Introduction to the Physics Dept

Welcome to National 5 Physics.

We hope you will enjoy the experience of learning Physics over the next year. This information gives you a clear idea of what you’ll complete during the course.


1. The structure of the Course.

The first thing to understand if you are to achieve your best in Physics at National 5, is to have a clear understanding of how the course is run. The course is made up of several parts; divided up in several ways.

There are six units and the Assignment (which changed for the session 2017-18):

  1. Waves
  2. Radiation
  3. Dynamics
  4. Space
  5. Electricity
  6. Properties of Matter
  7. Assignment (20% of the course covered in class but marked externally)

However, if you do units for N5, they have stayed as Dynamics and Spaces, Waves and Radiation and Electricity and Energy so there is quite a bit of overlap in the units

The topics covered in each unit are given below:

  1. Dynamics – vectors and scalars; velocity–time graphs; acceleration; Newton’s laws; energy; projectile motion.
  2. Space – space exploration; cosmology.
  3. Electricity-electrical charge carriers; potential difference (voltage); Ohm’s law; practical electrical and electronic circuits; electrical power.
  4. Properties of matter –specific heat capacity; specific latent heat; gas laws and the kinetic model.
  5. Waves – the topics covered are: wave parameters and behaviours; electromagnetic spectrum; refraction of light.
  6. Radiation –is nuclear radiation.

You will have a set of Learning Outcome Questions to complete, containing what you have to know for the exam.

The SQA states that the Assignment and Exam will test:

  • knowledge and understanding of physics by making accurate statements
  • knowledge and understanding of physics by describing information and providing explanations and integrating knowledge
  • applying physics knowledge to new situations, interpreting information and solving problems
  • planning or designing experiments to test given hypotheses or to illustrate particular effects, including safety measures
  • carrying out experimental procedures safely
  • selecting information from a variety of sources
  • presenting information appropriately in a variety of forms
  • processing information (using calculations and units, where appropriate)
  • making predictions based on evidence/information
  • drawing valid conclusions and giving explanations supported by evidence/justification
  • evaluating experimental procedures
  • suggesting improvements to experiments/practical investigations
  • communicating findings/information

In summary the course will be completed in the following order:

  • Maths and Intro
  • Waves
  • Dynamics
  • Radiation or Electricity
  • Electricity or Radiation
  • Assignment
  • Properties of Matter
  • Space
  • The exam

2. The Need to Know Booklet and organising you work.

Currently, all the information you need to pass the exam is highlighted in the Compendium. Check this every lesson and note your progress through the course, ensure you understand what you need to know.

Eventually, we hope to produce a set of Learning Outcome Questions, the answers will provide you with a perfect set of revision notes. These should be answered clearly and concisely in your Notes. Either copy out each question or print the questions and stick these in your notes. Then others can test you.  Alternatively, you can make these into flash cards.

Another hint is to make your work as colourful and neat as possible. This is going to form your most important work so take care of it. If it is bright, colourful, well presented and laid out it will be easy to revise from. Hand in your notes regularly for checking.

At the back of the notes jotter keep a list of all of your quantities etc. in a table like the one below. These are also in the compendium.

