VCE Physics

This information is based on the study information provided by VCAA. The Year 11 component has been updated to reflect the Study Design from 2016 to 2021. The Year 12 component has not yet been updated as it does not take effect until 2017.

Rationale

Physics is a natural science based on observations, experiments, measurements and mathematical analysis with the purpose of finding quantitative explanations for phenomena occurring from the subatomic scale through to the planets, stellar systems and galaxies in the Universe. While much scientific understanding in physics has stood the test of time, many other areas continue to evolve. In undertaking this study, students develop their understanding of the roles of careful and systematic experimentation and modelling in the development of theories and laws. They undertake practical activities and apply physics principles to explain and quantify both natural and constructed phenomena.

In VCE Physics students develop a range of inquiry skills involving practical experimentation and research, analytical skills including critical and creative thinking, and communication skills. Students use scientific and cognitive skills and understanding to analyse contemporary physics-related issues and to communicate their views from an informed position.

VCE Physics provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers. Physicists may undertake research and development in specialist areas including acoustics, astrophysics and cosmology, atmospheric physics, computational physics, education, energy research, engineering, instrumentation, lasers and photonics, medical physics, nuclear science, optics, pyrotechnics and radiography. Physicists also work in cross-disciplinary areas such as bushfire research, climate science, forensic science, geology, materials science, neuroscience and sports science.

Structure

The study is made up of four units.

Unit 1 – What ideas explain the physical world?
Unit 2 – What do experiments reveal about the physical world?
Unit 3 – Motion in one and two dimensions; and electronics and photonics.
Unit 4 – Electric power and interactions of light and matter.

Each unit deals with specific content contained in areas of study and is designed to enable students to achieve a set of outcomes for that unit. Each outcome is described in terms of key knowledge and key science skills.

The study is structured under a series of curriculum framing questions that reflect the inquiry nature of the discipline.

Unit 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to

  • Apply thermodynamic principles to analyse, interpret and explain changes in thermal energy in selected contexts, and describe the environmental impact of human activities with reference to thermal effects and climate science concepts.
  • Investigate and apply a basic DC circuit model to simple battery-operated devices and household electrical systems, apply mathematical models to analyse circuits, and describe the safe and effective use of electricity by individuals and the community.
  • Explain the origins of atoms, the nature of subatomic particles and how energy can be produced by atoms.

Unit 2

On completion of this unit the student should be able to

  • Investigate, analyse and mathematically model the motion of particles and bodies.
  • Twelve options are available for selection. Only one option is chosen. The following is a list of possible options:
    • What are stars?
    • Is there life beyond Earth’s Solar System?
    • How do forces act on the human body?
    • How can AC electricity charge a DC device?
    • How do heavy things fly?
    • How do fusion and fission compare as viable nuclear energy power sources?
    • How is radiation used to maintain human health?
    • How do particle accelerators work?
    • How can human vision be enhanced?
    • How can performance in ball sports be improved?
    • How does the human body use electricity?
  • 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 collected data.

Unit 3

Unit 3 consists of two prescribed 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, Photonics, and Sound.

Unit 4

Unit 4 consists of two prescribed areas of study: Electric power and Interactions of light and matter. 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, Photonics, and Sound.

Entry

Students who enter the study at Unit 2 or 3, and not having done prior Units, may need to undertake preparatory work.  Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4 and, in view of the sequenced nature of the study, it is recommended that students undertake Units 1 to 4.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

Satisfactory completion of the outcomes and levels of achievement are determined by the school.

Unit 3

Assessment Tasks
Satisfactory completion of key knowledge and skills is required as specified in each area of study.

Areas of Study

Assessment Tasks

Motion in one and two dimensions

At least three different tasks selected from the following list**:

  • Student-designed extended practical investigation
  • Summary report of selected practical activities
  • Multimedia presentation
  • Data analysis
  • A report
  • A test
  • Response to a media article

Electronics and Photonics

Detailed Study

Unit 4

Assessment Tasks
Satisfactory completion of key knowledge and skills required as specified in each area of study.

Areas of Study

Assessment Tasks

Electric Power

At least three different tasks selected from the following list**:

  • Student-designed extended practical investigation
  • Summary report of selected practical activities
  • Multimedia presentation
  • Data analysis
  • A report
  • A test
  • Response to a media article

Interactions of Light and Matter

Detailed Study

**Across the assessment tasks selected in Unit 3 and Unit 4, at least one of the assessment tasks must be an extended practical investigation and at least one of the assessment tasks must be a summary report of selected practical activities.

Units 3 and 4 are assessed by a 2½ hour end of year examination.

Units 3 and 4

  • Unit 3 school assessed coursework (16%)
  • Unit 4 school assessed coursework (24%)
  • End of year examination (60%)