Reality stars in physics papers
Reality was the star of the show in the higher and ordinary level Leaving Certificate physics papers this morning, as students were required to apply their knowledge of physics to everyday scenarios.
Rote learning would have been of little use, according to TUI representative Michael Gillespie, a teacher in St Brendan’s Community School, Birr, who said: “We have to teach students how to apply their knowledge. It’s great to see the examiners are taking that on board.”
The physics paper is split into Section A and Section B.
Section A, at higher, level was, “fine, as expected,” said Pat Doyle, physics teacher in the Institute of Education, although he pointed out that students were required to include the exam paper with their answer booklet if they answered question 1.
“This has never happened before. Students should have been given prior warning,” he said.
“The question itself was a bit different in that students were given a graph as opposed to being asked to draw one,” Gillespie said. “But it was fine,” he added.
The rest of the questions in Section A were, “typical,” Gillespie said, describing question 4 in particular as, “lovely”.
A recent trend of linking physics questions to real life situations was continued in Section B of the paper. “The questions, while a little challenging, were clearly written,” Doyle said.
The first question in Section B, question 5, was a mixed bag according to Gillespie. “Part (a) was more of a geography question I thought,” he said. “While part (e) asked for three conditions necessary for an observer to see a rainbow – that was tricky I thought.”
Part (g) however, asked a question about a smoker outside a building and the amount of smoke that could enter the building which was a good real life situation, Gillespie said.
The last question on the paper, question 12 was, “Really nice,” Gillespie said. “A lot of students did that one I’d say.”
The ordinary level paper held, “very few surprises,” Doyle added. Again the paper required students to apply their knowledge of physics to real life situations.
Polarised sunglasses, a glass of iced water, a fire engine, the Tacoma Bridge and a vacuum cleaner all formed the basis of questions.
Question 11, about the Fukushima nuclear disaster drew particular praise. “It used a Wikipedia entry which provides a great explanation for what happened and the questions that followed were good. I loved that question,” Gillespie said.