Guide to HSC Physics Practical Investigations

The practical aspect of Physics is as important, if not more, than the theoretical components. A thorough understanding of the relevant experiments and their results will provide a new depth to your learning.

Although your trials and HSC are written, practical components can still be tested, thus it is very important to know these.

Practicals in the Syllabus

Every module has some syllabus dot points which relate directly to practical work. They typically use phrases like “conduct practical investigations” or “conduct an investigation” to indicate that you could research these topics with a practical component, as opposed to purely theoretical work.

The relevant dot points for each module are shown below.

You may not get to do all of these in class, but you will still be expected to know how to respond to questions about them.

 Module 5:

  • Conduct a practical investigation to collect primary data in order to validate the relationships derived in Projectile Motion.
  • conduct investigations to explain and evaluate, for objects executing uniform circular motion, the relationships that exist between:

–  centripetal force

–  mass

–  speed

–  radius

Module 6:

  • Conduct a quantitative investigation to demonstrate the interaction between two parallel current- carrying wires.
  • Electromagnetic Induction Practicals are not explicitly mentioned in the syllabus however in theory exams you can be given scenarios about them so it is best to be familiar with them e.g., dropping a magnet through a copper tube experiment.
  • Magnetic Braking practicals are also not mentioned in the syllabus but you can be given an image of a magnetic brake and be asked to explain its operation. It is helpful to watch videos of practicals relevant to this.
  • Transformer practicals are also not mentioned in the syllabus but make sure you go over them by watching a video before your exams.

 Module 7:

  • Conduct investigations of historical and contemporary methods used to determine the speed of light and its current relationship to the measurement of time and distance (ACSPH082)
  • Conduct an investigation to examine a variety of spectra produced by discharge tubes, reflected sunlight or incandescent filaments
  • Conduct investigations to analyse qualitatively the diffraction of light (ACSPH048, ACSPH076)
  • Conduct investigations to analyse quantitatively the interference of light using double slit apparatus and diffraction gratings 𝑑sin𝜃 = 𝑚𝜆

Module 8:

  • In module 8 there are not many practicals, however it is safe to be familiar with the experiments that the theory is based of, for example, watching videos about Thomson’s charge to mass ratio cathode ray experiments will be helpful.


How can these areas be examined?


There are three primary ways in which practical investigations can be assessed in a written exam.

  • Firstly, questions can always be asked on the theory behind the investigations. For example, explaining electromagnetic induction and Lenz’ law through a given experiment.
  • Secondly, it is important to understand and be able to describe the risks and mitigation methods in various investigations. For example, working with metals and electricity for transformers.
  • Finally, you can be expected to outline experimental methods used in conducting these investigations. These can be simply written in stepwise lists with the appropriate equipment and steps included. Finally, calculations and graphing based off provided results are very common questions and could be examined on all dot points, except those that specify “qualitative investigations.”

It is also necessary to know the analytical features of the experiment and method, such as the accuracy, reliability and validity. You will need to know how they can be improved, giving theoretical explanations.



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