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Subject Choice for Leaving Cert...

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Physics

Ed Zone

These courses enable learners to gain recognition for the achievement of considerable knowledge in a range of subject areas, as for example in the Leaving Certificate and one-year Post Leaving Certificate courses.

Courses may be academic or practical in focus, and awards that are recognised by the National Framework of Qualifications may lead to progression opportunities higher up in the framework.

Employment Opportunities
The majority of people with certificates at this level are well prepared for occupations that involve using their knowledge and skills to help others. Examples include office secretary, customer service representatives, special needs assistant, retail salespersons and childcare workers.

Level on the National Framework of Qualifications
2 Years
Duration of course
Grades Awarded

Marks Distribution 2018:
Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 6271 students who sat the Higher Level Physics exam in 2018.

Listed below are the percentage distributions of marks from the 1314 students who sat the Ordinary Level Physics exam in 2018.

In brief... header image

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 this?header image

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. 


Videos & Interviews header image

Studying Physics - Physics


Read what others say about their Leaving Cert. Subject Choices...
R&D Engineer - Liam McCaul
Liam McCaul, Sustainable Energy AuthorityPhysics, Chemistry and French. I also studied German in college. It is good to have another language regardless of what it is. Anything to do with Engineering, I would highly suggest Maths and Physics. 
  go to interview...
 
Computer Programmer - Jason Ruane
Jason Ruane, Intel

In secondary school I took Physics and Chemistry since I loved science. I also took Business Organisation but that was for the life skills it teaches rather than an intrinsic desire. I would gladly have enjoyed doing all the science subjects, to the complete detriment of all others but in hind-sight I am glad I took a subject such as Biz. Org. as it gave a rounding aspect to my secondary schooling.

I would have liked to have done Technical Drawing possibly but had to make a choice. I was only mediocre in German and Irish but again am glad I did them for at least secondary school as it challenged me and I did not get too narrowly focused on the technical subjects (there was plenty of time for that in third-level). In hindsight I realise that Maths was more important than I imagined and the two science subjects stood me in good stead. The choices I made for the subject selection was made by my passion for the sciences. Luckily I was afforded this leeway as the points for my intended course were not particularly high at the time.

 
  go to interview...
 
Planetary Scientist - Caitriona Jackman
Caitriona Jackman, Smart Futures

For Leaving Certificate I did the usual English, Irish, Maths, then Physics which I loved, Chemistry which I wasn’t great at (kept breaking stuff in the practicals), French, Geography and Music as an extra. I really enjoyed English actually, and even though a lot of my job involves computer programming and some hard maths and physics, I still rely heavily on my writing skills.

As important as it is to have technical ability in my job, it is still crucial to be able to communicate any results I find. One of the main tasks for me is to write papers for scientific journals, and occasionally to write articles for a more general audience.

My French is also useful because I collaborate with several people from a lab in Paris and they like if I make an effort to speak a bit of French, even though my accent is very embarrassing!

 
  go to interview...
 
Lieutenant - Pilot - Air Corp - Oisin McGrath
Oisin McGrath, Defence Forces

The subjects that I took for my Leaving Certificate are..English, Irish, Maths, Physics, Biology, Geography and French.

NB: It must be noted that the Air Corps requires certain subjects and is detailed in the Cadetship Booklet!!!

 
  go to interview...
 
Chef - David Kehoe
David Kehoe, Careers PortalMaths, English, French, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Home Economics. All of them influenced my career as I need all of them eg. without maths I couldn't deal with the financial part of the job. 
  go to interview...
 
Opera Singer - Sharon Carty
Sharon Carty, Languages ConnectMy advice if you're uncertain about choosing subjects is to choose things you're interested in, rather than what you think will be good for your career. A broad education will serve you really well not only in terms of college options, but also can enrich your life outside of school and work. I have a huge interest in astronomy and loved studying physics in school, and although I'd never have had the talent in Maths to study it at 3rd level or have a career in it, it meant I can really enjoy reading popular science books and keep up with what's going on in space exploration, as a hobby. For Leaving Certificate I studied English, Irish, Maths, Physics, Music, Biology, German and Classical Studies. Looking back, the subjects I did (specifically English, Music, Classics and German) meant that I was well-equipped with a lot of background knowledge that was helpful in my career as a singer, in terms of literature, language and musical training. Without having studied Music at 2nd level, with the wonderful teacher I had, I am 100% certain I wouldn't be a singer today. 
  go to interview...
 
Software Engineer - Karl Stanley
Karl Stanley, Smart FuturesFor my Leaving Cert. I took Maths - higher, Applied Maths - higher,  Physics - higher, Chemistry - higher, Music - higher, English - higher, German - higher, Irish - ordinary As you can see my abilities and interests were more in the maths+science sphere than anything else.

I was very lucky that at the time Mt. Temple had very capable maths+science teachers, which certainly made things easier for me. To be honest, in school I didn't really think about 3rd level or careers or anything until I was in 6th year (by which stage I'd already picked my subjects). I just picked the subjects I enjoyed and felt I had a natural knack for.

For the career I'm in now I don't think I could have picked better school subjects. It might have helped me to know a bit more about business-related subjects, but I had no interest in accountancy or commerce at the time.

I am considering taking an evening course in the legal+financial aspects to running a business to make up for this. However, as a teenager I think I was better off studying subjects that I had a genuine interest in, otherwise I would have found it very hard to motivate myself to study. 
  go to interview...
 
Transport Infrastructure Ireland - Ciaran MacSamhrain
Ciaran MacSamhrain, Languages ConnectIrish, English, French, Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Latin (I failed Latin(!) but only concentrated on 6 subjects because, at least at that time, all colleges only counted up to 6 subjects when calculating entry points). I stayed in Honours Maths and choose Physics in order to not rule out opting for engineering. I would not have done anything differently in hindsight.  
  go to interview...
 
Recruitment Manager - Frank Morrison
Frank Morrison, Health Service Executive

Irish, English, Maths, Accountancy, Biology, Physics, French, Social & Scientific.

As already stated, my initial goal was accountancy following the Leaving Cert. The accountancy covered by the Leaving Cert was very beneficial during my first year at college. However I don't believe I had the personality to become an accountant.

Moving to my later choice of Nursing, I believe that biology was essential as it is a major part of nursing studies from the start. I also believe that experience at work itself will further one's career and may in fact lead to a change further down the career pathway.

 
  go to interview...
 
Engineer - Process - Kerrie Horan
Kerrie Horan, Intel

Subjects I look were Chemistry, Technical Drawing, Business Studies and German for my Leaving Cert.  All of which I have used since and believe it or not business aspects including accounting are an integral part of engineering

I would say that Physics and Applied Maths would have come in very useful as it was tough entering an Engineering Degree without having either of these.

 
  go to interview...
 
 

Course Overview header image

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 Contentheader image

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 header image

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 header image

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