Tips to Get Top Marks in IGCSE Physics

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You must work hard to do well in your IGCSE Physics. However, it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With these tips from our IGCSE tutors and examiners, you can try the best learning techniques. Stick to them throughout the course and your revision to improve your understanding and reduce stress.

Keep on reading to learn how to study smart to get the best grade in your final IGCSE Physics exams.

Is IGCSE Physics Hard?

Among all science-related topics, IGCSE Physics comes out on top as the most difficult one for many students. The equations, formulas, and complex concepts can be tough to master.

In fact, if you have difficulty with Maths, you may need to work on these fundamental skills as well. At a minimum, you need to make sure that you are comfortable with percentages, ratios, formulas, fractions, decimals, powers (especially to the power of 10), averages (mean, mode and median), and square roots.

If any of these areas are difficult for you, try revisiting some of the basics of key stage 3 Maths until you feel confident in these areas.

The key concepts you will learn in your Physics class are motion, thermal physics, waves, electricity, magnetism, forces, and energy, among others. All of them require attention and dedication to understand how physical phenomena work. That’s why you need to work really hard to pass IGCSE physics, let alone get the highest grade.

Formats of IGCSE Physics Exams

Early in your IGCSE Physics journey, you should get your hands on the subject specification and syllabus. It details everything that you’re about to learn as well as the format and criteria of the final assessment. As you probably already know, there are three exam boards, and each has its own specification:

IGCSE Exams pen and glasses

Pearson Edexcel International GCSE in Physics (4PH1);

Cambridge IGCSE Physics 0625 and Cambridge IGCSE (9–1) Physics 0972;

Oxford International GCSE Physics (9203).

Pearson Edexcel

Edexcel International GCSE Physics exam consists of two papers.

  • Paper 1 can bring you up to 110 marks. During the 2-hour assessment, you will be answering questions of various types including multiple-choice, open-response, structured, and short-answer questions.
  • Paper 2 has questions of similar types but it is 45 minutes shorter and awards a maximum of 70 points.

Cambridge

Cambridge CAIE IGCSE Physics introduces a two-tier grading method. The more preferable tier for apt students is Extended since it allows scoring the maximum. For students whose knowledge is weaker, there is the Core tier.

Both tiers are required 3 papers.

  • The first 45-minute paper has multiple-choice questions and provides up to 40 marks.
  • With the next paper, you can get 80 marks by solving structured and short-answer theoretical questions. You have 1 hour and 15 minutes to answer.
  • The final paper is one hour long, and it features Alternatives to Practical assignments based on practical skills (although it is not a practical exam). A maximum of 40 marks is available with this paper.

Oxford AQA

Oxford AQA International GCSE Physics assessment consists of two papers. You can earn 90 marks with each. Within each 1.5-hour assessment, you will need to answer structured and complex questions based on the 8 topics of the syllabus.

IGCSE Physics Exam Grading System

A grading system depends on the exam board as well.

Pearson Edexcel

Edexcel uses the 9-1 grading system for all exams including IGCSE Physics. In this system, 9 represents the highest score, 1 is the lowest score, and 4 is a so-called ‘standard pass’, i. e. a minimal grade you need to enter a university.

The number of marks required to receive a certain grade varies based on grade boundaries, which are calculated after each examination session. For instance, to get a 9 in 2023, students needed to earn a minimum of 137 marks out of 180. You can find more information about Edexcel IGCSE mark schemes and grade boundaries in previous years here.

Cambridge

If your IGCSE exam board is Cambridge, there are two grading systems. Which one will be yours exactly depends on your school.

  • The 9-1 system underlies the Cambridge 0972 IGCSE Physics. Similar to Edexcel, 9 is the maximum and 1 is the minimum. Again, to pass IGCSE Physics, you need at least 4.
  • The 0625 IGCSE Physics features the A*-G grading system, where A* is the highest result, and G is the lowest. The passing grade according to this system is C.

Please keep in mind that the full Cambridge grading scale is available only with the Extended tier. If you choose the Core tier, your maximum is only 5 or C.

Every year the Cambridge exam board introduces new grade thresholds explaining the minimal number of marks you need to get this or that grade. After grading all the papers in an exam session, the board applies a weighting factor. Its purpose is to ensure that sessions across the years have a comparable level of difficulty. In 2023, for instance, one could receive 200 weighted marks. 157 marks was enough to get a 9.

Oxford AQA

Oxford AQA utilises the 9-1 grading system. Again, 9 is the highest score here and 1 is the lowest. On this scale, 5 is a ‘strong pass’, which is a minimal grade you need to receive your IGCSE diploma.

According to the grade boundaries for 2023, students should earn between 180-136 marks to get a 9. For a 5, a minimum of 80 marks would suffice. Grade thresholds are calculated every year to ensure all students are in the same fair conditions.

IGCSE Physics Tips to Do Well in Your Exam

Every year students wonder how to study IGCSE Physics effectively.

The short answer is to use various learning opportunities, techniques, and resources. Combined, they can make Physics more intelligible. Some of them are as simple as keeping your notes neat, the others are as fun as experimenting at home. Here are some tactics you can try.

