Cheers to you, you’ve almost made it! Soon you’ll be taking your CIE A-Level Physics exams and getting your certification. As exam season approaches it is common for students to get anxious thinking about how much preparation still lies ahead. Don’t worry – we are here to help! The first and most important step is making a revision plan. Once you have a well-structured and thought out plan for how you will prepare for your A-Level Physics exam, you’ve already won half the battle! Then all that’s left is to follow the plan step by step and get more and more confident each day in your success. To help you do just that, here’s what you need to know and how we can be of help.
On the whole, A-Levels are more or less standardised across different examination boards. The core content remains largely similar, while the structure of the syllabi changes from time to time. In particular, it is important to bear in mind differences in examination styles between different boards. Knowing these will help you form your revision plan and will give you more confidence and ease on exam day. CIE A-Level Physics exams are unique in that unlike any other board they have a timed and assessed practical exam that makes up 23% of the final grade. This means that rather than being assessed by a teacher you will be tested on your practical and technical skills in an exam which is a combination of practical and written assessment.
About the Board
The Cambridge Assessment International Education (often referred to as CIE) was originally founded as a division of the University of Cambridge in 1858. Today, it remains under the wing of the university offering mainly school-leaving qualifications for university entrance (i.e. A-Levels). The CIE A-Level Physics course is taught as a ‘linear subject’ which means that students take all exams at the end of the academic year and not throughout it (which used to be more common practice).
How long will the course take to complete?
The CIE AS Level Physics course is designed around 180 teaching hours, which means that it will take 1 academic year to complete. Meanwhile, the CIE A-Level Physics course has been designed around 260 guided learning hours. This means that it will take a full 2 academic years to complete. You are more than welcome to choose either option. But don’t forget to plan ahead. Most universities have minimum UCAS point requirements which means that they usually ask for at least three full A-Levels in order to accept you onto their course(s).
Is any prior knowledge required?
The CIE Examination board recommends that students taking the CIE A-Level Physics course should have already completed a Cambridge IGCSE course (or equivalent) in either Physics or Co-ordinated Science.
What will I study?
The content of your course will depend on whether you are taking AS Level CIE Physics or A-Level CIE Physics. If you are taking AS Level Physics then you will study physical quantities and units; measurement techniques; kinematics; dynamics; forces density and pressure; work, energy and power; deformation of solids; waves; superposition; electric fields; current of electricity; D.C. circuits; and, particle and nuclear physics. Meanwhile, if you elected to take the full A-Level then you will study all of the above topics plus: motion in a circle; gravitational fields; ideal gases; temperature; thermal properties of materials; oscillations; communication; capacitance; electronics; magnetic fields; electromagnetic induction; alternating currents; and, quantum physics.
What is the examination process like?
CIE A-Level Physics exams are structured in a progressive way. If you are taking AS Level CIE Physics, then you will have three assessments in total. The first paper (Multiple Choice) will be worth 31% of your final grade and will last 1 hour and 15 minutes. The second (AS Level Structured Questions) will count for 46% of your final grade and last 1 hour and 15 minutes. The third and final paper (Advanced Practical Skills) will count for 23% of your final grade and last 2 hours. If you are taking the full A-Level you will still take these three papers first, except that together they will count for 50% of your final grade. On top of these, you will also take a fourth paper (A-Level Structured Questions) which will last 2 hours and count for 38.5% of your final grade. Finally, you will take a fifth paper (Planning, Analysis and Evaluation) which will last 1 hour and 15 minutes and count for 11.5% of your final grade.
It is optimal to take three or four hours each day to revise for your CIE physics examinations. You need several hours to go through the content and for deep learning to kick in each day (spending just one hour at a time, for example, is unlikely to get you very far). However, you also want to avoid burnout which is why it is not advised to spend more than four hours per day on a given subject as your brain will eventually stop absorbing information. In order to manage your stress started doing exercise and/or meditating. Try to keep a healthy diet – not only is it good for information retention but it will also make you feel more energetic.
Go through your revision content in detail. But don’t get bogged down in merely reading. Engaging with your revision material actively by creating flashcards and drawing mind maps will go a long way in helping you prepare for exams. As exam time gets closer, start doing practice papers. Past examination papers are a fantastic tool for revision. They give you a sense of what to expect during the exams themselves and they let you practice under timed conditions. If you have fears over whether you can finish all the questions in time, do a few timed practice papers at home. At A-Level Physics we are rooting for you to get the best results in your exams! To do that we have plenty of engaging preparation material waiting for you. So let’s get started!