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Studying Career in physics?

  1. Aug 30, 2016 #1


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    Hello!This is actually my first post!​

    My Main questions is(I shall provide you with a ton of details below the question to help you make a more justified answer):

    Should I study physics and subsequently become a physicsist(irrelevant of branch)?

    Ok so some info:

    I am v.good at the req subjects and I absolutely love physics!I am considering a career in theoretical physics...
    I currently go to a top grammar school and am going my GCSE in the upcoming year(Y11).

    My goal is to ultimately do very well in GCSE and A-levels and thus study Physics at Oxford university...I want to study physics undergrad and preferably do a PhD at Oxford univeristy(As PhDs are useful for top physicist careers from what I have read).

    My goal after that is to work at CERN or NASA or other reputable major organisation that employ physics(Could you please name a few)..

    I also have far fetched goals which I assume all physicist have but I doubt they're relevant for this question(cough...Noble prize)

    I am predicted A* stats informally by teachers for all science and maths and a bunch of other subjects with predicted As only in English...

    Also what A-levels should I take?
    I was considering physics,Biology,chemistry,maths and further maths...is this a good choice or should I do computing instead of biology?

    Also what general guidance would you provide as all information is appreciated?

    My current branch considerations include astrophysics/quantum physics/ETC.,

    Detailed answers would be of great help!

    P.S:please don't hate for some ambitions like going to Oxford and others(I know there are some popped who like to)...Also please can I have sensible answers.

    Also additionally my dad is a surgeon and he and my mum and persuading me into a career in surgery....It is not that I'm not interested as I also like medicine but They list all advantage of medicine like pay and respect and regardless I am very confused!?

    Last edited: Aug 30, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2016 #2
    I don't really understand how you could have gotten an A in English since I found your post rather hard to read. Sorry to say this, but you may want to proof read next time.

    Anyway, as for courses you should take, you should take as much math and physics as you can. And you should definitely not neglect chemistry. As for biology, take it if you are interested but it's not necessary for a physicist. Computing (I assume that is learning to program) would be useful though.
  4. Aug 30, 2016 #3
    Don't do 5 A-levels, unless you think you're going to get A*A*A*A*A*. Oxford only care about 3 (or maybe 4 with FM). Also, work on the stuff you struggle with at GCSE, because Oxford put some emphasis on GCSE results; you don't want to get rejected because of them. Even if all you care about is science and maths, work on English and your other subjects to get A*s if possible and, if not, A's. 7A*+ will give you the best shot. Do Maths, FM, Physics, Chemistry if you like all of them.

    That's just the practical stuff. I don't know much about the rest...
  5. Aug 30, 2016 #4


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    Firstly, :welcome:.

    Secondly, give this a read: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/so-you-want-to-be-a-physicist.240792/

    Thirdly, microwatt brought up a good point: they suggested to work on English to get A*s. I'd like to add that a key skill in being a successful physicist is having good communication skills, particularly in writing, which you aren't demonstrating in this post (I get it, it's just a forum post, but still). An excellent time to work on your communication skills is during high school.
  6. Aug 30, 2016 #5
    Also, another thing: Do NOT get complacent with GCSEs. I've just done them, so I should know. I have a friend who got predicted 10A* (all A*) and ended up with 5. He worked quite hard, but I think his biggest problem was that he was overconfident. He would be unlikely to get interviewed by Oxford if he wanted to apply there (he doesn't), yet he could have easily got a few more A*s. Getting an A* isn't particularly difficult.

    But it's not just getting the A*; it's being able to get the A* on a bad day, when you haven't had enough sleep, when you haven't managed your time properly, when you're panicked, when you've made mistakes, and so on. It's being able to get the A* when your examiner is in a bad mood, when there's noise outside as you work, etc. And that will inevitably happen to you in at least one of your exams. So if you're aiming for straight A*s or something near (which you should be, as it's the easiest way to look better in Oxford's eye, and you clearly want to go there), push yourself to get 85%+, at least in your science tests.

