Cambridge International Examinations AS level Syllabus

Home    AS    A-level

1. Physical Quantities and Units   2. Measurement Techniques   3. Kinematics   4. Dynamics   5 Forces, Density, and Pressure

6. Work, energy, and power      9 Deformation of Solids  

   14 Waves   15 Superposition

  17 Electric Fields     19 Current of Electricity   20 DC Circuits

26 Particle and Nuclear Physics

Syllabus statements in bold are for A-level only.  They will not be examined in the AS examination.

Equations are written in italics .

When you see the word recall (underlined), you have to remember what it applies to, e.g. an equation.  It will not be given on the data sheet.

In the exam, you are expected to be able to:

1. Physical Quantities and Units

1.1 Physical Quantities

1.1 a

Understand that all physical quantities consist of a numerical magnitude and a unit;

Induction 1

1.1 b

make reasonable estimates of physical quantities included within the syllabus.

Induction 8

1.2  SI Units

1.2 a

Recall the following SI base quantities and their units: mass (kg), length (m), time (s), current (A), temperature (K);

Induction 1

1.2 b

express derived units as products or quotients of the SI base units and use the named units listed in this syllabus as appropriate;

Induction 1

1.2 c

use SI base units to check the homogeneity of physical equations;

Induction 1

1.2 d

use the following prefixes and their symbols to indicate decimal submultiples or multiples of both base and derived units: pico (p), nano (n), micro (μ), milli (m), centi (c), deci (d), kilo (k), mega (M), giga (G), tera (T);

Induction 1

1.2 e

understand and use the conventions for labelling graph axes and table columns.

Induction 5

1.4  Scalars and Vectors

1.4 a

Distinguish between scalar and vector quantities and give examples of each;

Mechanics 1

1.4 b

add and subtract coplanar vectors;

Mechanics 2

1.4 c

represent a vector as two perpendicular components.

Mechanics 1


2.   Measurement Techniques

2.1 Measurements

2.1 a

use techniques for the measurement of length, volume, angle, mass, time, temperature and electrical quantities appropriate to the ranges of magnitude implied by the relevant parts of the syllabus. In particular, candidates should be able to:

  • measure lengths using rulers, calipers and micrometers;

  • measure weight and hence mass using balances;

  • measure an angle using a protractor;

  • measure time intervals using clocks, stopwatches and the calibrated time-base of a cathode-ray oscilloscope (c.r.o.)

  • measure temperature using a thermometer;

  • use ammeters and voltmeters with appropriate scales;

  • use a galvanometer in null methods;

  • use a cathode-ray oscilloscope (c.r.o.).

Much of this will be covered in your practical work.  Specific topics are found in these links:




Hall Probe


2.1 b

use both analogue scales and digital displays

Induction 7

2.1 c

use calibration curves.

Electricity 6

2.2 Errors and Uncertainties

2.2 a

understand and explain the effects of systematic errors (including zero errors) and random errors in measurements

Induction 4

2.2 b

understand the distinction between precision and accuracy;

Induction 4

2.2 c

assess the uncertainty in a derived quantity by simple addition of absolute, fractional or percentage uncertainties (a rigorous statistical treatment is not required).

Induction 4


3.  Kinematics

3.1  Equations of Motion

3.1 a

Define and use distance, displacement, speed, velocity and acceleration;

Mechanics 6

3.1 b

use graphical methods to represent distance, displacement, speed, velocity and acceleration;

Mechanics 6

3.1 c

determine displacement from the area under a velocity-time graph;

Mechanics 6

3.1 d

determine velocity using the gradient of a displacement-time graph;

Mechanics 6

3.1 e

determine acceleration using the gradient of a velocity-time graph;

Mechanics 6

3.1 f

derive, from the definitions of velocity and acceleration, equations that represent uniformly accelerated motion in a straight line;

Mechanics 6

3.1 g

solve problems using equations that represent uniformly accelerated motion in a straight line, including the motion of bodies falling in a uniform gravitational field without air resistance

Mechanics 7

3.1 h

describe an experiment to determine the acceleration of free fall using a falling body

Mechanics 7

3.1 i

describe and explain motion due to a uniform velocity in one direction and a uniform acceleration in a perpendicular direction.

Mechanics 9


4.  Dynamics

4.1  Momentum and Newton's Laws

4.1 a

Understand that mass is the property of a body that resists change in motion;

Mechanics 10

4.1 b

recall the relationship F = ma and solve problems using it, appreciating that acceleration and resultant force are always in the same direction;

Mechanics 10

4.1 c

define and use linear momentum as the product of mass and velocity;

Mechanics 11

4.1 d

define and use force as rate of change of momentum;

Mechanics 10

4.1 e

state and apply each of Newton’s laws of motion.

