VCE Physics

 

 physics careers image

 

Other subjects that complement Physics are:

Mathematics (esp. Specialist) | Chemistry 

It is recommended that both Units 1 & 2 be taken as preparation for Units 3 & 4.  Note that Unit 1 may be done in Year 10, followed by Unit 2 in Year 11 before undertaking Units 3 & 4 in Year 12.  Students undertaking Physics would be expected to be competent in Mathematics as well as in the Physics components of a Science course.

Unit 1:    What ideas explain the physical world?

Ideas in physics are dynamic. As physicists explore concepts, theories evolve. Often this requires the detection, description and explanation of things that cannot be seen. In this unit students explore how physics explains phenomena, at various scales, which are not always visible to the unaided human eye. They examine some of the fundamental ideas and models used by physicists in an attempt to understand and explain the world. Students consider thermal concepts by investigating heat, probe common analogies used to explain electricity and consider the origins and formation of matter.
Students use thermodynamic principles to explain phenomena related to changes in thermal energy. They apply thermal laws when investigating energy transfers within and between systems, and assess the impact of human use of energy on the environment. Students examine the motion of electrons and explain how it can be manipulated and utilised. They explore current scientifically accepted theories that explain how matter and energy have changed since the origins of the Universe.
Students undertake quantitative investigations involving at least one independent, continuous variable.
Areas of Study
•    How can thermal effects be explained?
•    How do electric circuits work?
•    What is matter and how is it formed?

Outcomes
In the first area of study, you will learn 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.  In the second area of study, you will 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.  In the third area of study, you will learn how to explain the origins of atoms, the nature of subatomic particles and how energy can be produced by atoms.

Assessment
Assessment tasks for Outcomes 1, 2 and 3 will be drawn from:  an annotated folio of practical activities; data analysis; the design, building, testing and evaluation of a device; modelling, a practical report or a test.

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

In this unit students explore the power of experiments in developing models and theories. They investigate a variety of phenomena by making their own observations and generating questions, which in turn lead to experiments. Students make direct observations of physics phenomena and examine the ways in which phenomena that may not be directly observable can be explored through indirect observations.
In the core component of this unit students investigate the ways in which forces are involved both in moving objects and in keeping objects stationary. Students choose one of twelve options related to astrobiology, astrophysics, bioelectricity, biomechanics, electronics, flight, medical physics, nuclear energy, nuclear physics, optics, sound and sports science. The option enables students to pursue an area of interest by investigating a selected question.
Students design and undertake investigations involving at least one independent, continuous variable. A student-designed practical investigation relates to content drawn from Area of Study 1 and/or Area of Study 2 and is undertaken in Area of Study 3.

Areas of Study
•    How can motion be described and explained?
•    One of the following topics:
 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 do instruments make music?
     – How can performance in ball sports be improved?
     – How does the human body use electricity?
•    Practical investigation

Outcomes
In the first area of study, you will learn to investigate, analyse and mathematically model the motion of particles and bodies.  In the second area of study, you will learn how to apply a wave model to describe and analyse the production of sound in musical instruments, and explain why particular combinations of sounds are more pleasing to the human ear than others.  In the third area of study, you will 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.

Assessment
Assessment tasks for Outcomes 1 and 2 will be drawn from:  an annotated folio of practical activities; data analysis; the design, building, testing and evaluation of a device; modelling, a practical report or a test.  Assessment for Outcome 3 will be  a report of a practical investigation (student-designed or adapted) using a scientific poster, practical report, or digital presentation.

Unit 3:    How do fields explain matter and electricity?

In this unit students explore the importance of energy in explaining and describing the physical world. They examine the production of electricity and its delivery to homes. Students consider the field model as a construct that has enabled an understanding of why objects move when they are not apparently in contact with other objects. Applications of concepts related to fields include the transmission of electricity over large distances and the design and operation of particle accelerators. They explore the interactions, effects and applications of gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Students use Newton’s laws to investigate motion in one and two dimensions, and are introduced to Einstein’s theories to explain the motion of very fast objects. They consider how developing technologies can challenge existing explanations of the physical world, requiring a review of conceptual models and theories. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

Areas of Study
•    How do things move without contact?
•    How are fields used to move electrical energy?
•    How fast can things go?

Outcomes
You will learn to analyse gravitational, electric and magnetic fields, and use these to explain the operation of motors and particle accelerators and the orbits of satellites.  You will also be able to analyse and evaluate an electricity generation and distribution system. Whilst undertaking this unit you will investigate motion and related energy transformations experimentally, analyse motion using Newton’s laws of motion in one and two dimensions, and explain the motion of objects moving at very large speeds using Einstein’s theory of special relativity.

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

A complex interplay exists between theory and experiment in generating models to explain natural phenomena including light. Wave theory has classically been used to explain phenomena related to light; however, continued exploration of light and matter has revealed the particle-like properties of light. On very small scales, light and matter – which initially seem to be quite different – have been observed as having similar properties.

In this unit, students explore the use of wave and particle theories to model the properties of light and matter. They examine how the concept of the wave is used to explain the nature of light and explore its limitations in describing light behaviour. Students further investigate light by using a particle model to explain its behaviour. A wave model is also used to explain the behaviour of matter which enables students to consider the relationship between light and matter. Students learn to think beyond the concepts experienced in everyday life to study the physical world from a new perspective. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

Areas of Study
•    How can waves explain the behaviour of light?
•    How are light and matter similar?

Outcomes
In this unit, you will learn to apply wave concepts to analyse, interpret and explain the behaviour of light.  You will also be able to provide evidence for the nature of light and matter, and analyse the data from experiments that supports this evidence.

Unit 3 or 4: Practical Investigation

A student-designed or adapted investigation related to waves, fields or motion is undertaken in either Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4. The investigation is to relate to knowledge and skills developed across Units 3 and 4 and may be undertaken by the student through laboratory work.

Assessment for Units 3 & 4
•    School assessed coursework for Unit 3 contributes 21 per cent to the study score
•    School assessed coursework for Unit 4 contributes 12 per cent to the study score
•    Unit 3 and/or 4 Practical Investigation contributes 7 per cent to the study score
•    An end-of-year examination contributes 60 per cent to the study score

 

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