In high school, students have a few different options of the courses they can take. In grade 11 they start to have the ability to choose the courses they take interest in. Physics is one of those courses, however, a lot of students are unsure if physics is right for them. We created a series of articles that took a look at each topic students will learn when studying physics. After reading these articles, students can decide if enrolling in physics is right for them.

Physics classes can all be taught differently, but still, share the same curriculum across Canada and even the world.  For instance, the UK has a GCSE qualification, which is the equivalent to grade 11 in Canada, is taken by 15 and 16-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to mark their graduation from Key Stage 4, which is the last stage of mandatory schooling demanded by the national curriculum. All students are required to take the study subjects that have been selected by the national curriculum. Physis can be a perfect course to enroll in for all students. Now, let's take a look at some of the topics you'll learn in physics class.


In this first topic of Energy, students start off learning about changes in energy stores and further explanation about the seven main stores of energy such as magnetic, kinetic, chemical, internal or thermal, electrostatic, elastic potential and gravitational potential.

Energy can be transferred in one of the four possible energy transfers:

  • Mechanical work,
  • Electrical work,
  • Heating,
  • Radiation.

When a force causes a body to move, work is being done. After energy has been transferred from one source to another, the work has been completed and it can be measured in joules (J). It can be described in a very simple way: energy transferred = work done. Students will next become familiarized with the concept of power: the rate at which energy is transferred. The more powerful a device is, the more energy it will transfer per second. The equation of power is taught and is quite simple:

power = \frac{work~done}{time}

Efficiency is defined by how good a device is at transferring energy input to useful energy output. Devices such as refrigerators, televisions and washing machines are designed to be as efficient as possible in order to not waste energy. Equations are instructed to teach students about energy efficiency.

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connecting power
The different parts of a plug all work together safely to connect appliances and devices to mains electricity. (Source: Pixabay)

The next topic students in high school will look at it is analyzes electric circuits, mains electricity and static electricity. There are various symbols that are used to identify the different components in an electric circuit. Some of the most commonly observed are:

  • Switch,
  • Lamp,
  • Fixed Resistor,
  • Variable Resistor,
  • Thermistor,
  • Semiconductor diode.

Students learn that there are two types of electric current: direct and alternating. The ideas of potential difference such as the fact that it is the measure of how much energy is transferred between two points on a circuit. There is a simple formula that can be used to calculate the potential difference:

potential~difference = \frac{energy}{charge}

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Mains Electricity

In Canada, the mains electricity supply is generated at a frequency of 50 Hertz and is sent to houses at 230 volts (V). As we all know, appliances and devices are connected to the mains electricity supply using a plug. Here are the parts of a plug:

  • Outer insulation: wires are wrapped with plastic to avoid any issues,
  • Cable grip: wires are held tightly into place,
  • Live wire: a copper wire that is coated with brown plastic,
  • Fuse: made of glass or ceramic and contains a thin wire that melts if the current overheats. A very essential part of the plug,
  • Neutral wire: a copper wire covered with blue plastic that connects the cable in the wall,
  • Earth wire: a copper wire that is coated in plastic.

You can learn more about energy in our article on energy topics in High School physics.

Particle Model of Matter

The matter is made up of small particles called atoms and it is measured by determining its density. All matter has particles, therefore, density is used to describe how closely the particles are packed together in a solid, liquid or gas. For example, the particles in a solid-state are packed together tightly, the particles in liquids have more space to move around and in gases, they are spread out and move around randomly.

The density of matter can be calculated using a simple equation such as the following:

density = \frac{mass}{volume}

Temperature Changes

Changes to the state of a gas, liquid or solid can be done when the internal temperature becomes different. Adding or removing energy from the material can cause its state to change. Students learn about how internal energy is the measurement of all energy of the entire amount of particles in an object or substance and that temperature is the calculation of the average speed of the particles.

Particles in Gases

Gases are proven to take up more space than solids and liquids and since movements are very fast and random there are many collisions in gas particles. Students learn more about the equations that are necessary to calculate gas pressure and volume among other things; your physics and maths tutor can explain them all to you.

Atomic Structure

ions, isotopes and atoms
Protons and neutrons are the heaviest particles in an atom. (Source: Pixabay)

Atoms are extremely small in size and an atom has a nucleus containing protons and neutrons with smaller electrons that circle around the nucleus. Protons and neutrons are known for being the heaviest particles in an atom and the total number of them in an element is known as the mass number.

An essential section of the atomic structure topic has to do with radioactive decay which is when nuclei have an incorrect number of neutrons and can quickly fall apart. The fundamental knowledge of different types of nuclear radiation such as alpha, beta and gamma is acquired by students.

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Uses and Dangers of Radiation

Radiation can be used for the good and can be classified into two separate categories: irradiation and contamination.  Irradiation can be used in the sterilization of fruit to preserve it when sold in supermarkets and can be used in medical treatments. It is important to note that neither of these procedures is radioactive.


The topic of forces in physics is a very important and busy one. Students acquire essential knowledge about the most basic concepts such as gravity, contact and non-contact forces, elasticity and pressure in fluids just to name a few. Students will start to understand the two types of physical quantities that are measured by scientists: scalar and vector.

Learning about forces will also mean students are going to learn about gravity. There are lots to be discovered for students. They'll also be able to perform a number of practical experiments when learning about forces and gravity.


Waves are one of the many ways energy can be transferred between different stores. They have different parts and can be described using the following terms:

  • Rest position,
  • Displacement,
  • Peak,
  • Trough,
  • Amplitude,
  • Wavelength,
  • Time period,
  • Frequency.

Wave periods and speeds are understood by applying valuable equations. There are lots to be discovered when learning about waves. You'll learn it all in a high school physics class.

Students also learn more about reflection and refraction. For example, reflection waves of sound causes echoes and reflection ways of light can be observed in specular and diffuse reflection. Refraction is the change in direction of a wave at the boundary between two clear materials. Black bodies or objects are perfect absorbers and emitters of radiation. Further instruction of this subject is learnt in the waves topic of the high school physics syllabus.


Magnetism and Electromagnetism

induced and permanent magnets
Permanent magnets always have a magnetic field that cannot be turned off. (Source: Pixabay)

Magnetism can be contributed to the magnetic fields that surround magnets. There are two different poles on a magnet: the north pole and the south pole. The magnetic field is always stronger near the poles. It is important to note that similar poles repel each other and unlike poles attract each other.

There are two types of magnets: permanent and induced. Permanent magnets produce their own magnetic field and cannot be turned off whereas induced magnets only become magnets when they are introduced into a magnetic field. The basics of electromagnets, the motor effect and Fleming's left-hand rule are all learnt in further detail by students of the high school physics Syllabus. The current of induced potential and the direction of the movement along with a basic understanding of an AC Generator, DC Generator and transformers are further examined in this section of magnetism and electromagnetism.

Space Physics

The topic of space physics in the high school physics syllabus is of particular interest to those who love astronomy. Students can expect to learn more about space such as the sun, planets, moon, asteroids and comments. Students will also further learn about gravity and the important role it plays in maintaining a stable orbit around a star, moon or artificial satellites.

Start Learning Physics

Physics can be an exciting topic for those with an interest in the world. There are lots to learn and discover. Students that choose a physics career can expect to have an exciting carer choice and be able to impact the world. It all starts when you are learning physics in high school. We hope these articles have provided an in-depth information guide for all the different topics about physics. now, you can make the right choice on if physics is right for you.

See the specifications of the energy topics in GCSE physics.

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