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Comprehensive IGCSE Physics Syllabus

Comprehensive IGCSE Physics Syllabus

IGCSE Physics is a course designed to introduce students to the fundamental principles of physics. The course covers topics such as mechanics, electricity, magnetism, waves, and energy. The aim of the course is to provide students with a basic understanding of physics concepts, and to develop their scientific skills such as observation, measurement, and data analysis.

Every candidate is required to sit for three papers. These papers are further given for external assessment.  

Candidates who have studied the Core subject content or are expected to receive a grade of D or lower should sit for:

  • Paper 1
  • Paper 3
  • Either Paper 5 or Paper 6

which would make them eligible for grades C to G. 

On the other hand, candidates who have studied the Extended subject content (Core and Supplement) and are expected to achieve a grade of C or higher should take:

  • Paper 2
  • Paper 4
  • Either Paper 5 or Paper 6

which would make them eligible for grades A* to G.

Paper Core candidates Extended candidates
1 Paper: Multiple choice exam

Duration: 45 minutes

Weightage: 30%

Number of marks: 40

Questions will be based on the Core subject content

2 Paper: Multiple choice exam

Duration: 45 minutes

Weightage: 30%

Number of marks: 40

Questions will be based on the Extended subject content

3 Paper: Theory

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes

Weightage: 50%

Number of marks: 80

Questions will be based on the Core subject content

4 Paper: Theory

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes

Weightage: 50%

Number of marks: 80

Questions will be based on the Core subject content

All candidates take either
Paper: Practical Test

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes

Weightage: 20%

Number of marks: 40

Questions will be based on the experimental skills in section 4

6 Paper: Alternative to Practical

Duration: 1 hour 

Weightage: 20%

Number of marks: 40

Questions will be based on the experimental skills in section 4

Find the IGCSE Physics syllabus below for a better understanding on what will be covered in the exams:

Unit 1: Motion, Forces and Energy

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
Physical quantities and measurement techniques 1.1 A scalar quantity is a physical quantity that has magnitude (size) only, without any particular direction. Examples of scalar quantities include mass, temperature, distance, speed, and time.

A vector quantity is a physical quantity that has both magnitude and direction. Examples of vector quantities include displacement, velocity, acceleration, force, and momentum.

Motion 1.2 Speed is the distance traveled by an object per unit time. It is a scalar quantity and is typically measured in meters per second (m/s) or kilometers per hour (km/h).

A speed-time graph shows how the speed of an object changes over time. A distance-time graph shows how the distance traveled by an object changes over time.

To calculate speed from a distance-time graph, you need to find the gradient of the line on the graph. The gradient is the change in distance divided by the change in time.

Acceleration is the rate of change of velocity with respect to time. It is a vector quantity and is typically measured in meters per second squared (m/s²).

To calculate acceleration from a speed-time graph, you need to find the gradient of the line on the graph. The gradient is the change in speed divided by the change in time.

Deceleration:

Deceleration is a negative acceleration, which means that the velocity of an object is decreasing over time.

Mass and Weight 1.3 Mass is the amount of matter in an object. It is a scalar quantity and is typically measured in kilograms (kg).

Weight is the force exerted on an object due to gravity. It is a vector quantity and is typically measured in newtons (N).

Gravitational field strength is the force per unit mass experienced by an object in a gravitational field. It is a vector quantity and is typically measured in newtons per kilogram (N/kg). On Earth, the gravitational field strength is approximately 9.8 N/kg.

Density 1.4 Density is defined as the mass per unit volume of a substance. It can be determined by measuring the mass of an object and dividing it by its volume.
Forces 1.5 Load-extension graphs: Load-extension graphs show the relationship between the force applied to an object and the extension produced. They can be used to calculate the spring constant of a material.

Effects of forces on a rest object: When a force is applied to an object at rest, it can cause the object to move or deform.

Spring constant: The spring constant is a measure of the stiffness of a material. It is the force required to extend or compress a material by a certain amount.

Limit of proportionality: The limit of proportionality is the maximum force that can be applied to a material before it no longer obeys Hooke’s law. Beyond this limit, the material will not return to its original shape when the force is removed.

F=ma equation: The equation F=ma represents Newton’s second law of motion, which states that the force acting on an object is proportional to its mass and acceleration.

Motion in a circular path due to a force perpendicular to the motion: When a force is applied perpendicular to the direction of motion of an object, it can cause the object to move in a circular path.

Friction: Friction is the force that opposes motion between two surfaces in contact.

Drag: Drag is the force that opposes motion through a fluid, such as air or water.

Moment of a force: The moment of a force is the product of the force and the perpendicular distance from the line of action of the force to the pivot.

Centre of gravity: The center of gravity is the point where the weight of an object appears to act. It is the point at which the object is perfectly balanced.