Keep Your Notes Organised

There are a plethora of formulas and equations you must learn. If you don’t want to lose track of them, keep these formulas in the same place. It is a good idea to complete formulas with terminology explaining variables and units.

You can even make a drawing representing the physical forces described by the formula. In the same way, you can take notes on every topic in your IGCSE Physics syllabus.

Focus on keywords and concepts and try to create as many visuals (drawings, graphics, tables, etc.) as you can. This will allow you to process more information using fewer words.

Learn the Command Terms

Read the questions carefully and make sure you understand EXACTLY what the examiner is asking for. The best way to do this is to make sure you understand your command terms clearly.

For example, here is the list of command terms from the Cambridge IGCSE physics syllabus 2024:

  • Calculate: Use the given information (numbers, formulas) to find a specific answer.
  • Comment: Provide an informed opinion on a concept or observation, backed by your knowledge.
  •  Compare: Identify and explain the similarities and/or differences between two things.
  •  Deduce: Draw a conclusion based on the information specified in the question or passage.
  • Define: Provide a precise and clear meaning of a scientific term.
  • Describe: Outline the key features and characteristics of a concept, phenomenon, or experiment.
  • Determine: Find the answer using the facts and information presented in the question.
  • Explain: Make clear the “why” and “how” of something. Provide evidence and reasoning to support your explanation.
  • Give: Recall information from your memory or provide an answer based on the question’s source (data, diagram, etc.).
  • Justify: Support your answer with evidence and arguments to convince the examiner it’s correct.
  • Predict: Based on your understanding, suggest what might happen in a given scenario.
  • Sketch: Draw a simple, clear diagram that highlights the key features of the relation.
  • State: Express an answer or fact in clear and concise terms.
  • Suggest: Apply your knowledge to situations where there isn’t one single answer. Propose possible solutions or ideas based on your understanding.

Finally, look for clues in the question as to the depth of the answer you need to give. For example, if it is a two-mark question, you need to give a brief answer with two valid points to gain both marks.

Find out Your Learning Style

Are you a visual learner, or do you retain information best by making flashcards or doing quizzes?

At this point, you should have found the learning techniques that work best for you. Make the most of it during your learning session!

YouTube is of great help to those who absorb information through visuals. It is also an excellent source for physics enthusiasts who want to know more. On top of experiment-related content, there are many educational videos explaining complex concepts in simple words and with a lot of fun.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you can benefit from a more practical approach. For instance, Quizlet is one of the most popular apps for flashcards and quizzes. Or even better, you can create your own flashcards since this will activate different areas of your brain, and in this way, facilitate the learning process.

Join Forces with a Friend

Whatever your learning approach is, it is often a great idea to buddy up with a friend.

Doing anything is more fun if you’re in good company, and Physics is no exception. If you have a friend who fails to keep up, you can try to teach them. This is not entirely altruistic since repetition of topics is good for you, too. Besides, you are able to try different ways of explaining things until you find the most concise and clear one. Encourage your friend to ask questions because this may help find gaps in your knowledge.

Have a friend who is equally strong (if not stronger) in Physics? That’s great since you can learn from each other. Your study buddy may offer simple solutions to complex concepts, and you will gain benefits from getting to know them.

two students working on Physics IGCSE

Practice with Past Papers

Want to find out which sorts of questions are likely to be in your exam? Past papers can give a good idea of what to expect.

Papers’ content changes every year but their core remains the same. Practising with these papers is like sitting a real exam, especially if you complete them under exam conditions.

They can show you where you’re at a certain point in your revision, and the gaps that you have to tackle.

After answering a paper, it’s worth looking in your textbook or notes to see if you got everything right. If there are mistakes, focus on them during the revision.

Look at the mark scheme to see where you dropped valuable marks. This way, you don’t miss out on the final exam itself.

Try different papers as many times as you can until there are no mistakes anymore.

Get your Head Around the Equations Early

One of the best approaches is to think of equations as the vocab which makes up the language of Physics. Without words, you can’t master the language itself. So, get on with learning the equations by rote.

Once you have done this, you will work a lot faster. Besides, navigating through equations will give you confidence as you head into your final exams.

As you are doing your calculations, it is also very important to get into the habit of showing your workings. Even if the final result is wrong, you can pick up marks for your method.

Finally, when you have finished a calculation, look for silly mistakes. If you take a step back, does the answer seem to still make sense? Often, a double-check will allow you to pick up small errors in your work.

Make Sure you Know Your Graphs

As you go through the course, ensure that you are able to draw, plot, and read line graphs. It is more than likely that you will encounter graphs in your exam.

Always use a sharp pencil for graph work to ensure you can plot each point accurately. Usually, we ask students to use a small, neat cross to draw a thin line.

Look at the checklist below and ensure that you can do each of these:

  • Interpret graphs accurately;
  • Extrapolate data;
  • Plot graphs and charts from data;
  • Determine the gradient of a line graph;
  • Be able to draw a tangent;
  • Use and name suitable axes and scales;
  • Correctly understand proportionality.

