Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A'level Guide: How to Smash Your A'levels [Part 3: Physics]

Let's move on to Physics now.
Physics is easy in the beginning so students tend to relax. But it gets progressively hard, so don't slack. It's easier than it was is AS level, rest assured. But the Application part isn't very simple so work hard!

Before you read, make sure you have the following books with you at home. Don't get them issued from the library on a temporary basis. It is absolutely crucial for you to have them with you at all times. (You can get them easily from any good book shops in Lahore. You just have to search around a bit!)  

1. International Physics by Chris Mee


2. Coursebook by David Sang and Graham Jones


3. Physics Pan Pacific Volume 1 and Volume 2


4. Longman Physcis bu Loo Kwok Wai


For Physics, you should also refer to the notes you take during your Physics lectures. Because sometimes Physics is better understood that way. I have attached the relevant notes I took during my Physics lesson. I hope they help! Please ignore some of my doodles on the notes. I do that when I'm bored :)
(These lectures were delivered by Sir Waseem Hassan who teaches A'level Physics in Beaconhouse Palm Tree Campus, Gujranwala.)


Physics Notes of Circular Motion: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

First Chapter - easy and really basic. You must understand the concept of Angular Frequency, and the relevant formulas. Remember, you need to get this chapter on the tips of your fingers because these concepts are used again and again in the later chapters as you will see yourself. I did this chapter mainly from my notes so take a look at them.


Physics Notes of Gravitaional Fields: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

I gave this chapter a total difficulty of three stars because there were some things that confused me. First of all, you must learn the formula for the Gravitational Force, which is obvious. And simple too. The topic gets tough when the concept of the variation in the value of 'g' with height comes in. When I first read about it, it went over my head but then, after a bit more careful studying, it started to make sense. I hardly think any question regarding this is asked but you can never be so sure. Equating the gravitational force with the the centripetal force is easy. Do NOT cram those equations. Learn to derive them because otherwise everything will get jumbled up. Just learn the main equations of the two forces and equate them to give the expression for Angular speed or acceleration or whatever is required. You must also remember that the Earth is not perfectly sphere in shape. It is ELLIPTICAL. Which means the distance from the centre of the Earth to poles is less then the distance from the centre of the Earth to the equator. Therefore, the value of 'g' (and hence a body's weight) is greater on the poles than on the equator. This is a recurrent question that is not explained in every book. 


Physics notes of Electric Fields: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here
  This chapter is quite similar to the last one. The only tricky part is making the E against d, and V against d graphs and then juxtaposing them to find out their relation. Practice!

Chapter 4: CAPACITANCE ✯✯

Physics notes of Capacitance: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter:Here

When I studied Capacitance in A'levels, I thought I understood it completely. But when I studied it in FSC, I was like ... there's still so many things I don't know about it! A'levels doesn't cover this chapter thoroughly so a lot of concepts were left out, so I'll share them with you. I'm not sure if they would ever be asked because they aren't really part of the syllabus. But you should know, just in case because CIE tends to surprise students by asking unexpected questions. What I learned in my FSC MCAT course is that capacitance does NOT depend on the charge or the potiential difference across the capacitor as per the formula C=Q/V. That is because Q and V are directly proportional so increasing one quantity will increase the other by the same amount, hence the overall ratio (which gives the capacitance) remains constant. What Capacitance actually depends on is the geometry of the plates (i.e the Area), the distance between the plates and the dielectric medium placed between the plates, as per the formula C=Aεoεr/d (Haven't seen this formula before? Well, now you have. A is the Area of the plates, 'd' is the distance, εo is the permitivity of free space which is a constant, εr is the dielectric constant). So basically changing the geometry and dimensions, and the medium changes the value of capacitance. RC value of capacitors isn't explored fully either in A'levels, but study about it as much as the syllabus asks.

Chapter 5: OSCILLATIONS ✯✯

Physics notes of Oscillations: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

Simple Pendulum
(Pan Pacific Volume 1 pg 270-271)
Energy in S.H.M
(Pan Pacific Volume 1 pg. 289 - 291)
(Longman pg. 233 -234)
Free and Forced Oscillations
(International Physics pg. 277), (Longman pg. 236)

There are lots of different things going on in this chapter and there are so many derivations and formulas that it drives you insane initially. A lot of my classmates found this the hardest chapter in A-2, but I beg to differ. Because again, there may be lots of formulas, but don't just cram them. Learn how to derive them. Damping and Resonance are more of just information you must learn. CIE does ask about the advantages and disadvantages of resonance, so make sure you know them.