Momentum 1.6 Momentum: Momentum is the product of an object’s mass and velocity. It is a measure of the object’s motion.

Impulse: Impulse is the product of the force acting on an object and the time for which it acts. It is equal to the change in momentum of the object.

Conservation of momentum: The principle of conservation of momentum states that the total momentum of a system remains constant if no external forces act on it.

Resultant force: The resultant force is the single force that has the same effect on an object as all the individual forces acting on it.

Energy, Work and Power 1.7 Energy: Energy is the ability to do work. It comes in different forms, such as kinetic, potential, and thermal energy.

Methods of energy transfer: Energy can be transferred by radiation, convection, and conduction.

Conservation of energy: The principle of conservation of energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred from one form to another.

Kinetic energy: Kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses due to its motion. It is proportional to the mass and the square of the velocity of the object.

Potential energy: Potential energy is the energy stored in an object due to its position or configuration.

Sankey Diagrams: Sankey diagrams are diagrams that show the flow of energy or resources through a system.

Energy resources: Energy resources include fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power.

Efficiency of energy transfer: The efficiency of energy transfer is the ratio of the useful energy output to the total energy input.

Power: Power is the rate at which energy is transferred or work is done. It is equal to the energy transferred or work done divided by the time taken.

Pressure 1.8 Pressure: Pressure is the force per unit area.

Change in pressure beneath liquid surface: The change in pressure beneath a liquid surface is proportional to the depth of the liquid and the density of the liquid. It is

Unit 2: Thermal Physics

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
Kinetic particle model of matter 2.1 Solids, liquids, and gases are the three states of matter. The syllabus covers the following topics related to these states:

Change in matter state: This topic covers the changes that occur when matter changes from one state to another, such as melting, boiling, and condensation.

Temperature and motion of particles: This topic explains how temperature affects the motion of particles in matter. At higher temperatures, particles move faster.

Change in pressure in terms of particle motion: This topic explains how pressure can be understood in terms of the motion of particles. For example, an increase in pressure can be caused by an increase in the number of particles or an increase in their speed.

Brownian motion: This topic covers the random motion of particles in a fluid due to collisions with other particles. Brownian motion is an important phenomenon in many areas of science.

Effect of pressure on a fixed mass of gas: This topic explains how changes in pressure can affect the volume and temperature of a fixed mass of gas, as described by the gas laws.

Thermal properties and temperature 2.2 Thermal expansion of matter: This topic covers how the volume of matter changes with temperature. Generally, matter expands when heated and contracts when cooled.

Specific heat capacity: This topic explains how much heat energy is required to raise the temperature of a substance by a certain amount. This is a property of the substance that depends on its composition.

Melting, boiling, and evaporation: These topics describe the changes that occur when matter changes from one state to another. Melting is the change from a solid to a liquid, boiling is the change from a liquid to a gas, and evaporation is the change from a liquid to a gas at the surface of the liquid.

Transfer of thermal energy 2.3 Conduction, convection, and radiation: These are the three main mechanisms of thermal energy transfer. Conduction is the transfer of heat through a material, convection is the transfer of heat through a fluid, and radiation is the transfer of heat through electromagnetic waves.

Consequences of thermal energy transfer: This topic covers the effects of thermal energy transfer, such as changes in temperature, phase changes, and changes in the properties of materials.

Unit 3: Waves

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
General properties of waves 3.1 Wave motion: The transfer of energy through a medium by the propagation of disturbances or oscillations known as waves.

Wavefront: The imaginary line or surface in a wave that connects all the points that are in the same phase of oscillation.

Wavelength: The distance between two successive points in a wave that are in the same phase of oscillation.

Frequency: The number of complete oscillations or cycles per second that a wave undergoes.

Crest/trough: The highest/lowest point of a wave.

Amplitude: The maximum displacement of a point on a wave from its undisturbed position.

Wave speed: The speed at which a wave travels through a medium.

Transverse wave: A wave that oscillates perpendicular to the direction of its propagation.

Longitudinal waves: A wave that oscillates parallel to the direction of its propagation.

Light 3.2 Reflection of light: The bouncing back of light rays when they hit a surface.

Angle of incidence: The angle between the incident light ray and the normal to the surface at the point of incidence.

Angle of reflection: The angle between the reflected light ray and the normal to the surface at the point of reflection.

Refraction of light: The bending of light rays when they pass from one medium to another of different optical density.

Critical angle: The angle of incidence at which the refracted light ray is at 90 degrees to the normal, causing total internal reflection.

Total internal reflection: The complete reflection of light rays within a medium at an angle greater than the critical angle.

Thin converging lenses: A lens that converges incoming light rays towards a focal point.

Thin diverging lenses: A lens that diverges incoming light rays away from a focal point.