Quantity, Symbol, Unit, Unit Symbol N5-AH

NHAPhysical Quantity symUnitUnit Abb.
5absorbed dose D gray Gy
5absorbed dose rate H (dot)gray per second gray per hour gray per year Gys-1 Gyh -1 Gyy-1
567acceleration a metre per second per second m s-2
567acceleration due to gravity g metre per second per second m s-2
5activity A becquerel Bq
567amplitude A metre m
567angle θ degree °
567area A square metre m2
567average speedv (bar)metre per second m s-1
567average velocity v (bar)metre per second m s-1
567change of speed ∆v metre per second m s-1
567change of velocity ∆v metre per second m s-1
5count rate - counts per second (counts per minute) -
567current I ampere A
567displacement s metre m
567distance dmetre, light year m , ly
567distance, depth, height d or h metre m
5effective dose H sievert Sv
567electric charge Q coulomb C
567electric charge Q or q coulomb C
567electric current I ampere A
567energy E joule J
5equivalent dose H sievert Sv
5equivalent dose rate H (dot)sievert per second sievert per hour sievert per year Svs -1 Svh-1 Svy -1
567final velocity v metre per second m s-1
567force F newton N
567force, tension, upthrust, thrustF newton N
567frequency f hertz Hz
567gravitational field strength g newton per kilogram N kg-1
567gravitational potential energy Epjoule J
5half-life t1/2 second (minute, hour, day, year) s
56heat energy Eh joule J
567height, depth h metre m
567initial speed u metre per second m/s
567initial velocity u metre per second m s-1
567kinetic energy Ek joule J
567length l metre m
567mass m kilogram kg
5number of nuclei decayingN - -
567period T second s
567potential difference V volt V
567potential energy Ep joule J
567power P watt W
567pressure P or p pascal Pa
5radiation weighting factor wR- -
567radius r metre m
567resistance R ohm Ω
567specific heat capacity c joule per kilogram per degree Celsius Jkg-1 °C -1
56specific latent heat l joule per kilogram Jkg -1
567speed of light in a vacuum c metre per second m s -1
567speed, final speed v metre per second ms -1
567speed, velocity, final velocity v metre per second m s-1
567supply voltage Vsvolt V
567temperature T degree Celsius °C
567temperature T kelvin K
567time t second s
567total resistance Rohm Ω
567voltage V volt V
567voltage, potential difference V volt V
567volume V cubic metre m3
567weight W newton N
567work done W or EWjoule J
7angle θ radian rad
7angular acceleration aradian per second per second rad s-2
7angular displacement θ radian rad
7angular frequency ω radian per second rad s-1
7angular momentum L kilogram metre squared per second kg m2 s -1
7angular velocity,
final angular velocity
ω radian per second rad s-1
7apparent brightnessbWatts per square metreWm-2
7back emfevolt V
67capacitance C farad F
7capacitive reactance Xcohm W
6critical angle θc degree °
density ρ kilogram per cubic metre kg m-3
7displacement s or x or y metre m
efficiency η - -
67electric field strength E newton per coulomb
volts per metre
N C -1
Vm -1
7electrical potential V volt V
67electromotive force (e.m.f) E or ε volt V
6energy level E 1 , E 2 , etcjoule J
feedback resistance Rfohm Ω
focal length of a lens f metre m
6frequency of source fs hertz Hz
67fringe separation ∆x metre m
67grating to screen distance D metre m
7gravitational potential U or V joule per kilogram J kg-1
half-value thickness T1/2 metre m
67impulse (∆p) newton second
kilogram metre per second
7induced e.m.f. E or ε volt V
7inductor reactanceXLohm W
7initial angular velocity ω oradian per second rad s-1
input energy E ijoule J
input power Piwatt W
input voltage V 1 or V2 volt V
input voltage V ivolt V
6internal resistance r ohm Ω
67irradiance I watt per square metre W m-1
7magnetic induction B tesla T
7moment of inertia I kilogram metre squared kg m2
67momentum p kilogram metre per second kg m s-1
6number of photons per second per cross sectional area N - -
number of turns on primary coil n p- -
number of turns on secondary coil n s- -
6observed wavelengthλ observedmetrem
output energy E o joule J
output power P owatt W
output voltage V o volt V
6peak current Ipeak ampere A
6peak voltage V peak volt V
7phase angle Φ radian rad
67Planck’s constant h joule second Js
7polarising angle
(Brewster’s angle)
i pdegree ̊
power (of a lens) P dioptre D
power gain Pgain - -
7Power per unit areaWatts per square metreWm-2
primary current I p ampere A
primary voltage Vpvolt V
7radial acceleration ar metre per second per second m s-2
67refractive index n - -
6relativistic lengthl'metrem
6relativistic timet'seconds
rest mass mo kilogram kg
6rest wavelengthλrestmetrem
6root mean square current I rmsampere A
6root mean square voltage Vrmsvolt V
7rotational kinetic energy Erotjoule J
7schwarzchild radiusrSchwarzchildmetrem
secondary current Is ampere A
secondary voltage Vsvolt V
7self-inductance L henry H
67slit separation d metre m
7tangential acceleration atmetre per second per second m s-2
6threshold frequency fohertz Hz
7time constanttseconds
7torque Τ newton metre Nm
7uncertainty in Energy∆E jouleJ
7uncertainty in momentum∆px kilogram metre per second kgms-1
7uncertainty in position∆x metre m
7uncertainty in time∆t seconds
6velocity of observer vometre per second m s-1
6velocity of source vsmetre per second m s-1
voltage gain - - -
voltage gain Ao or V gain - -
6work functionWjouleJ

Your formulae should also be in the notes section. Keep the list up to date! Each time that you learn a new formula put this in your notes. Make sure you include units, symbols and the meaning of each letter. Check that you can rearrange the formula to find any missing quantity.

The work that you do in class should usually be written in your class work jotter. Date all work and record a title for each activity. Sometimes notes will go straight into your notes jotter, so you must have this with you every lesson.

You will also keep a profile of your performance in your profile section. This should start with your contract (see the end of this post), profile of you and an introduction About Yourself. This will help us to gain a good understanding of how you function. You will need to set targets each month on how you can improve your performance or maintain your performance at the current level, if it really is the best you can deliver. We will also try to tailor some of the tasks to items that interest you and assist you in meeting these targets. All progress that you make should be recorded in this jotter and it would be helpful to discuss these targets with folk at home. Include a progress bullseye chart each month like the one below, electronic copies can be downloaded from the links below too.



