WEP Previews ’22: Physics Olympiad

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By: Chen Guangyuan (22S06D), Annika Liu (22S06D)

Ever wondered how long it takes for a rocket to reach half the speed of light? Or how to travel across a river in the shortest time possible? Or how a pair of twins could actually be of different ages? If these interest you, then Physics Olympiad training may just be up your alley! 

Physics Olympiad training is a year-long programme in Y5 which prepares students for the Singapore Physics Olympiad (SPhO). These trainings go beyond just extra Physics lessons; they allow students to have an opportunity to expose themselves to advanced physical concepts and learn about how to better describe the world in a quantitative manner. 

This is done through the coverage of Y6 H2 topics, at a deeper and more advanced level. Students are exposed to topics like electromagnetism and relativity, which are not taught in Y5. These topics are fascinating and while they may appear unintuitive at first, they are certainly fun to think about. Once you make a new insight in such a complex topic, the satisfaction gained would be worth all your effort! (*Students interested in learning advanced content for Y5 H2 topics as well should look into joining Physics RA, as Physics Olympiad training will not be covering these topics, specifically mechanics, waves, oscillations, superposition.) 

Training usually takes place every Monday, from 4.15-6pm. Typically, training sessions follow a lecture-tutorial style. New content is taught for one or two lessons in the form of lectures, and students are tasked to complete tutorial problems for the relevant topics. These generally comprise problems pitched at Olympiad difficulty, taken from undergraduate textbooks or past-year Olympiad papers. The teacher would then go through the solutions to these problems in the next session, focusing on those that students found difficult or confusing. Through these sessions, one can gain some insight into what the real olympiad questions are like, and over time, become accustomed to the methods and common tricks used in solving them. 

After developing your arsenal of problem-solving techniques through these weekly training sessions, Physics Olympiad students will participate in the Singapore Physics Olympiad. Selection for the school team will be held in September, and around 20 students will represent the school in this olympiad. The olympiad itself is usually held in two rounds—a theoretical and experimental round, conducted over the period of late October to November. Students who do well in the SPhO may be selected for the national training team, where further intensive training will take place until the National Team Selection Test in March the following year, where they can fight for a spot in the Singapore team and participate in the Asian or International Physics Olympiads. 

Physics Olympiad is not a source of instant gratification, but rather, a long and enriching journey. Through the process of learning new ideas and challenging your mind, you may find yourself developing a greater affinity for solving interesting problems as I have, and I believe that that is the essence of joining Physics Olympiad. Each problem is like a mountain to be climbed over, and the taller that mountain is, the greater the feeling of achievement and fulfilment when you eventually overcome it. If you wish to experience the joy of climbing over many mountains, and are interested in learning new things and challenging yourself, you should try your hand at Physics Olympiad!

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