Virtual image: An image formed by the apparent intersection of light rays, which cannot be projected onto a screen.

Ray diagrams: A diagram used to show the path of light rays as they pass through an optical system.

Dispersion of light: The separation of white light into its component colors by refraction through a prism.

Monochromatic: Light consisting of a single color or wavelength.

Electromagnetic Spectrum 3.3 Electromagnetic spectrum: The range of electromagnetic radiation from radio waves to gamma rays.

Effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation: The health effects of exposure to electromagnetic radiation, such as UV radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays, can vary depending on the intensity and duration of exposure.

Microwaves: Electromagnetic waves with frequencies between radio waves and infrared radiation, used in communication and cooking.

Sound 3.4 Longitudinal nature of sound waves: A wave that oscillates parallel to the direction of its propagation.

Compression: The region of a longitudinal wave in which the particles of the medium are compressed or close together.

Rarefaction: The region of a longitudinal wave in which the particles of the medium are spread apart.

Echo: A reflected sound wave that can be heard after the original sound wave has been reflected off a surface.

Unit 4: Electricity and Magnetism

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
Simple phenomena of magnetism 4.1 Magnetic forces are attractive or repulsive forces that act between two magnetic poles. These forces depend on the strength of the poles and the distance between them.

Induced magnetism is the production of a magnetic field in a material when it is placed in an external magnetic field. The induced magnetic field is in the opposite direction to the external magnetic field, and it can persist even after the external field is removed.

A magnetic field is a region in space where a magnetic force can be experienced. The magnetic field is represented by magnetic field lines, and the strength of the field is measured in tesla (T).

Pattern and direction of magnetic field around a bar magnet: The magnetic field around a bar magnet is in the form of concentric circles, with the direction of the field lines from the north pole to the south pole of the magnet.

Magnetic field lines are imaginary lines that indicate the direction and strength of the magnetic field around a magnet. The density of the field lines shows the strength of the field, with closer lines indicating a stronger field.

Permanent magnets are magnets that retain their magnetic properties even when they are not in a magnetic field. They are made of materials such as iron, cobalt, and nickel.

An electromagnet is a magnet that is created by passing an electric current through a coil of wire. The strength of the magnetic field can be varied by changing the current or the number of turns in the coil.

Electrical quantities 4.2 Positive and negative charges: Positive and negative charges are the two types of electric charges. Like charges repel each other, and opposite charges attract each other.

Coulombs are the unit of electric charge. One coulomb is the amount of charge that passes through a conductor in one second when there is a current of one ampere.

An electric field is a region in space where an electric force can be experienced. The electric field is represented by electric field lines, and the strength of the field is measured in volts per meter (V/m).

Electrostatic charges are static charges that build up on the surface of an object due to the transfer of electrons. These charges can cause attraction or repulsion between objects.

Electric current is the flow of electric charge through a conductor. The unit of electric current is ampere (A).

An ammeter is an instrument used to measure the electric current in a circuit. It is connected in series with the component whose current is to be measured.

Direct current (DC) is the flow of electric charge in a constant direction. DC is used in batteries and electronic devices.

Alternating current (AC) is the flow of electric charge that periodically reverses direction. AC is used in power distribution systems and household appliances.

Electromotive force (EMF) is the energy per unit charge that is converted from chemical, mechanical, or other forms into electrical energy in a circuit. The unit of EMF is volt (V).

Potential difference is the difference in electric potential energy per unit charge between two points in an electric circuit. The unit of potential difference is volt (V).

Resistance is the property of a material that opposes the flow of electric current. The unit of resistance is ohm (Ω).

Electric circuits 4.3 Circuit diagrams are graphical representations of electric circuits, showing the components and the connections between them.

A series circuit is a circuit in which the components are connected one after the other, so that the same current flows through each component.

A parallel circuit is a circuit in which the components are connected in parallel branches, so that the current is divided between the branches.

A variable potential divider is a circuit used to vary the output voltage by changing the ratio of the resistances in the circuit. It consists of two resistors in series, with a variable resistor connected in between.

Electric Safety 4.4 Trip switches are safety devices that automatically disconnect a circuit when the current exceeds a certain limit. They are commonly used in electrical installations to prevent overheating and fires.

A fuse is a safety device that breaks the circuit when the current exceeds a certain limit. It consists of a metal wire that melts when the current becomes too high, disconnecting the circuit.

Electromagnetic effects 4.5 Electromagnetic induction is the production of an electric current in a conductor when there is a change in the magnetic field around it. This phenomenon is used in generators, transformers, and motors.

A simple AC generator consists of a coil of wire rotating in a magnetic field. As the coil rotates, the magnetic field induces an alternating current in the coil.

Pattern and direction of the magnetic field: The magnetic field around a current-carrying wire is in the form of concentric circles, with the direction of the field lines given by the right-hand rule.