This list is not exhaustive, but it presents the key graph skills you may need to exhibit.

Read Examiner’s Report

Every year, exam boards issue a report outlining how well students did in their IGCSE physics. These reports highlight the most common mistakes previous generations of IGCSE students had and why they were wrong.

They also explain how strong candidates performed in their papers and what the best points in their answers were. Basically, these reports explain what examiners require from the exam papers. Use this information to provide answers that meet their expectations.

What Topics Should You Focus on when Studying IGCSE Physics?

The short answer – you should revise every topic in the syllabus since you will find them all in exam questions. However, the depth of your revision for each area may vary based on your current understanding.

To make the most of your revision time, we recommend breaking the syllabus down into three categories:

  • Challenges & Weaknesses. This group will feature topics and concepts that you find difficult to understand or have consistently struggled with in class assignments.
  • Knowledge Gaps. This includes topics where you have a basic understanding, but there are still areas of improvement.
  • Strong Foundations. These are the topics you feel most confident in.

Begin your IGCSE Physics revision with the first category. You need to dedicate the most time to figuring out these difficult concepts. As you gain confidence, gradually shift your focus towards the topics you know better.

However, never neglect the areas you think you have no problems with. While these might require less revision time, a quick review can refresh your memory and prevent any unexpected surprises on exam day.

But which topics require the most attention? Your results with past papers can help identify areas where your knowledge might be rusty. For example, if you get consistently low scores in “Electrical Quantities”, this means that you need to give more time to revise this specific area.

What Resources to Use when Preparing for IGCSE Physics

Your IGCSE Physics coursebook should provide all the material you’ll encounter in your exam. This doesn’t mean, however, that this is the best study tool.

BBC Bitesize offers comprehensive resources for IGCSE physics, including interactive lessons, videos, and quizzes to help students grasp key concepts. It is fun and interactive.

Khan Academy provides detailed video tutorials and practice exercises for physics topics, making it an excellent resource for reinforcing understanding and practicing problem-solving skills. Perhaps a good place to start when kicking off a topic, or if you want to go into detail on a weak area.

Physics and Maths Tutor website offers a wealth of resources specifically for IGCSE physics, including past papers, revision notes, and practice questions to help students prepare thoroughly for exams.

Revision World provides a range of study notes, practice questions, and exam advice for IGCSE physics, making it a good source of info for exam prep.

Save My Exams offers a range of revision materials, including revision notes, topic questions, and past paper solutions, specifically designed for IGCSE physics.

GCSE Physics Online has video tutorials and practice questions on various IGCSE Physics topics, making complex concepts easier to understand. A good choice for visual learners.

S-cool has a range of revision guides, practice questions, and resources tailored to IGCSE sciences, good for helping you consolidate your understanding of key topics.

Isaac Physics provides problem-solving activities and questions tailored to IGCSE physics. This makes it a good choice to test yourself and check understanding.

Chemguide is also good for Physics! While focused on chemistry, it also has plenty of resources that can be helpful for understanding the overlap between chemistry and physics concepts in the IGCSE curriculum.

Ideally, you should use as many varying resources as possible. Because they provide content suitable for different types of learners (visual, audio, etc.), you can learn physics more effectively. Besides, it is a good idea to look at the same concepts from different angles. A specialised website or video may provide a better explanation of the things that were not clear in class.

Here are some resources you can try:
  • Video Lessons. YouTube, Khan Academy, Physics Classroom and other websites offer tons of educational videos that break down physics concepts in a clear way. They’re perfect for visual learners who like things explained with pictures and animations.
  • Flashcards. Flashcards are a popular study tool for a reason! They’re a great way to memorise definitions, equations, and other key terms you need to know. You can make your own flashcards or use apps such as Anki or Quizlet.
  • Interactive Simulations. Want to see physics concepts come to life? PhET Interactive Simulations and similar websites let you experiment with physics in a virtual world. This is a fantastic way to improve your understanding of complex phenomena.
  • Physics Forums and Communities. Stuck on a concept? Online physics forums (Physics Forums, Stack Exchange, etc.) are great places to get help from other students and physics enthusiasts. You can ask questions, share ideas, and get different perspectives on tricky topics.

Get Extra Help

Extra help can come in various shapes, whether it is your gifted classmate, Physics teacher, forums, or educational platforms. There is one more source of extra help you may want to try – a physics tutor.

Unlike your teacher, a tutor will always have time to answer your questions. They are more attentive to your needs and oftentimes easier to talk to. On top of that, input from a different person is extremely valuable. There can be many ways to explain the same concept, and you want to get to know them to see what works best for you.

Want to make use of an excellent opportunity to improve your performance in IGCSE Physics?

Then don’t hesitate to contact TutorsPlus at 022 731 8148 or info@tutorsplus.com. We pride ourselves on providing a personalised learning experience for students who want to make the most of their time and aptitude. 

 

By Sara Lloyd

Sara has been an education consultant for TutorsPlus for 15 years, and is an expert on international IB education.  She is also a parent of two lively children.

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