Mechanics 10

4.2  Non-Uniform Motion

4.2 a

Describe and use the concept of weight as the effect of a gravitational field on a mass and recall that the weight of a body is equal to the product of its mass and the acceleration of free fall;

Mechanics 7

4.2 b

describe qualitatively the motion of bodies falling in a uniform gravitational field with air resistance.

Mechanics 7

4.3  Linear Momentum and its Conservation

4.3 a

State the principle of conservation of momentum;

Mechanics 12

4.3 b

apply the principle of conservation of momentum to solve simple problems, including elastic and inelastic interactions between bodies in both one and two dimensions (knowledge of the concept of coefficient of restitution is not required);

Mechanics 12

4.3 c

recognise that, for a perfectly elastic collision, the relative speed of approach is equal to the relative speed of separation;

Mechanics 12


understand that, while momentum of a system is always conserved in interactions between bodies, some change in kinetic energy may take place.

Mechanics 12


Forces, Density, and Pressure

5.1  Types of Force

5.1 a

Describe the force on a mass in a uniform gravitational field and on a charge in a uniform electric field;

(Quantitative Treatment in Topics 8 and 17)

Fields 1

Fields 4

5.1 b

understand the origin of the upthrust acting on a body in a fluid;

Materials 4

5.1 c

show a qualitative understanding of frictional forces and viscous forces including air resistance (no treatment of the coefficients of friction and viscosity is required);

Mechanics 8

5.1 d

understand that the weight of a body may be taken as acting at a single point known as its centre of gravity.

Mechanics 3

5.2 Turning Effects of Forces

5.2 a

Define and apply the moment of a force;

Mechanics 3

5.2 b

understand that a couple is a pair of forces that tends to produce rotation only;

Mechanics 3

5.2 c

define and apply the torque of a couple.

Mechanics 3

5.3  Equilibrium of Forces

5.3 a

State and apply the principle of moments;

Mechanics 2

5.3 b

understand that, when there is no resultant force and no resultant torque, a system is in equilibrium;

Mechanics 2

5.3 c

use a vector triangle to represent coplanar forces in equilibrium.

Mechanics 2

5.4  Density and Pressure

5.4 a

Define and use density;

Materials 4

5.4 b

define and use pressure;

Materials 4

5.4 c

derive, from the definitions of pressure and density, the equation Δp = ρgΔh ;

Materials 4

5.4 d

use the equation Δp = ρgΔh .

Materials 4


6.  Work, energy, and power

6.1  Energy conversion and conservation

6.1 a

Give examples of energy in different forms, its conversion and conservation, and apply the principle of conservation of energy to simple examples.

Mechanics 15

6.2  Work and Efficiency

6.2 a

Understand the concept of work in terms of the product of a force and displacement in the direction of the force;

Mechanics 13

6.2 b

calculate the work done in a number of situations including the work done by a gas that is expanding against a constant external pressure: W = pΔV ;

Engineering Physics 3

6.2 c

recall and understand that the efficiency of a system is the ratio of useful energy output from the system to the total energy input;

Mechanics 14

6.2 d

show an appreciation for the implications of energy losses in practical devices and use the concept of efficiency to solve problems.

Mechanics 14

6.3  Kinetic and Potential Energy

6.3 a

Derive, from the equations of motion, the formula for kinetic energy:

Ek = 1/2 mv 2;

Mechanics 13

6.3 b

recall and apply the formula:

Ek = 1/2 mv 2;

Mechanics 13

6.3 c

distinguish between gravitational potential energy and elastic potential energy;

Mechanics 15

6.3 d

understand and use the relationship between force and potential energy in a uniform field to solve problems;

Mechanics 15

6.3 e

derive, from the defining equation W = Fs, the formula ΔEp = mgΔh for potential energy changes near the Earth’s surface;

Mechanics 15

6.3 f

recall and use the formula ΔEp = mgΔh for potential energy changes near the Earth’s surface.

Mechanics 15

6.4 Power

6.4 a

Define power as work done per unit time and derive power as the product of force and velocity

Mechanics 13

6.4 b

solve problems using the relationships P = W/t  and P = Fv .