Magnetic effect of a current: The magnetic effect of a current is the production of a magnetic field around a current-carrying wire. This effect is used in electromagnets and motors.

A DC motor is a device that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. It consists of a rotor (the rotating part) and a stator (the stationary part), with the magnetic field of the stator interacting with the current in the rotor to produce rotational motion.

A transformer is a device used to change the voltage of an AC power supply. It consists of two coils of wire, the primary and the secondary, which are linked by a magnetic field. The voltage in the secondary coil is proportional to the ratio of the number of turns in the primary and secondary coils.

Unit 5: Nuclear Physics

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
The nuclear model of an atom 5.1 The structure of an atom is made up of a nucleus which contains protons and neutrons, and electrons orbiting around the nucleus.

Scattering of alpha particles refers to the experiment performed by Rutherford which showed that atoms have a small, positively charged nucleus at their center.

Protons are positively charged particles found in the nucleus of an atom, with a relative charge of +1.

Neutrons are particles found in the nucleus of an atom, with no electric charge (neutral).

Nuclear fission is the process where a heavy nucleus splits into smaller nuclei with the release of a large amount of energy.

Nuclear fusion is the process where two light nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus with the release of a large amount of energy.

Proton number refers to the number of protons in the nucleus of an atom, which is also known as the atomic number.

Isotope refers to atoms of the same element with the same number of protons but a different number of neutrons.

Radioactivity 5.2 Background radiation refers to the low-level radiation that is always present in the environment from natural and man-made sources.

The three types of nuclear emission are alpha particles (α), beta particles (β), and gamma radiation (γ).

Deflection of α-particles, β-particles and γ-radiation refers to the way in which these emissions are deflected by magnetic and electric fields, which can be used to study their properties.

Radioactive decay is the process where an unstable nucleus emits radiation in the form of alpha particles, beta particles or gamma radiation, in order to become more stable.

Half-life refers to the time it takes for half the nuclei in a sample of radioactive material to decay.

The effects of ionizing nuclear radiations refer to the harmful effects that can be caused by exposure to high levels of radiation, including damage to cells and tissues, radiation sickness, and an increased risk of cancer.

Unit 6: Space Physics

Subtopic Subtopic Number IGCSE Points to understand
Earth and the Solar System 6.1 Average orbital speed refers to the average speed of an object in a circular orbit. It can be calculated using the formula: v = 2πr/T, where v is the average orbital speed, r is the radius of the orbit, and T is the time taken for one complete orbit.

The Earth is a planet in our Solar System and is the third planet from the Sun. It has an atmosphere that protects us from harmful radiation and has a magnetic field that protects us from charged particles from the Sun. The Earth rotates on its axis, which causes day and night, and revolves around the Sun, which causes seasons.

The Solar System consists of the Sun and all the celestial objects that orbit around it. There are eight planets in the Solar System, along with dwarf planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other smaller objects. The Solar System formed about 4.6 billion years ago from a cloud of gas and dust.

Relationship between gravitational field and orbital speeds of planets: The gravitational force between two objects depends on their masses and the distance between them. Planets orbit the Sun because of the gravitational force between them. The stronger the gravitational force, the faster the planet must move to stay in its orbit. The closer a planet is to the Sun, the stronger the gravitational force, and the faster it must move to stay in its orbit. 

Stars and the Universe 6.2 The Sun is a star, a luminous ball of gas that emits energy through nuclear fusion in its core. It is the closest star to Earth and is the center of our Solar System. The Sun’s energy is essential for life on Earth, as it provides heat and light.

A galaxy is a massive collection of stars, gas, dust, and other celestial objects that are held together by gravity. There are billions of galaxies in the observable universe, each with its unique shape and size. Our Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars.

A light-year is a unit of distance used in astronomy. It is the distance that light travels in one year, which is about 9.46 trillion kilometers. Light-years are used to measure the distances between celestial objects in the universe.

Life cycle of a star: Stars go through a life cycle that depends on their mass. All stars are born from clouds of gas and dust, and eventually, they will die. Small stars, like our Sun, will eventually become red giants and then white dwarfs. Massive stars will become supernovae and either neutron stars or black holes.

Redshift is a phenomenon where light from a distant object appears redder than expected. This is caused by the Doppler effect, where the object is moving away from the observer, causing the wavelength of the light to appear longer.

The cosmic microwave background radiation is a faint glow of light that fills the universe. It is thought to be the afterglow of the Big Bang and is an essential piece of evidence for the Big Bang theory.

The Hubble constant is a value that describes the rate at which the universe is expanding. It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, who discovered that galaxies were moving away from each other, implying that the universe was expanding. The Hubble constant is an essential piece of information for understanding the age and size of the universe.

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