Please Mind The Platform Gap: Taking H2 Physics

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By Noh Sangeun (23S06Q)

Cover image by Tay Yu Ning (23S06E)

Maybe you’re looking to take up the unfailingly popular PCME combination. Maybe your innate intellectual curiosity compels you to uncover the workings of the physical universe. Maybe you just appreciate the simplicity of equations like P=VI and F=ma. Whatever it is, H2 Physics has something to offer to everyone, so welcome to this short preview of the curriculum!

What will you learn?

The two-year curriculum spans a wide variety of topics, from Newtonian Mechanics (Kinematics, Dynamics, etc.) to Oscillations and Waves, and from Electromagnetism to Quantum Physics (ooh!).

That might sound intimidating, but don’t let it scare you off; each chapter is more than manageable. The lectures will take you through the very basics of every topic, especially for newer ones like Gravitational Field. In addition, from the assessment perspective, each topic ultimately boils down to a few useful equations and definitions. These are sign-posted by the Learning Outcomes indicated in every chapter, so you can be sure that you won’t be overwhelming yourself with knowledge.

An example of Learning Outcomes from Chapter 7: Gravitational Field.

Why take H2 Physics?

The aforementioned popularity of the PCME combination, as well as of the PCM- family of combinations in general, is not unwarranted. Highly coveted courses like Medicine require a strong pass in a H2 science subject, for instance H2 Physics. The subject also provides a much-appreciated foundation for many other courses like Engineering, though they do not always explicitly state Physics as a prerequisite.

Of course, some specialised subjects may also necessitate that you take H2 Physics. For instance, Further Mathematics and Computing students must take Physics, Mathematics and Economics, while Mathematics RA and Physics RA (duh) students have to take a PCM-combination (appeals are possible, but in most cases they are rejected).

If you’re deciding between H1 and H2 Physics, it may be helpful to consider the content covered under each subject. The H1 curriculum generally follows the H2 one, albeit delving a little less into each topic. It also does not include chapters like Oscillations, Waves, and Quantum Physics. If you want to stretch yourself a little, or if you have a vested interest in learning about the topics mentioned, consider taking up the H2 version!

What does it take?

If you took Physics as a subject at the secondary level, you already have a solid foundation for the A-Level edition. In the words of the official SEAB document, “the syllabus has been designed to build on and extend the content coverage at O-Level”. Much of the content covered in chapters like Forces will be a recap of what you learnt in secondary school.

That said, be prepared to stretch yourself a little. As mentioned above, you don’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the whole syllabus to perform well for assessments, but it takes some intuition and a working understanding of physical concepts to keep up with the depth and breadth of the content.

This question, for example, only requires two formulae.

What happens in class?

As with most other subjects, Physics is taught through a lecture-tutorial system. Bonus: a lot of the Physics lectures are very entertaining (bloopers, experiments, roleplay, you name it)! It is lamentable that the notes don’t come in a nicely bound book, but at least our tutorials have a few additional “challenging questions” every now and then if intellectual stimulation is what you’re looking for.

Reflective of the variety in the curriculum, Physics practical sessions comprise an astonishing variety of experiments, involving numerous apparatuses such as standing wave machines, travelling microscopes, and the perennial retort stands.

A picture taken with a diffraction grating.

Tips and tidbits

It is a not-unpopular belief that good Physics students tend to be good at Mathematics. While some skills, like applying equations and visualising 3D scenarios, are definitely transferable across the two subjects, you definitely don’t need any prodigious Mathematics talent to do well in Physics. In fact, if you imagine A-level Physics to be some perverse twist on higher-level Mathematics like differential equations, you’re in for a pleasant surprise — generally speaking, the most you’ll need is some basic algebra.

It might surprise you to know that Physics does lend itself to note-making, as do content-heavy subjects like Biology and History. It’s inevitable that the whole load of equations might seem a little unintuitive at first, and making topical summaries of definitions and equations will definitely help.

“Students who think a lot and think critically can do well in Physics.”

Mr Sze Guan Kheng, Physics tutor.

In conclusion…

H2 Physics is an excellent choice if you’re looking for sudden epiphanies like “So that’s how a car speedometer works!” or if you simply want to learn more about the world around you. If this sounds like something you would enjoy, do consider joining us next year. All the best for your matriculation!

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