CfE Higher Physics

This course is suited to students who have a proven background in physics and mathematics.  The entry requirements are B grade passes or above in mathematics and physics.  The course has three units (the third one is a half unit) which focus on:

  • Our Dynamic Universe – motion, energy and forces, relativity, the expansion of the universe, and the Big Bang
  • Waves, and particles – the strange world of subatomic particles, waves and wave behaviour, radiation and the atom
  • Electricity – circuits and semiconductors (half unit)


There are lots of opportunities for students to apply problem solving skills and strategies, and there is the need for creativity and lateral thinking.

It is a challenging course, and requires a level of confidence in using maths techniques including algebra, graphs, Pythagoras’ theorem and trigonometry.  The ability to use standard form in order to deal with very large and very small numbers with confidence, is important.

In addition, students need to be able to express themselves clearly, using appropriate terminology, when describing and explaining physics phenomena.

There are also requirements for students to interpret data in various forms, including applying more advanced graphical analysis techniques, and to be able to apply physics knowledge to unfamiliar situations.


The assessment schedule is as follows:

  • First unit assessment in October
  • Second unit assessment in December
  • Prelim in January
  • Final unit assessment in March
  • Added value assignment in March
  • Exam in May*

The assignment is worth 20 of the total of 120 course marks, and concerns investigating an aspect of physics and its impact on society or the environment.  It is conducted under controlled conditions and takes about two weeks of lesson time.

The final exam contributes the other 100 marks.

It is essential for students to pass the prelim in order to be presented for the final exam.  Presentation for units only is an option for those candidates who struggle with the final stages of the course.


Each student will be issued with a copy of the text book ‘Higher Physics for CfE with answers’ by Chambers, Moore and Ramsay, and is published by Hodder Gibson.  Near to the exams, the students will also be given access to practice exam papers. 

Useful links:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/highersciences/physics/guide/resources.asp A fantastic, comprehensive list of resources to support each unit of the course.

Official SQA material: http://www.sqa.org.uk/files_ccc/CfE_CourseUnitSupportNotes_Higher_Sciences_Physics.pdf