Physics contributes to our understanding of everything from the minute building blocks of matter to the energies of the unimaginably vast expanses of the universe. This study is designed to enhance students’ scientific literacy in physics, which will enable them to engage in debates about the nature of evidence, theories and models, and appreciate the value of physics in society. They can describe and use theories and models, propose and investigate hypotheses, collect data, analyse the limitations of that data, draw conclusions, make recommendations, and select and use a range of appropriate technologies and mathematical techniques.

Unit 1: What ideas explain the physical world?

In Thermodynamics, students investigate the principles relating to heating processes; including concepts of temperature and energy, the environmental impact of earth’s thermal systems, and debates related to climate science. In Electricity students analyse DC electrical circuits including the mathematical relationships linking charge, current, voltage, resistance, energy and power. They investigate household electric circuits and hazards.

In the study of Matter students investigate the origins of atoms, time and space, explain radioactivity and subatomic forces and particles, nuclear transformations, anti-matter, nuclear fission and fusion, energy generation and the production of light. Students perform practical work using suitable materials, apparatus and measurement procedures to collect relevant data and draw reliable conclusions.

Unit 2: What do experiments reveal about the physical world?

In Unit 2 students investigate the ways in which forces are involved both in moving objects and in keeping objects stationary. In studying Motion students explore the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces. They investigate, analyse and mathematically model the motion of objects and study energy, momentum, gravitational and spring energies and power. In their major practical investigation students design and undertake an investigation of a physics question related to the scientific inquiry processes of data collection and analysis, and draw conclusions based on evidence from their collected data.

Assessment activities:

  • Thermodynamics test
  • Electrical circuits extended practical report
  • Nuclear radiation report
  • Motion investigation
  • Practical Investigation
  • End of unit exams

Unit 3: How do fields explain motion and electricity?

Unit 3 consists of two core areas of study; Motion in one and two dimensions, and Electronics and Photonics. A detailed study is to be chosen in either Unit 3 or Unit 4 from one of six detailed studies; Einstein’s special relativity, materials and their use in structures, further electronics, synchrotron and its applications of photonics, and sound. Motion in one and two dimensions includes the study of circular motion, both horizontal and vertical, the parabolic motion of projectiles, gravitational fields, forces and energies, and the orbital motion of satellites. In studying Electronics and Photonics, students investigate electronic circuits comprising diodes, resistors, thermistors and photonic transducers including light dependent resistors, photodiodes and light emitting diodes, and their use in domestic and industrial systems. In the detailed study, students carry out a series of theoretical and practical investigations into the topic selected from the set of six listed above.

Unit 4: How can two contradictory models explain both light and matter?

Unit 4 consists of two core areas of study: Electric Power and Interactions of Light and Matter, plus the ongoing detailed study which began in Unit 3. In studying Electric Power, students will investigate magnetic fields and forces related to current-carrying wires, magnetic flux in coils, and the operation of AC and DC motors and generators, as well as the operation of transformers in electricity distribution. Interactions of Light and Matter includes the investigation of wave diffraction and the photo‐electric effect, and its implications for the nature of light and the wave behaviour of matter, including absorption and emission spectra from atomic energy levels.

In both Units 3 and 4, students develop conceptual understanding by investigating practical activities and demonstrations. They record raw data and present an accurate and reliably processed analysis of their results, identifying sources of error and uncertainty. They apply safe and responsible practices when completing independent and collaborative investigations.

Selection advice:

This subject would suit students who enjoy learning about the Universe, doing practical experiments and finding out how things work.

Links to further pathways:

VCE Physics provides for many continuing study pathways and leads to a range of careers. Diverse areas of employment range from architect, civil engineering, medical radiographer, astronomer, electronics specialists and avionics. Physicists also work in cross-disciplinary areas such as solar farm engineering, road engineering and the mining industry.

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