The 4th year Physics course develops the skills acquired in S2 and S3 Physics and leads to a first qualification in Physics. For some pupils this qualification may be N4 Physics(or N3) where passing the coursework (unit assessments – including an added value unit, assignments and practical investigations) results in the award without an external final exam.  N5 Physics should be taken by pupils hoping to move on to Higher Physics in 5th year. It is more demanding and a grade (A/B/C) is awarded on passing a final SQA exam. All unit assessments, assignments and practical investigations must also be passed. The assignment (inc. researching physics) counts for 20% of the final award. Both courses have a skills-based approach to learning. Progress into N4 or N5 Physics will be based on progress made in 3rd year Physics and on 4th year work. It is possible that some pupils may pass parts of the N5 course but not others and so work towards a N4 qualification where they would also be credited with the parts of the N5 course they had passed.

The 4th year courses are practical with scientific skills developed through three units of physics experiences and outcomes. The courses aim to generate interest and enthusiasm in physics. Pupils will develop the ability to solve problems and establish relationships in physics by acquiring a broad knowledge base, practical skills and mathematical skills.

The main aims of the courses are for pupils to :

  • develop and apply knowledge and understanding of physics.
  • develop problem solving skills in a physics context.
  • develop scientific inquiry and investigative skills .
  • develop practical skills in using technology, equipment and materials, safely, in practical physics activities.
  • develop scientific analytical thinking skills in a physics context.
  • develop an understanding of the role of physics in our environment.
  • use and understand scientific literacy to communicate ideas.
  • develop the knowledge and skills for more advanced learning in physics.

And, for N5 Physics,  the additional aims :

  • develop planning skills.
  • develop skills of independent working.

There is an increased expectation in pupils’ understanding of physics and in their ability to apply this knowledge to solve problems. More is also be expected in numeracy and scientific literacy skills and ICT skills. These will be essential skills for employment in physics based industries. Students with physics qualifications are valued for their problem solving, analytical thinking and numeracy skills in a wide range of vocations.

For each of units 1-3 the following tasks will be undertaken :

Task 1 : A scientific report of a practical investigation.

Task 2 : Short scientific report of a research investigation.

Task 3 : Answer a set of questions on physics.

Physics skills are developed through experiences and outcomes grouped under the key areas given below. Space gets increased coverage in all senior phase CfE Physics courses in response to pupil interest in this field of study.


Support materials and classes

All 4th year student receive a Bright Red N5 Physics textbook for revision. A ring binder, ruler, A4 class work jotters, homework jotter are also provided. A handbook for the course and assignment guide are also supplied.

Support classes are run at lunchtimes to help with homework. These classes are well used by S4 students to assist them in producing a good standard of homework, and also for revision for tests.



N4 Physics

Unit 1 : Electricity and Energy

Key areas :

  • Generation of Electricity
  • Electrical power
  • Electromagnetism
  • Practical electrical and electronic circuits
  • Gas laws and the kinetic model

Unit 2 : Waves and Radiation

Key areas :

  • Wave characteristics
  • Sound
  • Electromagnetic spectrum
  • Nuclear radiation

Unit 3 : Dynamics and Space

Key areas :

  • Speed and acceleration
  • Relationship between forces, motion and energy
  • Satellites
  • Cosmology

Unit 4 : Added Value Unit

Apply skills and knowledge to investigate a topical issue in physics and its impact on the environment.

Pupils will select and investigate a topical issue in physics from a key area of the course.. This topic will be agreed between the pupil and teacher. The topic could be from an unfamiliar context or from a more familiar context investigated in greater depth. Pupils will gather information over no more than 8 hours. The pupils will then undertake a 2 hour assessment under open-book conditions.Guidance will be given by the teacher to lead the pupil through each stage of the assignment.


N5 Physics

Unit 1     Electricity and Energy

Key areas :

  • Conservation of energy
  • Electrical charge carrriers and electric fields
  • Potential difference
  • Practical electrical and electronic circuits
  • Ohm’s law
  • Electrical power
  • Specific heat capacity
  • Gas laws and the kinetic model


Unit 2     Waves and Radiation

Key areas :

  • Wave parameters and behaviours
  • Electromagnetic spectrum
  • Light
  • Nuclear radiation


Unit 3    Dynamics and Space

Key areas :

  • Velocity and displacement – vectors and scalars
  • Velocity-time graphs
  • Acceleration
  • Newton’s laws of motion
  • Projectile motion
  • Space exploration
  • Cosmology


Physics assignment

The Physics assignment is worth 20 marks. This is 20% of the total marks for the course assessment.

The assignment has two stages :

  • Research stage
  • Communication stage

The students investigate a relevant topic in physics and communicate their findings in a report.

The research stage can include experimental work but will also involve research on the internet. The sources of information from the internet must be quoted. Seven hours is allowed for this phase of work. Information is recorded in a day book which is available to the student in the final report. The day book is kept in class by the teacher after each lesson.

The communication stage involves a written report using the information recorded in the student’s day book. Care must be taken by students to write in their own words, and to demonstrate an understanding of physics appropriate to N5 level – not beyond.

    A candidate guide to the N5 Physics assignment is given below. Students receive this in paper copy.  

National 5 Physics

Physics Assignment Assessment task

Appendix 1: Instructions for candidates

This assessment applies to the assignment for National 5 Physics.

