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The Physics AEA is a qualification aimed at the top end of the candidates for the Physics A-level courses. Introduced in 2002, it is based on the core A-level specification, as outlined by the QCA; thus it is designed independent of any exam board or options in specifications. It is administered by CCEA, with examination code H7651.

Contents

Structure

The Physics AEA is linear, and is a single three-hour exam (like all AEAs). It is only available in the summer each year, often in the last week of A-level exams. The paper is worth 100 marks; there are between 6 and 8 questions on the paper. A calculator is required; there is also usually some graph drawing. A formula list ("information sheet") is provided in the paper.

The first question is usually a comprehension, requiring various skills of analysis using physics principles. It is worth around 20 marks, the exact amount varying from year to year. The middle questions usually include a data analysis question, requiring the plotting of a graph. There are also some in-depth calculations with little guidance given by the question; there may also be algebraic derivations involved, producing an expression in terms of another. These questions touch on many topics across the A-level, like a synoptic paper would. They may require some criticism of an experiment or even some calculations, testing knowledge of assumptions.

The penultimate question often involves an estimation of some sort. The final question involves an essay-like 'account' of some aspect of physics, or a particular form of writing to a particular (often non-scientific) audience, such as a letter or article in response to a hypothetical situation; this is marked on a levels-of-response scale, so you don't necessarily have to get particular points in your answer. This last question carries substantial marks for the "quality of written communication" (QWC), i.e. good language skills, which includes appropriateness of language to the audience.

Grading

Like all other AEAs, the Physics AEA has two grades, Distinction and Merit, with Distinction the higher grade.

Performance Level Descriptors

Merit

Candidates:

  • use and apply knowledge from all the assessed areas of the criteria with few significant omissions;
  • select the relevant information, principles and concepts of physics and bring together principles and concepts from different areas of physics in seeking a solution, demonstrating a clear understanding of the relationships between these;
  • apply fundamental principles and concepts of physics correctly and consistently, when applying them to both familiar and new contexts;
  • communicate their ideas clearly and logically, making good use of appropriate ideas, data and techniques in constructing arguments and solving problems;
  • show a clear understanding of the underlying relationships between physical quantities in their treatment of numerical relationships and carry out extended calculations correctly and in a logical manner, in situations where minimal guidance is given;
  • interpret, analyse and evaluate qualitative information and quantitative data from a range of sources, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and drawing appropriate inferences.


Distinction

Candidates:

  • use and apply knowledge from all the areas of the criteria assessed with no significant omissions;
  • select and use the relevant information, principles and concepts of physics, recognise information that is not relevant, and bring together principles and concepts from different areas of physics in seeking a solution, demonstrating consistently a clear and deep understanding of the relationships between these;
  • apply the fundamental principles and concepts of physics effectively and with efficiency when dealing with a range of contexts and situations, many of which are new to them;
  • communicate their ideas with clarity and precision, selecting a form appropriate to the situation, and make effective use of a range of appropriate concepts, data and techniques in constructing arguments and solving problems;
  • show a clear understanding of the underlying relationships between physical quantities in their treatment of numerical relationships and carry out extended calculations correctly and in a logical and concise manner, in situations where no guidance is given;
  • interpret, analyse and evaluate qualitative information and quantitative data from a range of sources, identifying weaknesses and strengths, and suggesting improvements; draw inferences and, where appropriate, relate these to other contexts.

Future

Like almost all other AEAs, the last Physics AEA will be the summer 2009 session; after this, it will be withdrawn.

Links

CCEA Advanced Extension Award Physics

QCA page on the science AEAs

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