    Also, if you do do well, remember it's not a straight reflection of intelligence; same goes if you don't. (I got all A*, so this isn't me being jealous or something...)
  7. Aug 30, 2016 #6


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    Also,always get above 95% in science and above 90% in maths and all other subjects apart from English in which i get an average of 85%...

    Any more advice on say WE for physics and the medicine dilemma at the end of the OP...?

  8. Aug 30, 2016 #7
    Firstly, well done. Secondly, be aware that if you're doing CIE IGCSE English Language (many schools are), teachers can often mark it totally differently to examiners (the marking system is rubbish, basically). You need to know exactly how to answer each part of each question. For example, in one section, you can lose a third of the marks (or something like that) for not doing a certain thing. Thirdly, from what I've heard Maths/Sci are easy at IGCSE (probably even easier at GCSE tbh) compared to a-level and beyond, so while you're doing great, keep stretching yourself :-)

    Do you enjoy biology? If you are more interested in Physics, go that way. Being an expert, or even having an undergraduate degree, in Physics makes you far from unemployable, so don't worry about that. I wouldn't go for medicine for the prestige; go for it because that's what you want to do. To have the best shot for medicine you'll also need a lot of A*s (for top unis) and possibly biology.

    I can't speak from personal experience, because I haven't started A-levels yet. Also (PhysicsForums heretic alert) I'm not taking Physics, so I won't know what it's like - although I am taking Further Maths (at least two modules of mechanics available, and if I take a third, I am apparently practically into degree level physics).

    Anyway, good luck!
  9. Aug 30, 2016 #8

    Larry Gopnik

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    You sound like me from 5-6 years ago. I also went to a top grammar school and had dreams similar to you.

    I sat my GCSEs and got all As and A*s and had extremely high hopes and then went on to do A-Levels. I took Physics, Maths, Further Maths, IT, AS Chemistry and also the Extended Project Qualification, of which I wrote on the History of QFT.

    There is a huge gap between A-Levels and GCSEs, I cannot stress this enough. You'll look on A-Levels now and think "pfft, I can take on many" but the work load is extremely tough. I personally struggled with Chemistry so dropped it after AS as it's just one big memory test - the names and equations you have to learn by heart is insane, I can't comment on Biology as I didn't take it. If you can, take the EPQ and do it on something as interesting as possible - it was my EPQ that got me my place at University.

    Your life will not end up like you described it - I'm sorry but it's the truth. That's the path that every wannabe Physicist wants to take, but don't fret. Personally I was predicted A*AAAA, fell ill, couldn't take half my exams, got ABBCC and was unable to go to the university I wanted to. I went through Clearing and ended up at a university I didn't even consider going to and now? I love it. I wouldn't change it for the world. I enjoy my time here and I get very high grades and am now looking for a PhD. I diverge but I hope you understand my point - life will take you on a path that you wouldn't normally consider.

    Check out UCAS and see the courses on offer at many different universities, you have to choose 5 courses anyway when you first do apply to UCAS during your sixth-form. First check out the Russell Group universities and see what grades they want and what they offer, also look for summer placements for when you finish GCSEs and are in A-Levels. I went on a great one at Cambridge Uni which still helps me experience wise even now, 4 years later.
  10. Aug 31, 2016 #9
    Adding to this, It's all well and good having your plans, and I commend for having such a clear idea of what you want from your future, but it won't work out that way!

    As for GCSE/A levels, I was basically the opposite, my GCSE's were pretty average at best, think I have 1 A*, maybe 4 or so A's, and the rest were B's. Stepping up to A level and a lot of people I knew who had far superior GCSE's burned out. Similarly my eventual A level grades weren't fantastic, ABC in Maths/Physics/Biology, but I somehow managed to get into a Russell group uni, and ended up finishing with a first class, whereas many people who were only at my university due to missing out on Oxbridge with A*'s/A's at A level, found university far more difficult and struggled to finish on a 2.1!
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