Units 1 and 2 in 2017 follow the VCE syllabus (2016- 2020). Units 3 and 4 in 2017 follow the VCE syllabus (2017 -2021).
Unit 1: Semester 1 – What ideas explain the physical world?
Area of Study 1: How can thermal effects be explained?
Students investigate the thermodynamic principles related to heating processes, including concepts of temperature, energy and work. They examine the environmental impacts of Earth’s thermal systems and human activities with reference to the effects on surface materials, the emission of greenhouse gases and the contribution to the enhanced greenhouse effect. They analyse the strengths and limitations of the collection and interpretation of thermal data in order to consider debates related to climate science.
Area of Study 2: How do electric circuits work?
Modelling is a useful tool in developing concepts that explain physical phenomena that cannot be directly observed. Students develop conceptual models to analyse electrical phenomena and undertake practical investigation of circuit components. Concepts of electrical safety are developed through the study of safety mechanisms and the effect of current on humans. Students apply and critically assess mathematical models during experimental investigations of DC circuits.
Area of Study 3: What is matter and how is it formed?
Students explore the nature of matter and consider the origins of atoms, time and space. They examine the currently accepted theory of what constitutes the nucleus, the forces within the nucleus and how energy is derived from the nucleus.
1. Coursework (class tests and practical work) (50%)
2. Examination (50%)
Unit 2: Semester 2 – What do experiments reveal about the physical world?
Area of Study 1: How can motion be described and explained?
Students observe motion and explore the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on motion. They analyse motion using concepts of energy, including energy transfers and transformations, and apply mathematical models during experimental investigations of motion. Students model how the mass of finite objects can be considered to be at a point called the centre of mass. They describe and analyse graphically, numerically and algebraically the motion of an object using specific physics terminology and conventions.
Area of Study 2: Options
One option out of twelve is selected by the student. Each option is based on a different observation of the physical world. The options are: What are stars? Is there life beyond Earth’s Solar System? How do forces act on the human body? How can AC electricity charge a DC device? How do heavy things fly? How do fusion and fission compare as viable nuclear energy power sources? How is radiation used to maintain human health? How do particle accelerators work? How can human vision be enhanced? How do instruments make music? How can performance in ball sports be improved? How does the human body use electricity?
Area of Study 3: Practical Investigation
Students design and conduct a practical investigation related to knowledge and skills developed in Area of Study 1 and/or 2. Students will develop a question, plan a course of action that attempts to answer the question, undertake an investigation to collect the appropriate primary data, organise and interpret the data and reach a conclusion in response to the question.
1. Coursework (class tests and practical work) (40%)
2. Practical Investigation (10%)
3. Examination (50%)
Unit 3: Semester 1 – How do fields explain motion and electricity?
Area of Study 1: How do things move without contact?
Students examine the similarities and differences between three fields: gravitational, electric and magnetic. Field models are used to explain the motion of objects when there is no apparent contact. Students explore how positions in fields determine the potential energy of an object and the force on an object. They investigate how concepts related to field models can be applied to construct motors, maintain satellite orbits and to accelerate particles.
Area of Study 2: How are fields used to move electrical energy?
Students use empirical evidence and models of electric, magnetic and electromagnetic effects to explain how electricity is produced and delivered to homes. They explore magnetic fields and the transformer as critical to the performance of electrical distribution systems.
Area of Study 3: How fast can things go?
Students use Newton’s laws of motion to analyse relative motion, circular motion and projectile motion. Students compare Newton’s and Einstein’s explanations of motion and evaluate the circumstances in which they can be applied. They explore the relationships between force, energy and mass.
Unit 4: Semester 2 – How can two contradictory models explain both light and matter?
Area of Study 1: How can waves explain the behaviour of light?
Students use evidence from experiments to explore wave concepts in a variety of applications. They investigate the properties of mechanical waves and examine the evidence suggesting that light is a wave. They apply quantitative models to explore how light changes direction, including reflection, refraction, colour dispersion and polarisation.
Area of Study 2: How are light and matter similar?
Students explore the design of major experiments that have led to the development of theories to describe the most fundamental aspects of the physical world – light and matter.
Area of Study 3: Practical Investigation
A student-designed practical investigation related to waves, fields or motion is undertaken either in Unit 3 or Unit 4, or across both Units 3 and 4. The investigation relates to knowledge and skills developed across Units 3 and 4 and is undertaken by the student through practical work.
The investigation requires the student to develop a question, formulate a hypothesis and plan a course of action to answer the question and that complies with safety and ethical guidelines. Students then undertake an experiment that involves the collection of primary quantitative data, analyse and evaluate the data, identify limitations of data and methods, link experimental results to science ideas, reach a conclusion in response to the question and suggest further investigations that may be undertaken. The student is expected to design and undertake an investigation involving two continuous independent variables. Results are communicated in a scientific poster format. A practical logbook must be maintained by the student for record, authentication and assessment purposes.
1. Coursework – Unit 3 (21%)
2. Coursework – Unit 4 (19%)
3. Examination (60%)