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School of Physics and Astronomy

2.5 General Papers (16/17)

General Physics Papers are an important part of the Honours Examinations system. In broad terms, their aim is to ensure that at the time of graduation students normally have a good grasp of basic physics principles across the whole of core physics. The specific papers taken, and their aims, are as follows.

Second Year Paper (PHYS20040/PHYS20240)

The second-year general paper contributes to the overall second year assessment and to the carry-forward mark. The aims of the paper are:

  • to ensure that at the end of second year, students normally retain a good knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of core physics from previous semesters;
  • to familiarize students, under examination conditions, with short general physics questions of the type they will be required to answer in the third year.

The paper is taken at the end of the academic year, and is a three hour paper comprising fifteen compulsory short questions based on material drawn from across the whole of core physics (semester 1 - semester 3 inclusive). The best thirteen marks are used for assessment. Mathematics and Physics joint honours students, Physics with Philosophy students and students who have entered year 2 as direct entry students, take a two hour reduced paper on which the mark is based on the best marks on nine out of ten compulsory questions. The weighting is 3/5 of the full paper. Students who change from one of these programmes to the Physics programme prior to the end of second year will take the full length paper.

Third Year Paper (PHYS30010/PHYS30210)

The third-year general paper contributes to the Final Honours assessment for BSc candidates and, through the carry-forward, to the Final Honours assessment for MPhys candidates. The aims of the paper are to ensure that students normally:

  • have a good knowledge and understanding of basic principles across the whole of core physics; and
  • are able to use this knowledge to solve simple problems and to make estimates of physical quantities.

The paper is taken at the end of the academic year, and is a three hour paper comprising fifteen compulsory short questions based on material drawn from across the whole of core physics (semester 1 - semester 5 inclusive). The best thirteen marks are used for assessment. Students on Mathematics and Physics, or Physics with Philosophy degree programmes and students who have entered year 2 or year 3 as direct entry students, take a two hour reduced paper on which the mark is based on the best marks on nine out of ten compulsory questions. The weighting is 3/5 of the full paper.

The general papers are among the more challenging examination papers in that they do not generally contain "bookwork", and reward problem solving and the ability to synthesize knowledge from different areas of the curriculum. Students are strongly encouraged to prepare for them by practising past papers, and are supported in this by questions on the second year tutorial sheets and by dedicated third year examples classes. Students who change from one of these programmes to the Physics programme prior to the end of third year will take the full length paper.