UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)



Find out more about the Physics foundation subject on the UPC. Learn about what you will study, teaching methods, assessments and recommended reading.

Key information 

Subject title: Physics

Subject type: optional

UPC pathway: UPCSE

Subject leaders: Vincent Gimbert and Dr Yiannis Koutsonas

Number of students (2022-23): 44

Subject description

The Physics subject introduces you to the most important concepts of physics. You'll study physics and its theoretical background. You’ll also explore the tools and methods to approach scientific problems.

It is a part of the Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Science and Engineering (UPCSE) pathway.

We'll introduce you to a wide range of subjects, including both classical and contemporary ideas in physics. The course centres on the conceptual and mathematical nature of the subject. This includes the role of fundamental principles and their relationship to physical laws.

The international foundation year’s Physics subject is split into six main units:

  • Mathematical preliminaries
  • Classical kinematics and mechanics
  • Oscillatory phenomena, waves and optics
  • Modern physics (special relativity, quantum and nuclear physics)
  • Thermal physics and introduction to astrophysics
  • Electricity and magnetism

The course has a strong focus on mathematical treatment of physical laws, including calculus. This will prepare you for any high-quality engineering or science course at a UK university.

Our laboratory, with state-of-the-art facilities, allows you to develop your experimental skills. You'll train in mathematical modelling and error analysis, and you’ll have the chance to work in groups. As you study physics, you'll also learn computing and report writing skills.

How we teach Physics

You'll study physics through lectures, small-group tutorials and lab work. In the lab, you'll work in groups and carry out independent experimental work.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the subject, you should be able to:

  • fully understand, state and explain the fundamental principles of classical and modern physics
  • provide real-world examples for all units studied on the course
  • confidently use English to describe physical concepts, principles and theorems to both specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • confidently use mathematical calculus (integration and differentiation) to state physical laws, derive important results and solve complex problems
  • independently conduct complex physics experiments using a range of experimental apparatus and report findings via a thorough and well-structured scientific report

Overview of Summative Assessment

OneEnd of Term Exam (2 hours)10%
TwoEnd of Term Exam (2 hours)10%
ThreeFinal Written Exam (3 hours)45%
 Final Oral Exam (10-15 mins)5%
Throughout the yearClass Tests15%
 Laboratory Work15%
  100% Total 

Assessment weighting is for the 2022-23 academic year. This may change for 2023-24 entry.

Recommended reading

If you want to do any reading before starting the subject, we recommend: 

  • College Physics 11th Edition, Serway & Vuille, Cengage Learning
  • Physics for the IB diploma, K. A. Tsokos, Cambridge University Press

Subject selection guide

Please check out our optional subject selection guide for information on suitable subject for your future degree plans.

Please note the information on all the UPC subject pages, including this one, reflects the subject as it was taught in the 2022-23 academic year (unless otherwise stated).