A complete guide to NCEA physicsThroughout your early years at school, different subjects will seem separated, colour-coded, and neatly placed inside their respective boxes. You do one hour of English, one hour of P.E, one of cooking. As you advance through your years at school and the NCEA system, you will begin to notice these boxes will start to disappear as these subjects will become more entwined with each other. Maths starts to incorporate letters, English essays combine statistics, and science and maths come together to create the all-powerful physics. When did the rules change? How did the boxes disappear? The truth is they were never really there in the first place. Cooking always involved chemistry but now you are being explicitly taught to see the connections between different subjects.
While science and maths teaming up together is hardly a surprise, it can be a bit daunting at the beginning. However, now is a good time to remind yourself you’ve been dabbling in physics for a while and may have just not noticed. Trying to figure out whether you can get enough speed on your bike to make a jump? Learning to cross the road without being hit by a car? Rubbing your socks on the carpet so you could build up enough electricity to give someone an electric shock? Physics! Now you have the chance to understand HOW all of this happens.
What is physics?
It seems a basic question to ask but is always a good place to start. Physics is the study of matter and energy. Okay, these two subjects may seem quite limiting but they break down into many different categories such as mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms, just to name a few. Physics has many different avenues you can go down. It helps us explore space, move in new and exciting ways (jet packs anyone?), and, most importantly, understand how different parts of the world work. It can lead to exciting careers such as robotics, space exploration, mechanics, even the study of time travel! Physics will play a pivotal role in what our future will look like and how we experience it.
As we tear our heads away from the stars for a second, with all things, it is good to start with the basics. At level 1, most schools offer the science route in which you study different concepts and ideas found within biology, chemistry and physics within a single course. This class is usually compulsory for all year 11 students and a great starting point to dabble in the different sciences. At level 2, science usually splits into three categories, chemistry, physics, and biology. You have the option to choose which subjects you would like to continue with. It is a good idea to have some time to reflect on your interests and choices. Speak to different teachers about the courses they offer, or even better if you can chat to some students from the previous year. Each year you expand on your knowledge from the year before, meaning if you choose not to take physics at level 2, the option may not be available for you at level 3.
- Physics is the language of space
What does physics look like at NCEA level 1?
As mentioned before, a majority of schools offer physics within the subject choice of science. The five main concepts that are explored throughout NCEA are the Nature of Science, Living World, Planet Earth and Beyond, Physical World, and Material World. To be exact, according to the New Zealand Curriculum, “The Physical World strand provides explanations for a wide range of physical phenomena, including light, sound, heat, electricity, magnetism, waves, forces, and motion, united by the concept of energy, which is transformed from one form to another without loss.” Within the Physical World, you will start to explore the realm of physics in greater detail. You will investigate trends and relationships in different areas within the possibilities of mechanics, electricity, electromagnetism, etc. To have a look at different ways you can tackle NCEA physics questions, check out our guide.
To investigate these trends you will be introduced to different formulas and equations used within physics and taught how these are used in technological or biological applications. To demonstrate that you have an understanding of physical phenomena and concepts, you will be asked to solve and explain problems and questions concerning straightforward situations. This will be tested through investigations and solving questions and problems within internal or external assessments. Different schools have different options available so if you are feeling nervous about sitting the end of year exams, have a chat with your teacher to see if your school offers science through internal assessments. There is a slight catch, usually, this does mean you will be offered fewer credits than other students who sit external exams.
Moving on to NCEA level 2
The knowledge you have gained in level 1 will now come into full effect as you begin your studies of physics for the entire year. You will be expanding your knowledge and understanding as you investigate trends and relationships of different phenomena. There is a large focus on how you gather, present, and explain these different trends. Seems similar to level 1 right? That’s because it is, however it is the level of detail that is expected that is at a higher level. Your investigations need to have qualitative and quantitative explanations about a range of unfamiliar situations. To be more direct, the problems and investigations will be more complicated and multi-layered. The data needs to be analysed to explain complex trends and relationships as well.
What kind of problems will you face? Well, that depends on your school's physics programme. While the external assessments at the end of the year will all be the same, the internal assessments may vary depending on what internal assessments the school offers and the physical phenomena you will study, for example, one school may focus on space, while another may focus on electricity. For NCEA level 2 you need 60 credits at level 2 and 20 credits from level 1 to reach the required 80 credits to pass. There is no explicit amount of credits needed from physics to pass, but your school may require you to reach a certain amount to continue in Level 3. If you are looking for some practical ways to revise for your exams, here is an article that can help.
- Setting up for success in the realm of physics
Advancing to NCEA level 3
As you continue on your adventure into the realm of physics, it is important to revise for your exams and retain your knowledge of different formulas. Remember each year you build upon the knowledge you gained the year before. Holding onto your level 2 notes is a helpful idea if you find yourself forgetting some physics concepts and ideas. Throughout the year you will investigate physical phenomena chosen by your teachers. You may have noticed that it is similar to what you have done in Level 1 and 2, however you will need to “produce qualitative and quantitative explanations for a variety of complex situations”. What does that mean? It means it is not enough to just have a solution, you need to explain in detail and with evidence how you came to this solution.
The problems themselves are more complicated and test your understanding and use of physics. This includes looking at the data and evaluating it to understand and explain “complex trends and relationships in physical phenomena”. And of course, you will need to explain a technological, biological, or astronomical application of physics and discuss related issues. To gain the certification University Entrance in physics, you will need a minimum of 14 credits. If you are looking for a challenge, have a read through our guide on NCEA physics scholarship.
Looking to put your best physics foot forward?
If you feel like physics is an avenue you would like to explore and want to start on the best foot, Superprof can help! Physics can be a bit daunting, but you can feel confident in the classroom with the right support. With a wide range of tutors available whether you are looking for extra support or are eyeing scholarship in the future, you are in the right place. Superprof gives you access to multiple physics tutors to help prepare, guide, and explain concepts and equations in ways that work for you. With access to reviews from current and former students, you can find the right tutor for you.
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