Physics notes of Magnetism and Electromagnetism: Download here.
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here
General concepts
(Longman pg. 455)
Magnetic Field Patterns
(International Physics pg. 315 - 317) 
(Longman pg. 456 - 457)
(Longman pg. 457 - 458)

I've merged these topics together because they inter-relate. There are a few formulas and concepts but overall, it's a pretty easy chapter. Easier than the one we studied in O'levels, atleast! Information based questions can be asked about transformers. Oh, and make sure you have the definitions of Faraday's and Len'z law learned, because you could get a 1 or 2 mark question on it.


Physics notes of Charged Particles: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

A short topic, and basically what you must focus on is the velocity accelerator. You should also know the differences in the movement of charges in an electric and magnetic field. Milikan's Oil Drop experiment and Bainbridge Mass Spectrometer are just applications of the equations you've already learned so they should be no problem.


Physics notes of Alternating current: Download here
You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

The only thing you should really know is about the root mean square current, it's textbook definition and it's meaning. Rectification is simple, and frequently asked. CIE asks questions about full-wave rectification and how to draw the circuit. So you should know how the diodes are connected in a rectifier circuit.


Physics notes of Quantam Physics: Download here

You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here

Photon equation? Simple. Work function? Not so much. The concept of threshold frequency and the graphs of Kinetic Energy against frequency aren't very simple to understand and they are easily forgotten. Line Spectras and their definitions went over my head when I studied them in class. But if you read them from the books, you'll know what they are. 


E=mc2, binding energy, mass defect
(Longman pg. 593 - 606), (International Physics pg. 366 - 373)
Half life, decay constant, activity
(Longman pg. 608 - 611), (International Physics pg. 358 - 364)

Basic chapter, and easier than the one we studied in O'levels. I just got confused when doing the half life questions, so practise those. Although I don't think they are asked very often. 


Physics notes of Thermal Physics: Download here

You can download the ZIP folder of all the notes of this chapter: Here
Kinetic Model of Matter
(Coursebook pg. 314 - 315)
Internal Energy
(Longman pg. 272), (Coursebook pg. 316)
First law of Thermodynamics
(Longman pg. 272 - 273), (Coursebook pg. 316)
Specific heats
(Longman pg. 260 - 267), (Coursebook pg. 320 -324)

I used to hate thermal physics in O'levels, but in A'levels it's not so bad. Studying it is no problem. It's just that CIE likes to give weird questions sometimes that drive you crazy, but the science behind them is simple and something you have learned. Understanding what the question is asking is the real problem. My teacher told me to learn the derivation of P=1/3xdensityx<v2>. But because I was lazy, I didn't do it (It was soo long!) Anyway, don't make the mistake I made, so learn the derivations.


Introduction to electronic sensors
(Coursebook pg. 469 - 470)
LDR and Thermistor
(Coursebook pg. 470 -471)
Piezzo Electric Effect
(Coursebook pg. 470), (International Physics pg. 382)
Strain Guage
(Coursebook pg. 472 - 473)
Characteristics of OP-AMP
(Coursebook pg.475), (International Physics pg. 387)
OP-AMP as voltage comparator
(International Physics pg. 388 - 389)
Negative Feedback
(Coursebook pg. 477 - 478), (International Physics pg. 391)
Inverting Amplifier
(Coursebook pg. 478 - 479), (Pan Pacific Volume 2 pg. 425 - 427)
Non-Inverting Amplifier
(Coursebook pg. 479 - 480), (Pan Pacific Volume 2 pg. 430)
Relay, LED
(Coursebook pg. 480 - 482)

One of the hardest chapters, in my opinion. Mainly because of the application of the operational amplifier. Coursebook and Chris Mee cover these chapters well. Read them twice or thrice, and you'll eventually get it.