Mechanics 13


9  Deformation of Solids

9.1  Stress and Strain

9.1 a

Appreciate that deformation is caused by a force and that, in one dimension, the deformation can be tensile or compressive;

Materials 2

9.1 b

describe the behaviour of springs in terms of load, extension, elastic limit, Hooke’s law and the spring constant (i.e. force per unit extension);

Materials 2

9.1 c

define and use the terms stress, strain and the Young modulus;

Materials 3

9.1 d

describe an experiment to determine the Young modulus of a metal in the form of a wire.

Materials 3

9.2  Elastic and Plastic Behaviour

9.2 a

Distinguish between elastic and plastic deformation of a material;

Materials 3

9.2 b

understand that the area under the force-extension graph represents the work done;

Materials 2

9.2 c

deduce the strain energy in a deformed material from the area under the force-extension graph.

Materials 2


14  Waves

14.1  Progressive Waves

14.1 a

Describe what is meant by wave motion as illustrated by vibration in ropes, springs and ripple tanks;

Waves 1

14.1 b

understand and use the terms displacement, amplitude, phase difference, period, frequency, wavelength and speed;

Waves 1

14.1 c

deduce, from the definitions of speed, frequency and wavelength, the wave equation v = f λ;

Waves 1

14.1 d

recall and use the equation v = f λ;

Waves 1

14.1 e

understand that energy is transferred by a progressive wave;

Waves 1

14.1 f

recall and use the relationship intensity ∝ (amplitude)2.

Waves 1

14.2  Transverse and Longitudinal Waves

14.2 a

Compare transverse and longitudinal waves;

Waves 2

14.2 b

analyse and interpret graphical representations of transverse and longitudinal waves.

Waves 2

14.3  Determination of Frequency and Wavelength of Sound Waves

14.3 a

Determine the frequency of sound using a calibrated cathode-ray oscilloscope (c.r.o.);

Waves 2

14.3 b

determine the wavelength of sound using stationary waves.

Waves 5

14.4  Doppler Effect

14.4 a

Understand that when a source of waves moves relative to a stationary observer, there is a change in observed frequency;

Astrophysics 7

14.4 b

use the expression:

for the observed frequency;

Astrophysics 7

14.4 c

appreciate that Doppler shift is observed with all waves, including sound and light.

Astrophysics 7

14.5  Electromagnetic Spectrum

14.5 a

State that all electromagnetic waves travel with the same speed in free space and recall the orders of magnitude of the wavelengths of the principal radiations from radio waves to γ-rays.

Waves 2


15  Superposition

15.1  Stationary Waves

15.1 a

Explain and use the principle of superposition in simple applications;

Waves 4

15.1 b

show an understanding of experiments that demonstrate stationary waves using microwaves, stretched strings and air columns;

Waves 4

Waves 5

15.1 c

explain the formation of a stationary wave using a graphical method, and identify nodes and antinodes.

Waves 4

15.2  Diffraction

15.2 a

Explain the meaning of the term diffraction;

Waves 8

15.2 b

show an understanding of experiments that demonstrate diffraction including the diffraction of water waves in a ripple tank with both a wide gap and a narrow gap.

Waves 8

15.3  Interference, Two Source Interference

15.3 a

Understand the terms interference and coherence;

Waves 7

15.3 b

show an understanding of experiments that demonstrate two-source interference using water ripples, light and microwaves;

Waves 7

15.3 c

understand the conditions required if two-source interference fringes are to be observed;

Waves 7

15.3 d

recall and solve problems using the equation:

for double-slit interference using light.

In the notes, the code w  is used for a , and s  is used for x .

A more detailed discussion can be found in Physics 6 Tutorial 7.

Waves 7

15.4  Diffraction Gratings

15.4 a

Recall and solve problems using the formula d sin θ= nλ;

Waves 8

15.4 b

describe the use of a diffraction grating to determine the wavelength of light (the structure and use of the spectrometer are not included)

Waves 8


17  Electric Fields

17.1  Concept of an Electric Field

17.1 a

Understand the concept of an electric field as an example of a field of force and define electric field strength as force per unit positive charge acting on a stationary point charge;

Fields 4

17.1 b

represent an electric field by means of field lines.

Fields 4

17.2  Uniform Electric Fields

17.2 a

Recall and use:

to calculate the field strength of the uniform field between charged parallel plates in terms of potential difference and separation

Fields 4

17.2 b

calculate the forces on charges in uniform electric fields;

Fields 4

17.2 c

describe the effect of a uniform electric field on the motion of charged particles.

