What is Physics all about?

VCE Physics provides for continuing study pathways within the discipline and leads to a range of careers. Physicists may undertake research and development in specialist areas including acoustics, astrophysics and cosmology, atmospheric physics, computational physics, education, energy research, engineering, instrumentation, lasers and photonics, medical physics, nuclear science, optics, pyrotechnics and radiography. Physicists also work in cross-disciplinary areas such as bushfire research, climate science, forensic science, geology, materials science, neuroscience and sports science.

This study enables students to:

    • Apply physics models, theories and concepts to describe, explain, analyse and make predictions about diverse physical phenomena
    • Understand and use the language and methodologies of physics to solve qualitative and quantitative problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
    • Understand the cooperative, cumulative, evolutionary and interdisciplinary nature of science as a human endeavour, including its possibilities, limitations and political and sociocultural influences
    • Develop a range of individual and collaborative science-investigation skills through experimental and inquiry tasks in the field and in the laboratory
    • Develop an informed perspective on contemporary science-based issues of local and global significance
    • Apply their scientific understanding to familiar and unfamiliar situations, including personal, social, environmental and technological contexts
    • Develop attitudes that include curiosity, open-mindedness, creativity, flexibility, integrity, attention to detail and respect for evidence-based conclusions
    • Understand and apply the research, ethical and safety principles that govern the study and practice of the discipline in the collection, analysis, critical evaluation and reporting of data
    • Communicate clearly and accurately an understanding of the discipline using appropriate terminology, conventions and formats


The study is made up of four units.

Unit 1: What ideas explain the physical world?

In this unit students use thermodynamic principles to explain phenomena related to changes in thermal energy. Students examine the motion of electrons and explain how it can be manipulated and utilised. They explore current scientifically accepted theories that explain how matter and energy have changed since the origins of the Universe. Students undertake quantitative investigations involving at least one independent, continuous variable

Unit 2: What do experiments reveal about the physical world?

In the core component of this unit students investigate the ways in which forces are involved both in moving objects and in keeping objects stationary. Students choose one of twelve options related to astrobiology, astrophysics, bioelectricity, biomechanics, electronics, flight, medical physics, nuclear energy, nuclear physics, optics, sound and sports science. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least one independent, continuous variable.

Unit 3: How do fields explain motion and electricity?

In this unit students apply the concepts related to fields include the transmission of electricity over large distances and the design and operation of particle accelerators. They explore the interactions, effects and applications of gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. Students use Newton’s laws to investigate motion in one and two dimensions, and are introduced to Einstein’s theories to explain the motion of very fast objects. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.

Unit 4: How can two contradictory models explain both light and matter?

In this unit, students explore the use of wave and particle theories to model the properties of light and matter. They examine how the concept of the wave is used to explain the nature of light and explore its limitations in describing light behaviour. Students further investigate light by using a particle model to explain its behaviour. A wave model is also used to explain the behaviour of matter which enables students to consider the relationship between light and matter. Students design and undertake investigations involving at least two continuous independent variables.


There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3. However, students who enter the study at Unit 3 may need to do preparatory work based on Unit 1 and Unit 2, as specified by the teacher. Students must undertake Unit 3 prior to undertaking Unit 4.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2

School based assessment consisting of coursework, assessment tasks and an exam

Units 3 and 4

School assessed coursework and an end-of-year examination.

  • Unit 3 school-assessed coursework: 21 %
  • Unit 4 school-assessed coursework: 19%
  • End-of-year examination: 60 %