Physics assignment


The assignment assesses the following skills, knowledge and understanding:


¨       applying knowledge of physics to new situations and interpreting information

¨       selecting information and presenting information appropriately in a variety of forms

¨       processing the information (using calculations and units, where appropriate)

¨       drawing valid conclusions and giving explanations supported by evidence/justification

¨       communicating findings/information




In this assessment, you will have to investigate a relevant topic in physics and communicate your research findings in a report. The topic must have an application with an effect on the environment/society.  This must relate to a key area of the National 5 Physics Course. Your assessor will let you know how the Assignment will be carried out and any required conditions for doing it. Your report must be completed independently.


The assignment has two stages:


¨      a research stage

¨      a communication stage


Research stage

You need to choose a relevant topic in physics to investigate. The topic must have an application which has an effect on the environment/society. Your assessor will help you to choose a suitable topic.


Once you have chosen your relevant topic, you need to decide the specific aspect which you want to research.  This will become the aim of your assignment. The aim may change during the research stage of your assignment depending on what information you find.


Most of the work in this stage is to gather data/information. This could come from the internet, books, published articles or extracts, journals, experiments/practical activities, or any other appropriate source.


Your information/data could include, for example: statistical, graphical, numerical or experimental data/information; notes taken from a visit or talk; notes taken from a written or audio visual source; or extracts from publications.


Downloads directly from the internet or copying directly from books may suggest to the assessor that you have not understood the physics involved. This may be considered as plagiarism unless you acknowledge the sources carefully. It is always best to put things in your own words to make sure you really understand them.


You must

¨      Use at least two sources of information/data and be able to explain why you chose them. You could think about:

—   Relevance: how useful they are for your topic

—   Reliability of sources: who wrote them? who published them? Similar/different perspectives: do they agree or disagree with each other?

¨      Select relevant data/information from your sources. This could include raw data from an experiment/ practical activity, extracted tables, graphs, diagrams and text.

¨      Record the sources you have used with enough detail to allow someone else to find them again.  If one of the sources is an experiment/practical activity, then you need to record the title, aim and the raw data.


If you use an experiment/practical activity as one of the sources of information/data, your assessor will give you instructions for this. The experiment/practical activity will not be assessed and you may carry out the experiment/practical activity as part of a group.


If you are working in a group to gather data/information, you must take an active part in this and choose your own sources of data/information.


Checkpoint: Inform your teacher that you have finished the research stage


Communication stage

In this stage of your assignment you need to select, process and present information/data from the sources you have gathered, and produce your report.


This stage will be conducted under a high degree of supervision. This means that:

¨      You will be in direct sight of the assessor during the period of the assessment

¨      You must not discuss your work with other candidates


In this stage of your assignment you can only use information/data that you have collected from your research. This may include, for example: statistical, graphical, numerical or experimental data; data/information from the internet; published articles or extracts; notes taken from a visit or talk; or notes taken from a written or audio-visual source. It cannot include a prepared draft report.


As a guide, your report should be 500-800 words, excluding tables, charts and diagrams. There is no penalty for being outwith this range.

The table below shows how many marks are available for each aspect of your report.


Skills, knowledge and understanding

Marks allocation

The aim of the investigation


Application/effect on the environment/society


Selection of sources of data/information


Selection of relevant Information from sources


Processing and presentation of data/information


Drawing a valid conclusion


Applying knowledge and understanding of physics


Report structure



Guidance on producing your report

Your report should:


¨      Have an appropriate structure with an informative title and headings where necessary

¨      Be clear and concise


Your report should include the following

¨      Aim

¨      Application

¨      Research

—  choice of sources

—  data/information

¨      Conclusion

¨      Underlying physics

¨      References



The aim must describe clearly what is to be investigated



Here you must describe the application of physics and explain its effect on the environment/society. Your explanation must make clear how the application affects the environment/society. This could be a positive or negative effect, or both.


Research – Choice of sources

Here you must give reasons for your choice of sources of raw data/information.

You must explain your choice of sources in terms of at least two of the following:


¨      Relevance: how useful they are for your topic?

¨      Reliability of sources: who wrote them? who published them? and so on

¨      Similar/different perspectives: do they agree or disagree with each other?


Research – Data/information

Here you must include the data/information from your sources that is relevant to your investigation. This must include data/information that you have processed from at least two of your sources. This can include, for example, performing calculations, plotting graphs from tables, populating a table from other sources, summarising referenced texts, etc.


It must be clear where the raw or extracted data/information that you processed came from. For example you could:


¨      Include raw data from an experiment/practical activity

¨      Include tables, graphs, diagrams, text taken from your sources

¨      Explain clearly where the data/information came from (reference your sources)


You must present your processed data/information in at least two different formats from: summary, graph, table, chart or diagram. One must be a graph, table, chart or diagram.


Think carefully about the format you choose because it must be suitable for the information you are presenting.

Check that you have included, as appropriate:

¨      Suitable scales

¨      Units

¨      Headings

¨      Labels


You should also compare the data/information from at least two sources. For example how they agree/disagree or describe other similarities/differences.



You must clearly state the conclusion(s) of your investigation. Your conclusion(s) must relate to your aim and be supported by what you have found out.


Underlying physics

Here you should explain how the underlying physics relates to your topic.

You should include a statement of the physics principles involved.



At the end of your report you must record the sources you have used with enough detail to allow someone else to find them. If one of the sources is an experiment/practical activity, then you need to include the title and the aim.


Before submitting your report, check that you have included everything you need.