The main reason we use the pupil profile is to give you the chance to discuss with your teacher, at your leisure, any concerns, worries or problems you might have. This is not to prevent you from talking directly to your teacher, but it gives you the opportunity to enter into a dialogue with your teacher at a time that is convenient to you both. This will become part of your homework on a monthly basis. Your pupil profiles should be handed in on the first lesson of every month. Get into the routine of handing this in. Please mark in your student planners that this homework is due on the first Physics lesson of every month. Obviously, if you wish to hand this in more often you may do so, in fact hand this in whenever you have a concern. Your teacher will record and note any concerns and comments and deal with these as soon as possible. This may be in the form of additional work, additional help or additional resources.  But don’t forget your pupil profiles can also tell us when you’re really happy with the course, enjoying it and feel that you are making good progress. Don’t rush your response, but engage with how you can improve and what areas you feel are your weakest and strongest.

3. Follow the Rules & Routines & Bring Equipment

The five rules of the Physics Department are for pupils follow to ensure a pleasant and safe environment.

  1. Follow the teacher’s instructions.
  2. Raise your hand, and wait for permission before speaking.
  3. Allow people to get on with their work.
  4. Follow the laboratory rules
  5. No put downs. (or only say positive things about people).

Remember Science is about trial and error and looking for ways to fix mistakes, what a better example for life!


In addition to the core rules the following routines are expected of pupils during their time in this department. Pupils should:

  1. Enter the room quietly, calmly and on time;
  2. Come prepared for the work with jotters and pen or pencil etc.;
  3. Complete all homework and hand it in on time;
  4. Not deface jotters, desks folders, etc.;
  5. Pay attention;
  6. At the end of a lesson, when told to do so, pack away quietly, place stools under the desk and leave in an orderly manner.

3.  Homework and Review

You will be expected to complete all the homework set and hand it in on time. We will contact parents/carers if we think you are not completing this vital part of the course. We do not issue homework because we want you to spend all your life working, but because it gives you the opportunity to consolidate the work completed in class. It has been proved that students who complete homework do better in their exams.

 4. The Timeline

You will be issued with a timeline. This may be on a monthly, weekly or termly basis. This will show you what homework you will have to do, where on the course you are and when assessment dates are likely to be. We may have to update this through the year but it should be used to plan study and work. Don’t waste it, use it!

 5. ASK!

If you do not understand any aspect of the course or work and you have read through the material at home then ask. Both members of the Department (Mrs Physics and Ms Horn) are willing to help you with your work.

 6. Equipment

This is a list of the equipment you need to bring to Physics

  • Pen
  • Pencil
  • Ruler (30 cm)
  • Eraser
  • Protractor or angle measurer.
  • Scientific calculator, nothing fancy but it must be capable of doing scientific functions. Most pupils find it easier to use a Casio DAL, S-VPAM calculator, particularly the Casio FX83 or Casio FX85. With these calculators you enter the numbers into the calculator in the manner in which they are written. There is a post in the maths section giving you some example of how to work your calculator and I’ll add a few more hints later in the year.

Pupils will be issued with

  • A classwork jotter for practice and results
  • A notes jotter
  • A homework / profile jotter
  • An A5 Content booklet containing the Content Requirements, Relationships’ Sheet, Periodic Table and a few maths hints. This should be brought to every lesson and used every night to check content coverage and for revision and review. This can be kept at the end of the course as it will be covered in student writing.
  • Students will receive topic booklets with content and questions. These should be returned at the end of the course.

7. Take Responsibility for your Learning

Sometimes there may be a distraction in the classroom that is out of our control. Make sure that you use your time wisely if there is a distraction. Check and complete one or more of the activities listed below.

  • Finish off the work that has been set.
  • Complete Learning Outcome Questions/ Summary of content statements.
  • Check off the content covered in the Vital Booklet (good name needed)
  • Write out a summary of what you have been doing.
  • Read through the work that we have been covering.
  • Read through the next section of work to prepare.
  • Revise/ Learn your formulae
  • Produce a revision test for the class.

Your work is in your hands. This is time that can be used or abused. If you abuse your time now you will have to use your free time later. SPEND YOUR TIME WELL.

8. Layout for Tackling Mathematical Problems

Always set out maths problems using the structure given below. It may seem to take longer but it will save time in the long run as it makes the question clearer.