Benefits of Remote Sensing
(Coursebook pg.487)
Basic Properties of X-rays
(Coursebook pg. 487)
Structure of X-ray tube
(Coursebook pg. 488)
X-ray Spectrum
(International Physics pg. 401)
Intensity and Hardness
(International Physics pg. 402 -404)
Sharpness and Contrast
(International Physics pg. 404, 406), (Coursebook pg. 491 - 494)
Attenuation of X-rays
(International Physics pg. 406 -407)
Purpose of CT scanning
(International Physics pg. 408)
Principle of CT scan
(Coursebook pg. 495 - 497)
(Coursebook pg. 498 - 499), (International Physics pg. 414)
Acoustic Impedence
(Coursebook pg. 500 - 502), ( International Physics pg. 416) 

X-rays are really easy to understand in FSC. In A'levels, I had a bit of trouble understanding them. What you need to know is that in an Xray (Coolidge) tube, the anode is made up of an element with high atomic mass (like Tungsten). Characteristic X-rays are formed when an electron jumps from a higher orbital to a lower orbital and the energy released during this transition is in the range of the frequency of X-rays. They are called 'characteristic X-rays' because they depend on the particular element used as the anode. Continuous X-rays are formed when a fast moving electron from the cathode is rapidly decelerated as it reaches the anodes and strikes with it. The graph for these X-rays are important. There is a minimum cut-off wavelength of X-rays that has the maximum frequency. X-rays with high frequency produce HARD X-rays, and these hard X-rays are all important in X-ray techniques. You can increase the frequency of X-rays by increasing the voltage/potiential difference. However, to increase the intensity of X-rays, you must increase the filament current!
CT scanning and Ultrasound are techniques which you must learn and understand how they work, along with the relevant equations.


Modulations, AM and FM 
(International Physics pg. 425 - 427), (Coursebook pg. 513 - 515)
Sideband Frequencies
(International Physics pg. 428 - 429), (Coursebook pg. 515)
Advantages and Disadvantages of AM and FM
(International Physics pg. 430), (Coursebook pg. 516)
Introductions to Analogue and Digital Systems
(International Physics pg.431 - 432), (Coursebook pg.  517 - 518)
Binary numbers, ADC, DAC, Sampling rates, bits
(International Physics pg. 433 - 435), (Coursebook pg. 518 - 519)
Channels of Communication, Cross talk, Attenuation
(Coursebook pg. 523 - 524)
Wire Pairs and Coaxial Cables
(International Physics pg. 437 - 438), (Coursebook pg. 523 - 524)
Radiowaves and microwaves
(International Physics pg. 439 - 440), ( Coursebook pg. 524 - 526)
Optic fibres
(International Physics pg. 441), (Coursebook pg. 527 - 528)
(International Physics pg. 444 - 446), (Coursebook pg. 526 - 527)
(Coursebook pg. 528), (International Physics pg. 448)
Mobile Network
(International Physics pg. 449 - 450), (Coursebook pg. 528 - 529)
(International Physics pg. 450 - 451), (Coursebook pg. 529 - 530)

Do NOT take this chapter lightly. It's mostly just information, but mind boggling information. Then there's the formula for attenuation that looks really simple to learn but when questions are asked and you have to apply it, you get stuck. A lot of questions are asked on it, so practice every possible past paper question on it. 

Again, the syllabus is short. The execution is demanding.


  1. Thanks. Very detailed syllabus. By the way, is the MCAT syllabus the same everywhere in the world? Is it the same in UK and other countries.

    1. That is the first time I'm hearing there's an MCAT in UK too! You should google about it because I really have no idea, sorry.

    2. I also don't know much about MCAT. When I searched, they said it's a test for US Universities. And I saw another syllabus for MCAT in a book, titled College Physics by Serway. It had much less chapters than those mentioned here. So, I thought there may be different MCAT syllabus.

    3. The MCAT i gave was for Pakistani Medical Colleges. And the syllabus for that is this one: http://uhs.edu.pk/mcat/etsyllabus2014.pdf

  2. OK. By the way, I tried download the notes but they are split and it's really time consuming to download one at a time. Could you compress all of them in a file and re-upload them? It would really help.

    1. Ok, I have just added the ZIP files too. I hope they help :)