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VCE Science

Physics Unit 1: What Ideas Explain the Physical World?


Students are advised to complete the Year 10 Physics course before undertaking Physics Unit 1. Mathematical Methods is strongly recommended.

Course Description

In this unit students explore how physics explains phenomena, at various scales, which are not always visible to the unaided human eye. They examine some of the fundamental ideas and models used by physicists in an attempt to understand and explain the world. Students consider thermal concepts by investigating heat, probe common analogies used to explain electricity and consider the origins and formation of matter.

Areas of Study

How Can Thermal Effects be Explained?

In this area of study students investigate the thermodynamic principles related to heating processes, including concepts of temperature, energy and work. Students examine the environmental impacts of Earth’s thermal systems and human activities with reference to the effects on surface materials, the emission of greenhouse gases and the contribution to the enhanced greenhouse effect. They analyse the strengths and limitations of the collection and interpretation of thermal data in order to consider debates related to climate science.

How Do Electric Circuits Work?

In this area of study students develop conceptual models to analyse electrical phenomena and undertake practical investigations of circuit components. Concepts of electrical safety are developed through the study of safety mechanisms and the effect of current on humans. Students apply and critically assess mathematical models during experimental investigations of DC circuits. 

What is Matter and How is it Formed?

In this area of study students explore the nature of matter, and consider the origins of atoms, time and space. They examine the currently accepted theory of what constitutes the nucleus, the forces within the nucleus and how energy is derived from the nucleus.


Assessment Tasks
(school-assessed coursework)
Apply thermodynamic principles to analyse, interpret and explain changes in thermal energy in selected contexts, and describe the environmental impact of human activities with reference to thermal effects and climate science concepts.

Tasks are selected by the teacher from the following:

  • An annotated folio of practical activities.
  • Data analysis.
  • Design, building, testing and evaluation of a device.
  • An explanation of the operation of a device.
  • A proposed solution to a scientific or technological problem.
  • A report of a selected physics phenomenon.
  • A modelling activity.
  • A media response.
  • A summary report of selected practical investigations.
  • A reflective learning journal/blog related to selected activities or in response to an issue.
  • A test comprising multiple choice and/or short answer and/or extended response.
Investigate and apply a basic DC circuit model to simple battery-operated devices and household electrical systems, apply mathematical models to analyse circuits, and describe the safe and effective use of electricity by individuals and the community.
Explain the origins of atoms, the nature of subatomic particles and how energy can be produced by atoms.

Overall Final Assessment

End of Semester Examination – 1.5 hours.

Information can be obtained from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Victoria, Australia: