AQA A-level Syllabus

Year 1 (AS)

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3.1 Measurements and Errors

3.1.1 Use of SI units and their prefixes

3.1.2 Limitation of physical measurements

Fundamental (base) units.


Use of mass, length, time, quantity of matter, temperature, electric current and their associated SI units.


SI units derived.


Knowledge and use of the SI prefixes, values and standard form.


The fundamental unit of light intensity, the candela, is excluded.


Students are not expected to recall definitions of the fundamental quantities. Dimensional analysis is not required.


Students should be able to use the prefixes: T, G, M, k, c, m,  μ, n, p, f.


Students should be able to convert between different units of the same quantity, eg J and eV, J and kW h.

 Induction 1



Random and systematic errors.


Precision, repeatability, reproducibility, resolution and accuracy.



Absolute, fractional and percentage uncertainties represent uncertainty in the final answer for a quantity.


Combination of absolute and percentage uncertainties.


Represent uncertainty in a data point on a graph using error bars.


Determine the uncertainties in the gradient and intercept of a straight-line graph.


Individual points on the graph may or may not have associated error bars.


Induction 4



Induction 5

Induction 6

(Graphical Skills)


3.1.3 Estimation of physical quantities

General Physics Skills (Expected as a matter of course)

Orders of magnitude.


Estimation of approximate values of physical quantities

Induction 8

Use of standard form.


Relationships between quantities.


Transposition of equations.



Induction 2

(Standard Form)


Induction 3



Induction 7


3.2  Particles and Radiation

3.2.1 Particles Constituents of the atom Stable and unstable nuclei

Simple model of the atom, including the proton, neutron and electron. Charge and mass of the proton, neutron and electron in SI units and relative units.


Nuclear physics section.

Specific charge of the proton and the electron, and of nuclei and ions.


Proton number Z, nucleon number A, nuclide notation.


Students should be familiar with the isotope notation.


Meaning of isotopes and the use of isotopic data.


Particle Physics 1

The strong nuclear force; its role in keeping the nucleus stable; short-range attraction up to approximately 3 fm, very-short range repulsion closer than approximately 0.5 fm.

Unstable nuclei; alpha and beta decay.

Equations for alpha decay, β− decay including the need for the neutrino.

The existence of the neutrino was hypothesised to
account for conservation of energy in beta decay.

Particle Physics 2

The atomic mass unit (amu) is included in the A-level.

Nuclear Physics 7 Particles, antiparticles and photons Particle interactions

For every type of particle, there is a corresponding antiparticle.


Comparison of particle and antiparticle masses, charge and rest energy in MeV.


Students should know that the positron, antiproton, antineutron and antineutrino are the antiparticles of the electron, proton, neutron and neutrino respectively.



Particle Physics 6

Four fundamental interactions: gravity, electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear. (The strong nuclear force may be referred to as the strong interaction).

The concept of exchange particles to explain forces
between elementary particles.

Knowledge of the gluon,
Z0 and graviton will not be tested.

The electromagnetic force; virtual photons as the
exchange particle.

The weak interaction limited to β− and β+ decay, electron capture and electron–proton collisions;
W+ and W− as the exchange particles.

Simple diagrams to represent the above reactions or
interactions in terms of incoming and outgoing particles and exchange particles.

Particle Physics 5


Particle Physics 11

(Feynman Diagrams)


Particle Physics 12

(Exchange Particles)

Photon model of electromagnetic radiation, the Planck constant.


E = h f = hc/l


Knowledge of annihilation and pair production and the energies involved.


The use of E = mc2 is not required in calculations.


Particle Physics 3

Accelerators (Not on AQA Syllabus but useful for background)

Particle Physics 4 Classification of particles Quarks and antiquarks

Hadrons are subject to the strong interaction.


The two classes of hadrons:

• baryons (proton, neutron) and antibaryon (antiproton and antineutron)

• mesons (pion, kaon).


Baryon number as a quantum number.


Conservation of baryon number.


The proton is the only stable baryon into which other baryons eventually decay.

Particle Physics 10


Particle Physics 8


Properties of quarks and antiquarks: charge, baryon

number and strangeness.


Combinations of quarks and antiquarks required for

baryons (proton and neutron only), antibaryons (antiproton and antineutron only) and mesons (pion and kaon only).


Only knowledge of up (u), down (d) and strange (s) quarks and their antiquarks will be tested.


The decay of the neutron should be known.

Particle Physics 8

The pion as the exchange particle of the strong nuclear force.


The kaon as a particle that can decay into pions.

Particle Physics 9 Applications of conservation laws

Leptons are subject to the weak interaction.


Leptons: electron, muon, neutrino (electron and muon

types only) and their antiparticles.


Lepton number as a quantum number; conservation of lepton number for muon leptons and for electron leptons.


The muon as a particle that decays into an electron.

Particle Physics 7

Change of quark character in β− and in β+ decay.


Application of the conservation laws for charge, baryon number, lepton number and strangeness to particle interactions. The necessary data will be provided in questions for particles outside those specified.


Students should recognise that energy and momentum are conserved in interactions.


Particle Physics 11

Strange particles as particles that are produced through the strong interaction and decay through the weak interaction (e.g. kaons).


Strangeness (symbol s) as a quantum number to reflect the fact that strange particles are always created in pairs.


Conservation of strangeness in strong interactions.


Strangeness can change by 0, +1 or -1 in weak



Appreciation that particle physics relies on the

collaborative efforts of large teams of scientists and engineers to validate new knowledge.

Particle Physics 8


3.2.2 Electromagnetic radiation and quantum phenomena The photoelectric effect Collisions of electrons with atoms

Threshold frequency; photon explanation of threshold frequency.

Quantum Physics 1


Ionisation and excitation; understanding of ionisation and excitation in the fluorescent tube.


Quantum Physics 3


Quantum Physics 5

Work function f, stopping potential.


Photoelectric equation: h f = f + E k max


E k max is the maximum kinetic energy of the



The experimental determination of stopping potential is not required.


Quantum Physics 2

The electron volt.


Students will be expected to be able to convert eV into J and vice versa.


Quantum Physics 1 Energy levels and photon emission Wave-particle duality

Line spectra (eg of atomic hydrogen) as evidence for transitions between discrete energy levels in atoms.

h f = E1 − E2

In questions, energy levels may be quoted in J or eV.

Quantum Physics 4

Students should know that electron diffraction suggests that particles possess wave properties and the photoelectric effect suggests that electromagnetic waves have a particulate nature.

Details of particular methods of particle diffraction are not expected.

de Broglie wavelength l = h/mv where mv is the momentum.

Students should be able to explain how and why the
amount of diffraction changes when the momentum of the particle is changed.

Appreciation of how knowledge and understanding of the nature of matter changes over time.

Appreciation that such changes need to be evaluated
through peer review and validated by the scientific

Quantum Physics 6

3.3 Waves

3.3.1 Progressive and stationary waves Progressive waves Longitudinal and transverse waves

Oscillation of the particles of the medium;
amplitude, frequency, wavelength, speed, phase, phase difference.


c = f l


f = 1/T

Phase difference may be measured as angles (radians and degrees) or as fractions of a cycle.

Waves 1

Nature of longitudinal and transverse waves.

Examples to include: sound, electromagnetic waves, and waves on a string.

Students will be expected to know the direction of
displacement of particles/fields relative to the direction of energy propagation and that all electromagnetic waves travel at the same speed in a vacuum.

Polarisation as evidence for the nature of transverse

Applications of polarisers to include Polaroid material and the alignment of aerials for transmission and reception.

Malus’s law will not be expected.

Waves 2 Principle of superposition of waves and formation of stationary waves Interference

Stationary waves.

Nodes and antinodes on strings.

for first harmonic.

The formation of stationary waves by two waves of the same frequency travelling in opposite directions.

A graphical explanation of formation of stationary waves will be expected.

Stationary waves formed on a string and those produced with microwaves and sound waves should be considered.

Stationary waves on strings will be described in terms of harmonics. The terms fundamental (for first harmonic) and overtone will not be used.


Waves 3



Waves 4

(Stationary Waves)


Waves 5


Path difference. Coherence.

Interference and diffraction using a laser as a source of monochromatic light.

Young’s double-slit experiment: the use of two coherent sources or the use of a single source with double slits to produce an interference pattern.

Fringe spacing

Production of interference pattern using white light.

Students are expected to show awareness of safety
issues associated with using lasers.

Students will not be required to describe how a laser works.

Students will be expected to describe and explain
interference produced with sound and electromagnetic waves.

Appreciation of how knowledge and understanding of nature of electromagnetic radiation has changed over time.

Waves 7 Diffraction Refraction at a plane surface

Appearance of the diffraction pattern from a single slit using monochromatic and white light.

Qualitative treatment of the variation of the width of the central diffraction maximum with wavelength and slit width.

The graph of intensity against angular separation is not required.

Plane transmission diffraction grating at normal incidence.

Derivation of
d sinq = nl

Use of the spectrometer will not be tested.

Applications of diffraction gratings.

Waves 8

Refractive index of a substance,



Students should recall that the refractive index of air is approximately 1.


Snell’s law of refraction for a boundary:



Total internal reflection:



Simple treatment of fibre optics including the function of the cladding.


Optical fibres will be limited to step index only.


Material and modal dispersion.


Students are expected to understand the principles and consequences of pulse broadening and absorption.


Waves 6

3.4 Mechanics and Materials

3.4.1 Force, energy and momentum Scalars and vectors Moments

Nature of scalars and vectors

Examples should include:
velocity/speed, mass, force/weight, acceleration,

Addition of vectors by calculation or scale drawing.

Calculations will be limited to two vectors at right angles.

Scale drawings may involve vectors at angles other than 90°.

Resolution of vectors into two components at right angles to each other.

Examples should include components of forces along and perpendicular to an inclined plane.

Problems may be solved either by the use of resolved forces or the use of a closed triangle.


Conditions for equilibrium for two or three coplanar forces acting at a point.


Appreciation of the meaning of equilibrium in the context of an object at rest or moving
with constant velocity.

Mechanics 1



Mechanics 2

(Coplanar forces)

Moment of a force about a point.

Moment defined as force × perpendicular distance from the point to the line of action of the force.

Couple as a pair of equal and opposite coplanar forces.

Moment of couple defined as force × perpendicular
distance between the lines of action of the forces.


Principle of moments.

Centre of mass.

Knowledge that the position of the centre of mass of
uniform regular solid is at its centre.

Mechanics 3



Mechanics 4



Mechanics 5

(Bridges) Motion along a straight line Projectile motion

Displacement, speed, velocity, acceleration.

Calculations may include average and instantaneous speeds and velocities.

Representation by graphical methods of uniform and non-uniform acceleration.

Significance of areas of velocity–time and acceleration– time graphs and gradients of displacement–time and velocity–time graphs for uniform and non-uniform acceleration, e.g. graphs for motion of bouncing ball.

Equations for uniform acceleration:

Acceleration due to gravity,

Mechanics 6

Independent effect of motion in horizontal and vertical directions of a uniform gravitational field.


Problems will be solvable using the equations of uniform acceleration.

Qualitative treatment of friction.

Distinctions between static and dynamic friction will not be tested.

Qualitative treatment of lift and drag forces.

Terminal speed.

Knowledge that air resistance increases with speed.

Qualitative understanding of the effect of air resistance on the trajectory of a projectile and on the factors that affect the maximum speed of a vehicle.

Mechanics 7

(Terminal Speed)


Mechanics 8



Mechanics 9

(Projectile Motion) Newton’s laws of motion Momentum

Knowledge and application of the three laws of motion in appropriate situations.

F = ma for situations where the mass is constant.

Mechanics 10

momentum = mass × velocity

Conservation of linear momentum.  Principle applied quantitatively to problems in one dimension.

Force as the rate of change of momentum,



Impulse = change in momentum


where F is constant.

Significance of the area under a force–time graph.

Quantitative questions may be set on forces that vary with time. Impact forces are related to contact times (e.g. kicking a football, crumple zones, packaging).

Elastic and inelastic collisions; explosions.

Appreciation of momentum conservation issues in the
context of ethical transport design.

Mechanics 11

(Momentum and Impulse)


Mechanics 12

(Conservation) Work, energy and power Conservation of energy

Energy transferred:


rate of doing work = rate of energy transfer,

Quantitative questions may be set on variable forces.

Significance of the area under a force–displacement graph.

Efficiency can be expressed as a percentage.

Mechanics 13



Mechanics 14


Principle of conservation of energy:


Quantitative and qualitative application of energy
conservation to examples involving gravitational potential energy, kinetic energy, and work done against resistive forces.

Mechanics 15

3.4.2 Materials Bulk properties of solids The Young modulus




Hooke’s law, elastic limit:


k as stiffness and spring constant.

Tensile strain and tensile stress.

Elastic strain energy, breaking stress.

Description of plastic behaviour, fracture and brittle
behaviour linked to force–extension graphs.

Quantitative and qualitative application of energy
conservation to examples involving elastic strain energy and energy to deform.

Spring energy transformed to kinetic and gravitational potential energy.

Interpretation of simple stress–strain curves.

Appreciation of energy conservation issues in the context of ethical transport design.

Materials 1



Materials 2

(Hooke's Law)


Use of stress–strain graphs to find the Young modulus.
(One simple method of measurement is required)

Materials 3

3.5 Electricity

3.5.1 Current electricity Basics of electricity Current–voltage characteristics

Electric current as the rate of flow of charge; potential difference as work done per unit charge.


Resistance defined as

Electricity 1



For an ohmic conductor, semiconductor diode, and
filament lamp.

Ohm’s law as a special case where
I ∝ V under constant physical conditions.

Unless specifically stated in questions, ammeters and voltmeters should be treated as ideal (having zero and infinite resistance respectively).

Questions can be set where either
I or V is on the
horizontal axis of the characteristic graph.

Electricity 2

(Ohm's Law)


Electricity 3

(Voltage-current characteristics) Resistivity Circuits




Description of the qualitative effect of temperature on the resistance of metal conductors and thermistors.

Only negative temperature coefficient (ntc) thermistors will be considered.

Applications of thermistors to include temperature sensors and resistance–temperature graphs.

Superconductivity as a property of certain materials which have zero resistivity at and below a critical temperature which depends on the material.

Applications of superconductors to include the production of strong magnetic fields and the reduction of energy loss in transmission of electric power.

Critical field will not be assessed.

Electricity 4



Electricity 6



Energy and power equations:


E = IV t



The relationships between currents, voltages and
resistances in series and parallel circuits, including cells in series and identical cells in parallel.

Conservation of charge and conservation of energy in dc circuits.

Electricity 7



Electricity 5



Electricity 1

(Cells) Potential divider Electromotive force and internal resistance

The potential divider used to supply constant or variable potential difference from a power supply.

The use of the potentiometer as a measuring instrument is not required.

Examples should include the use of variable resistors, thermistors, and light dependent resistors (LDR) in the potential divider.

Electricity 6


Terminal pd; emf

Students will be expected to understand and perform calculations for circuits in which the internal resistance of the supply is not negligible.

Electricity 8

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