Fields 4


19  Current of Electricity

19.1  Electric Current

19.1 a

Understand that electric current is a flow of charge carriers;

Electricity 1

19.1 b

understand that the charge on charge carriers is quantised;

Electricity 1

19.1 c

define the coulomb;

Electricity 1

19.1 d

recall and use Q = It ;

Electricity 1

19.1 e

derive and use, for a current-carrying conductor, the expression I = Anvq , where n is the number density of charge carriers.

Electricity 4

19.2   Potential Difference and Power

19.2 a

Define potential difference and the volt;

Electricity 1

19.2 b

recall and use:

Electricity 1

19.2 c

recall and use P = VI  and P = I 2 R ;

Electricity 5

19.3  Resistance and Resistivity

19.3 a

Define resistance and the ohm;

Electricity 2

19.3 b

recall and use V = IR ;

Electricity 2

19.3 c

sketch and discuss the I–V characteristics of a metallic conductor at constant temperature, a semiconductor diode and a filament lamp;

Electricity 3

19.3 d

state Ohm’s law;

Electricity 2

19.3 e

recall and use:


Electricity 4


 20  DC Circuits

 20.1  Practical Circuits

20.1 a

Recall and use appropriate circuit symbols as set out in the ASE publication Signs, Symbols and Systematics;

PDF file


20.1 b

draw and interpret circuit diagrams containing sources, switches, resistors, ammeters, voltmeters, and/or any other type of component referred to in the syllabus;

Electricity 1

20.1 c

define electromotive force (e.m.f.) in terms of the energy transferred by a source in driving unit charge round a complete circuit;

Electricity 8

20.1 d

distinguish between e.m.f. and potential difference (p.d.) in terms of energy considerations

Electricity 8

20.1 e

understand the effects of the internal resistance of a source of e.m.f. on the terminal potential difference

Electricity 8

20.2  Kirchhoff's Laws

20.2 a

Recall Kirchhoff’s first law and appreciate the link to conservation of charge;

Electricity 7

20.2 b

recall Kirchhoff’s second law and appreciate the link to conservation of energy;

Electricity 7

20.2 c

derive, using Kirchhoff’s laws, a formula for the combined resistance of two or more resistors in series;

Electricity 7

20.2 d

solve problems using the formula for the combined resistance of two or more resistors in series;

Electricity 7

20.2 e

derive, using Kirchhoff’s laws, a formula for the combined resistance of two or more resistors in parallel;

Electricity 7

20.2 f

solve problems using the formula for the combined resistance of two or more resistors in parallel;

Electricity 7

20.2 g

apply Kirchhoff’s laws to solve simple circuit problems.

Electricity 7

20.3  Potential Dividers

20.3 a

Understand the principle of a potential divider circuit as a source of variable p.d.;

Electricity 6

20.3 b

recall and solve problems using the principle of the potentiometer as a means of comparing potential differences;

Electricity 6


26  Particle and Nuclear Physics

26.1 Atoms, nuclei and radiation

26.1 a

Infer from the results of the α-particle scattering experiment the existence and small size of the nucleus;

A more detailed treatment in Nuclear Physics 2

Particle Physics 1

26.1 b

describe a simple model for the nuclear atom to include protons, neutrons and orbital electrons;

Particle Physics 1

26.1 c

distinguish between nucleon number and proton number;

Particle Physics 1

26.1 d

understand that an element can exist in various isotopic forms, each with a different number of neutrons;

Particle Physics 1

26.1 e

use the usual notation for the representation of nuclides;

Particle Physics 1

26.1 f

appreciate that nucleon number, proton number, and mass-energy are all conserved in nuclear processes;

Particle Physics 2

26.1 g

show an understanding of the nature and properties of α-, β- and γ-radiations (both β– and β+ are included);

Particle Physics 2

26.1 h

state that (electron) antineutrinos and (electron) neutrinos are produced during β– and β+ decay.

Particle Physics 2

26.2  Fundamental Particles

26.2 a

Appreciate that protons and neutrons are not fundamental particles since they consist of quarks;

Particle Physics 10

26.2 b

describe a simple quark model of hadrons in terms of up, down and strange quarks and their respective antiquarks;

Particle Physics 10

26.2 c

describe protons and neutrons in terms of a simple quark model;

Particle Physics 10

26.2 d

appreciate that there is a weak interaction between quarks, giving rise to β decay;

Particle Physics 11

26.2 e

describe β– and β+ decay in terms of a simple quark model;

Particle Physics 11

26.2 f

appreciate that electrons and neutrinos are leptons.

Particle Physics 7


And that's it.