in length and account for 30% each of the final grade and Paper 3 is 2 hours 30 minutes long and accounts for the remaining 40%. The A Level course contains 16  compulsory practicals which will be covered as part of the teaching.

Paper 1 ‘Advanced Physics 1’

Paper 1 involves the Lower Sixth topics of ‘working as a Physicist’, mechanics and electrical circuits together with the new topics of Further Mechanics, Electric and Magnetic fields and Nuclear and Particle Physics.

Paper 2 ‘Advanced Physics 2’

Paper 2 involves the Lower Sixth topics of ‘working as a Physicist’, Materials, waves and the particle nature of light. The new material is Thermodynamics, Space, Nuclear Radiation, together with Gravitational Fields and Oscillations.

Paper 3 ‘General and Practical Principles in 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 pupils’ experiences of the core practicals.

The final A Level grade will be determined by the combined scores achieved in these final three papers.

Recommended Entry Requirements

We would normally expect pupils taking A Level Physics to have either gained at least a B grade in iGCSE Physics or Dual Award Science or a B grade at Standard Grade Physics, in addition to a grade B in GCSE Mathematics or equivalent.

Subject Combinations

The mathematical content of our course is kept to a minimum, making it suitable both for those who intend to study the Physical Sciences or Mathematics at a higher level and for those who intend to pursue a career in the Biological Sciences, Medicine or Veterinary Science. The course places just as much emphasis on the correct use and comprehension of scientific language and ideas as it does on analytical and numerical skills. Pupils have also studied Physics alongside Economics and a Modern Language.

Careers and Higher Education

Pupils who have studied A Level Physics have successfully moved onto University courses in Physics, Engineering, Mathematics, Computer Science, Robotics, Medicine, Law and Finance.