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A-Level Physics for fun and maybe more!

  1. Dec 20, 2008 #1
    Hi, I'm 31 and have a successful career as a Software Engineer - but am finding more and more that I can't resist my love of physics. So, I've started studying physics in my spare time, rather than just endlessly reading about it. I did actually do A-Level physics when I was in college, but got an *ahem*E*ahem* as I was rarely there and didn't make any attempt to learn anything (doh!)

    What I'd like to do, however, is take the A-Level (or AS & A2, or whatever it is now) exams to get a qualification behind me so that I can continue on and do a degree if I so choose (I have a degree in Software Engineering, so I probably don't need the A-Level - but I'd like it. You know, sort of prove that I could have done it if I'd actually tried). What I don't want to do, though, is go to night classes or anything like that.

    I'd like to get the syllabus and reading list for a particular exam board, learn everything that I need to - then just take the exams (i.e. add some structure to my learning). I don't mind buying toys (equipment) for doing practical stuff either - that would be cool. I seem to remember when I was in college, all those years ago, that you could just pay ~£100 for each exam you wanted to take - I don't know if this is still the case though.

    Other options are Open University - but I don't want to plump down quite so much cash (around £300-£500 per 'course'). Plus, looking through the OU courses it doesn't really take my fancy at all. All the courses seem so vague - what happened to having a sensible physics course structure? Anyway, I digress. Plus, I'd like to get the A-Level under my belt first, to get my brain working in an 'academic' way again.

    So, any advice in this area would be very much appreciated. If anyone knows where I can get hold of the syllabus / reading lists, etc. for a particular exam board that would be great. Online would be ideal, but I don't mind ordering them (or some such) from somewhere. Or, if you're doing a physics course yourself at the moment - just a quickly typed list would be great!

    Anyway, thanks in advance for any advice / information.

    - Jelly.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2008 #2
    I've found what I was looking for, after finding the names of some awarding bodies then visiting their sites. In particular, the OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA Examinations) site is excellent, with all the information I need.

    Here is their web site, where you can get details on all their subjects:
    http://www.ocr.org.uk/ [Broken]

    Here are their two latest A-Level Physics course details:

    Physics A
    http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/asa_levelgceforfirstteachingin2008/physics_a/index.html [Broken]

    Physics B (Advanced Physics)
    http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/asa_levelgceforfirstteachingin2008/physics_b/index.html [Broken]


    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  4. Dec 28, 2008 #3
    Why not take an evening class? The experimental equipment could otherwise cost a fortune, especially if you do something like what I did for my class project :-) My teacher had to borrow a serious spark generating 'toy' from he local tech that was worth thousands £s, and he was a damned useful lab technician....
  5. Dec 29, 2008 #4
    I think it's because I'd rather just go at my own rate, rather than get held up by / hold up others. I'm doing OK so far - I've spent a few evenings working through the OCR syllabus, making sure I understand everything. There are a lot of good resources online, and I picked up the OCR book and CD-ROM (which I'm convinced has incorrect answers, I'll need to quadruple-check before I let them know as I'm still learning and am therefore likely wrong).

    I do agree that the practical side of things, however, is going to be the biggest problem. I guess I'll just make do with what I have (things in my house / garage!), make things, and buy any absolute essentials second-hand. I can probably re-think some experiments, etc. with what I've got to achieve the same results. Should be fun!

    I might be able to convince a local college to let me come in and play with stuff - but I imagine insurance / health & safety issues will be the blocking point there. Still, you don't get anything unless you ask.

    Your project sounds interesting! What were you doing?

    - Jelly.
  6. Dec 30, 2008 #5
    The project was many decades ago, but I have good memories of it. I repeated the Urey-Miller experiment:


    Why not hire a physics teacher/student/technician for a few hours a week? That might get you into a lab & they may help you with the red tape of getting to sit an exam.
  7. May 16, 2011 #6
    Hi Jelly,

    wondering how far you got with your self-study A-level physics? It's something I am thinking of doing and would like to know what your experience was.


  8. May 17, 2011 #7
    Why bother doing the exam? Do a search on Amazon for 'A levels physics'. Just buy one of the cheaper books and see if you learn the material and do the example exam questions - should cost you about a fiver, and no onerous night classes or messing about with exam boards.
  9. May 17, 2011 #8
    Alternatively you could consult http://www.brightfuturesonline.co.uk/subjects/ [Broken] I haven't heard of anyone who's done a course with Bright Futures but it looks good :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  10. May 17, 2011 #9
    The only value of A-levels are to get you into university. They are intellectually worthless as they are entirely an exercise in rote learning and regurgitation. If you want to learn physics as a hobby then I am sure that there are much better options.
  11. May 17, 2011 #10
    ^ But do you think employers will consider them.

    Person One::
    Computer Science

    Physics = A
    Computing = A
    Mathematics = A

    Person Two::
    Computer Science

    Physics = c
    Computing = c
    Mathematics = c

    Which person would you employ?
  12. May 17, 2011 #11
    I'm not an employer, but since the question didn't state that I must be an employer to answer, I'll say that you must be pretty damn clueless about employment and what makes someone employable to even ask that question. There is so much information that you have not included - i.e. the actual important information - that absolutely no-one can answer that question.

    What degree grades did they get? What experience do they have? What are their hobbies and interests? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Communication skills? How well can they work in a team? Can they be relied upon to be there at the correct time day in, day out? How well will they fit into the team? Are they available to travel? And so many more questions.

    Besides, once you have some experience your A-levels will be removed from your CV. In fact I'd say they are already irrelevant if you have a degree. The only situation where A-levels are in any way important for employment is for graduate schemes which are massively oversubscribed. And even then it's a case of CCC = autofiltered out, AAA through to interview.
  13. May 17, 2011 #12
    Fair points. Ok so if/when I get a degree in a subject for example should I improve my A-Levels for potential employment?

    My real A-levels are
    Environmental Science C
    Computing B
    Geography C
  14. May 17, 2011 #13
    If you want to get into a competitive graduate scheme, e.g. accounting, auditing or something, then with BCC you won't have a chance as ABB-AAB is usually required at first sitting. This is because the graduate jobs market is so competitive these days, that even if the job is wiping someone's backside, you'll still have 100+ applications for it. And in these 100 applications there will be people with maths degrees from Cambridge and history degrees from Oxford who got AAA at A-level, were the captain of their sports team and did the DofE. Companies are getting inundated with applications even from very high academic achievers so they can afford to cut down their workload by automatically rejecting anyone without ABB-AAB and a 2:1. If you want some rough numbers, then according to research by High Flyers there are about 16,000 places available each year on graduate schemes, and the UK produces more than 300,000 graduates each year. Before the A* was introduced, 11% of English and Welsh students got AAA. And final year students are spending more time than ever on graduate scheme applications. So you can do some number crunching and see the situation yourself.

    I said first sitting previously, but there are some that I have seen/heard about that do not specify this, so theoretically you could resit your A-levels after your degree. And if you have a degree in computer science, A-level computing should be really easy. (I realise it sounds quite lubricious to have to resit high school if you already have a degree.)

    But there is still a world of employment beyond graduate schemes - most of which are just management and accounting type stuff anyway. If you get an internship and do well, it's very probable that your A-levels will not matter for that employer as they will have already seen what they need to see.
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