  1. Information– Summarise the question by writing down what you know from the information given. Use the letter that goes with the quantity and this will help you be able to work out the correct formula
  2. Equation – write down the equation as it occurs in the data sheet. Do not attempt to rearrange it before substituting.
  3. Substitution – put the numbers into the equation as they appear in the formula
  4. Solution – work out the answer. You are ALWAYS allowed to use a calculator
  5. Units– you will need to use the correct units so will need to learn these. No or wrong units no mark for the answer
  6. Underline – underline with 2 lines the answer to make it clear what is your final answer.

In short:

  1. (Information)- Summarise the question.
  2. Change any units that are not standard.
  3. (Equation) -Write out the formula.
  4. (Substitution) -Put the numbers in.
  5. Use the magic triangle to rearrange the formula, only if you must!
  6. (Solution)- Work out the answer.
  7. Write out the answer, but not to too many sig fig.
  8. (Units) -Add units to your answer.
  9. (Underline) Underline the answer.

9. Revising The Syllabus

REVISING- Here are some really important ideas to help you with your revision (which shouldn’t just take place the night before a test but should be an ongoing process).

Find out:

  • Make a Revision Calendar (I’ve made one for you Click Here! The instructions can be found in the Revision section)
  • Stick a large calendar next to where you study.
  • Mark in the dates and times of Exams (whether prelims or final exams). A countdown timer is on the N5 Home Page.
  • Shade in the dates and times of other commitments.
  • Make a list of topics to cover for each subject.
  • Calculate how many hours you have available and how much time you will allocate to each subject.
  • Decide on the order in which to tackle your subjects. Don’t tackle the easy subjects first as you’ll never get on to the harder ones! It is best to start revising the hard subjects and topics as these will take you more time to learn
  • Draft your revision timetable.
  • Leave one or two revision slots free each week for extra revision or difficult topics.
Working in Revision Groups
This can be useful but:
  • Discipline is needed
  • Decide before you meet on the topic that you’ll cover e.g. prepare revision cards or answer past paper questions.
  • Teach each other a topic
  • Take an ACTIVE APPROACH to your Revision
  • Talking with others about what to revise can lessen the anxiety.
  • Before starting a Session decide HOW  and WHAT to revise 




10. Relax

Believe it or not we also expect you to make sure you relax. Relaxation should be in proportion. Too much and you won’t finish the work, too little and you will not function properly; balance is important. Make sure that your relaxation includes plenty of exercise and fresh air. Don’t just vegetate in front of something electrical.

Now you have your survival guide may we wish you all the best and hope you perform Physics to the best of your ability, whatever that standard!

Remember we are a TEAM! It is not YOU ALONE! It will be most effective if YOU, ME and PEOPLE FROM HOME can all work together to support you through the next nine months. We each have a role to play. I need to explain what we need to do in the best way I can, and ensure you know the course content. Your role is to listen well in class, learn what you are taught, ask if you have not understood what you’ve been taught and review and revise little and often. Tell me if you are finding the work hard so that I can give you additional support. People at home are there to support and encourage you in your work and if possible test you on your learning, (provided you’ve laid it out as well as possible).

After a Test

It is important that you review your performance after a test. One way to do that is through a Thinking about Revising Sheet.

Thinking about revising  this is the pdf version

Thinking about revising this is the word version

Here is the link to the SQA N5 Physics website


Monthly Progress Chart

Each month, (handing in your jotter on the first Physics period of the month), give an update on how you feel you’re getting on in Physics, reassess your targets and check through your progress. You ought to be able to tackle new past paper questions every month. For the first Progress Chart answer the questions contained in the profile below and write out the expectations and sign these.

pupil profile jotter word

pupil profile jotter pdf



Date of Birth: 

Register Class:     

Registration Room:

Register Teacher: 

Pupil Support Teacher:


Previous Physics Grade: 

Maths Class: 

Maths Teacher:

Approx. level Maths: N3, N4, N5

English Class: 

English Teacher:

Approx. level English: N3, N4, N5.

Other subjects taken:






About myself

Tell us a little bit about yourself so that we can make the work as relevant to you as possible. Include things like

  •         where you live,
  •         the other people in your family,
  •         what your hobbies are,
  •         what you most like doing,
  •         how you spend your time outside school.

You could also include what kind of career you would like to have, what your goals are in life, and why you chose to take Physics.

Target Setting

During my time in Physics I want to achieve the following targets.


I …{insert your name}

will always do my best in N5 Physics

I will work hard in class, and follow the classroom code.

I will look over the work I have done each evening, and I complete each piece of homework and hand it in on time.

If I am absent I will catch up on the missed work and homework and ask if I am stuck.

I will ask my teacher for help when I am having difficulties, and will not give up.

I will show my homework to my parents when completed.

signed (you)

(and your parent/guardian to show that they have seen this)

Best Wishes for a lovely journey through N5 Physics