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Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.

Subject Choice

Leaving Certificate

Physics

Career Zone
QQI
NFQ Level
Duration
2 Years

Summary

Studying Physics - Physics
Studying Physics - Physics

Physics describes the laws and forces that govern natural phenomena. The subject aims to enhance students ability to think logically, to observe, to understand scientific method and to communicate effectively. It offers a general education in physics for all students. Science, Technology and Society (STS) is an integral part of the syllabus so that students can be aware of the principles of the applications of physics in the everyday world.

Why Study Physics

Physics contributes to a student’s future career in many ways. It helps, in conjunction with the other Leaving Certificate subjects, to provide a broad, balanced education for any student. Physics teaches students to think logically and enables them to express their thoughts in a concise manner. The skills and knowledge developed through their study of physics can be useful in a wide variety of situations.

What kind of student would Physics suit?

  • Students who wonder why and ask how
  • Students who are interested in the following careers would be advised to study Physics: Electrician, Optician, Doctor, Dentist, Engineer, Computer Technician and Programmer.

Recommendations/Tips

  • While there is an element of maths in the physics course, honours maths is not a requirement to do honours physics. Students should not avoid physics on the basis of not having honours maths. It is entirely possible to get on well in honours physics without honours maths.
  • Pupils should become capable at drawing and reading graphs and competent in using a calculator through the course.
  • The physics syllabus has strong links with the other science subjects, especially chemistry. There are strands of physics which overlap with woodwork and construction, especially the electricity and heat sections.
  • Pupils who will gain the most from studying physics are those who have an interest in science at Junior Cert level and those who enjoy learning about how things work. The science, technology and society section allows students the chance to see where the physics they are learning applies as in TVs, car motors and electricity in the home and also, to see some of the industrial applications of certain topics.
  • For students who are interested in proceeding further with physics, check out our sector on Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and also the Institute of Physics, which provides information on the range of career options that students can follow after physics at third level. 
This subject builds skills and knowledge that are particularly useful for careers in the following Career Sectors:

Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2019:

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 6583 students who sat the Higher Level Physics exam in 2019.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 1359 students who sat the Ordinary Level Physics exam in 2019.

 

Explore Marks Distribution for all Subjects:

Course Overview

The Leaving Cert Physics course follows directly from Junior Cert Science, and covers more topics in greater depth.

Physics is often referred to as the maths side of science, even though only a small proportion of the course is based on maths.

Physics aims to enhance the student’s ability to think logically, observe and understand scientific method.

The course is heavily based around experiments - students are required to complete and write reports of 24 practical experiments throughout the two years of Senior Cycle, and be fully aware of:

  • how to accurately record and analyse results
  • how to minimise and accommodate for experimental errors.

These laboratory experiments, along with many more non-compulsory experiments, are examined in detail on a section of the written exam paper.

Course Content

The Physics course also involves a lot of theory which is tested in the written examination. Students are expected to be able to use various formulae with respect to SI units and significant figures, and have a good understanding of the role of physics in modern society and technology.

The study of Physics for Leaving Certificate is broken down into eight sections or topic areas: 

(a) Six compulsory sections (b) Two option sections (Higher paper only, one to be done)

Compulsory sections

  • Optics / Waves: the study of light and sound and real life applications of the theory.
  • Mechanics: time, space, distance, speed and acceleration.
  • Heat: changes of state, energy conversions and mathematical problems.
  • Electricity: develops on from simple circuits to more detailed concepts.
  • Electricity and Magnetism: gravity, relationship between electricity and magnetism, study of how a motor works, ac. and dc. circuits and phenomena with real world applications.
  • Atomic Physics: cathode rays, x-rays, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, nuclear reactors and real world applications.

Options:

Particle Physics: recent type of physics, delving into the new discoveries leading to a better understanding of the formation of the universe and where we came from.

Applied Electricity: detailed study of electricity and the working of a motor developing from electricity already studied.

At Higher Level, there is a deeper, more quantitative treatment of physics.  The two option sections are omitted from the Ordinary Level Leaving Certificate course.

The course also consists of 24 core mandatory experiments complementing each section in an aim to develop students’ technical skills and enhance understanding and reinforce key concepts.

Exam Structure

The leaving cert exam is three hours in duration. A total of 400 marks are available for the exam.

Section A:

  • Students must answer 3 out of 4 questions
  • 120 marks: 40 marks per question
  • Questions are based on experimental procedures and use of results

Section B:

  • Students must answer 5 out of 8 questions
  • 280 marks: 56 marks per question
  • Questions are more broad and theory based

 

Leaving Certificate Physics is assessed by means of one terminal examination paper at each level. Students are required to keep a record of their practical work over the two years of the course. 

Career Possibilities

Physics is a useful subject for many courses and career areas and a good foundation for a broad range of scientific and technical careers in particular.  

Many careers benefit from the logical and numeracy skills developed in the study of physics. Many technical courses involve components of physics.

Students may move into employment or into further study following their two years of Physics at Senior Cycle. They may choose to progress to a Post Leaving Certificate course (PLC) or move on to a third level course.

Career Guidance

Subject Group: Science

These subjects demonstrate how to explore nature using carefully planned methods, and teach the basic methods and findings of scientific investigation.

Required for 3rd Level?

Physics is a requirement for entry into a number of third level courses. Some examples include: Theoretical Physics in UCD and TCD. 

Physics and physics-related courses may be taken at both certificate and degree level in third-level institutions.

This subject may be essential for entry into some Third Level courses. Click on the link below to view courses that may require this subject for entry:

Physics

Interviews

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Paul Meany, School Principal
Irish, English, Maths, French, Physics, Chemistry. For third level I had to chose between a degree in English and a degree in Science and I chose the B.Sc.

... View Full Interview

Lynsey Gargan, Manufacturing Engineer
In school I was limited by the amount of subjects offered. I went to an all girl's convent school and they had pretty much the stereotypical girl's school subjects then.

For my optional subjects I did Geography, H&E Social and Scientific and Biology. I had all the regular subjects too. English, Irish, Maths and French. I think it's fairly obvious from the above list that my subjects didn't have much of a influence over my third level education choices.

If subjects like physics, engineering etc., had been on offer, I think I would have taken them instead but they were not available to me. I don't believe choices made in school about subjects always have to dictate what you do in college. In my case it just meant I had to work a little harder in the first year of college to catch up.

My school subjects never stopped me. If you know what you like and what you want do, you will always find a way. To be honest it's the knowing what you like that's harder, there are lots of paths to achieve what you want in education today.

... View Full Interview

Alan O'Neill, Fisherman
For my Leaving Cert, I took English, Irish, Maths, Physics, Engineering, Construction and Geography. Engineering proved useful as it introduced me to the different mechanisms needed to run basic engines.

This basic information helped me in my Skippers tickets. Geography was also useful for correct geographical terms and maths was essential for the Skippers ticket as it is very mathematically orientated - I would advise people to do Honours Maths, if possible.

... View Full Interview

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