Physics (H): A Fair And Welcome Paper

LC Physics H Analysis 2023

Reaction to Leaving Certificate 2023 Physics (Higher Level) by Pat Doyle, physics teacher at The Institute of Education.

  • A fair paper that would have been welcomed by those familiar with the past papers.
  • Lots of choice meant that students of all abilities would have been able to accrue marks.

This paper posed very few surprises, none of which would be unwelcome. Students would have liked that questions tended to focus on single topics, rather than fusing different elements together, as per the most recent exams. Yet, those who had honed their skills on those papers will find this streamlined focus on each topic rewarding and satisfying.

Section A offered an encouraging start to the paper, allowing students some feel-good-factor at the beginning of the exam. The students had to answer three of the five experiments, meaning that there was lots of choice. Thus, if a student was unsure about the questions on light, they could still fully complete the section. These five experiments tested a nice mixture of essential skills: graphing, calculations, and diagrams. There was nothing unpleasant or awkward to phase those who had familiarised themselves with the standard model of the Physics paper.

Section B’s, Question 6 is the most popular every year as it offers short, concise questions that cover the expanse of the course. The Covid adjustments meant that there was even more choice than previous years, which allowed students to make the most of their knowledge. Question 7 on Newtonian Physics was a fair combination of previous questions but will have challenged those who struggled with the applied mathematical approach. Question 8 was a very clever question as it tested the genuine understanding of the material, allowing those with an aptitude for graphing to make the most of it. Question 9 blended nuclear physics, heat, and mechanics into a question that, while accessible, contained a calculation that challenged the conceptual grasp of some students.

Question 10 may have discouraged those students hurriedly scanning questions for key words, as the preamble text on Van Der Graff (who is not on the course) will make the question appear more daunting than it is. This was just a distraction technique and has appeared in previous questions. A student who read further would have seen the actual tested material was not on Van Der Graff and bore a resemblance to material they would have revised.

Question 11 was very manageable but will likely have been skipped by most students. Electromagnetism is generally perceived as challenging so many students and teachers avoid it. Those who did study that unit found a question with no twists or surprises. Questions 12 and 13 included contemporary aspects of Physics. The former included cutting-edge particle physics, the kind that is central to CERN, while latter is on the topical concern of energy storage; the use of Turlough Hill in Wicklow provided a nationally relevant framework for a question on the physics at the heart of a global issue.

This was a fundamentally fair paper – there were no nasty surprises or novel inventions that could unsettle students. Those who had a solid grasp of previous exams will have found this exam an evenhanded opportunity to reflect their hard work.