MATSEC Physics SEC 24 Syllabus


SEC Physics Syllabus 2018

SEC 'O' Level Physics Past Papers



The syllabus is designed to develop the candidates’ understanding of the nature of scientific ideas and activity through the acquisition of a systematic body of scientific knowledge and an appreciation of its power and limitations. The scientific method is to be presented as a method of inquiry in a way that stimulates curiosity and interest. As far as possible, an investigative approach should be followed. Every opportunity should be taken to expose the students to the applications of Physics to technology and environmental issues. Wherever possible the subject content should be presented within a contemporary context relevant to the lives of students and within a historical context which illustrates how the scientific ideas were developed and the scientists who developed them. 


  1. To emphasize the importance of the process of scientific investigation as a means of solving problems in every day life;
  2. To contribute to the pupils’ general education by helping to make sense of the physical environment through scientific inquiry;
  3. To provide the basis for further study of the subject;
  4. To develop experimental and investigative abilities;
  5. To develop the skills necessary to find solutions to scientific problems;
  6. To understand that scientific ideas are developed within a contemporary and historical context.
  7. To develop positive attitudes towards Physics, Science and the environment.

Course Objectives

As a result of following a course in Physics, candidates should acquire:

Knowledge and understanding 

  1. recall facts and ideas;
  2. show an understanding of facts, terminology, principles and concepts;
  3. use units correctly;
  4. demonstrate an understanding of the application of Physics in everyday life;
  5. understand that scientific concepts are developed within a contemporary and historical context;
  6. recognise the importance of the work of key scientists;
  7. understand the outcomes of the applications of science.

Application of knowledge through problem solving 

  1. use Physics principles and concepts to describe and explain everyday situations;
  2. interpret data presented in tables, diagrams or graphs;
  3. carry out relevant calculations;
  4. apply principles and concepts to unfamiliar situations

Positive attitudes 

  1. recognise alternative points of views;
  2. evaluate the implications of science and how it affects the quality of one’s life, that of others and the quality of the environment;
  3. use their knowledge and understanding to make informed choices.


The examination will consist of two written papers of two hours’ duration each and an assessment of practical work. The questions will be set in English and must be answered in English.

Paper I                  

Consists of a written paper, comprising about 10 compulsory short questions to be answered in the spaces provided in the examination booklet, and a practical component. This paper is to be taken by ALL candidates registered for the examination.

Paper IIA/Paper IIB

There will be two versions of Paper II; Paper IIA or Paper IIB.

Questions in Paper IIA will be more difficult than those in Paper I. Questions in Paper IIB will be less difficult than those in Paper I.


Candidates will be required to indicate on the registration form which option in Paper II (A or B) they wish to sit for. No change in the choice of paper will be allowed after the registration period.


In the September Supplementary session, only Paper I and Paper IIB will be offered.

Test Questions

Paper IIA or Paper IIB will consist of five compulsory questions, two of which will test experimental skills. 

The papers will cover the whole syllabus and will test the candidates’ abilities according to the following scheme:


Paper I

Paper IIA or Paper IIB

% Mark

Knowledge and Understanding




Problem Solving




Design and Planning of experiments




Practical Assessment




Approximate % of total mark




Questions requiring the application of knowledge will normally refer to common situations and any calculations required will be simple and direct. When reference is made to particular situations or apparata which might be unfamiliar to candidates, sufficient details will be given to explain the context.

Mathematical content

The use of non-programmable electronic calculators with arithmetical (four rules, squares, square root, log) and simple trigonometrical functions (sin, cos, tan, and their inverses in degrees) is recommended.


Standard notation and SI units will be used. When one quantity is divided by another, the solidus will be used, e.g. m/s but the notation ms-1 will also be accepted. The acceleration of free fall, g, which will be given in the question paper, will be taken as 10 m/s2.

Practical Work


Through practical work candidates should be able to carry out experimental and investigative work in which they plan procedures, use precise and systematic ways of making measurements and observations, analyze and evaluate evidence and relate this to scientific knowledge and understanding.

Learning Outcomes

A candidate must be able to: 

  1. recall, understand, use and apply the scientific knowledge set out in the syllabus; 
  2. communicate scientific observations, ideas and arguments using a range of scientific and technical vocabulary and appropriate scientific and mathematical conventions; 
  3. evaluate relevant scientific information and make informed judgements about it


  1. 15% of the total marks for this examination are allotted to the practical experience of the candidates. This will be assessed by the schools during the candidates’ course of study.
  2. The mark of the practical work is to be based on the average mark of:
    The best 15 experiments carried out.
    The best 13 experiments and a longer investigation which will be given 2 marks out of the 15 marks.
    Examples of investigations are included in Appendix 3 of the SEC Physics Syllabus

Private Candidates

  1. Private candidates who left school before 1994 will not be expected to present their laboratory report books. Their mark will be obtained by pro-rating of the written papers.
  2. Candidates who studied the subject at school and are re-sitting the subject may carry forward the practical report mark from a previous session.
  3. Candidates who have never studied the subject at school but have covered the coursework privately will be expected to present their coursework to the MATSEC Board by the date indicated by the Board. Candidates may be asked to attend an oral examination about their practical work.

Examples of Practical Work

In order to ensure that experiments involving a variety of skills are assigned and assessed it is recommended that candidates present at least two experiments for each themes 1-6. Experiments which are considered important are marked in the text.

A number of types of activity may be used such as: 

  1. Skill development [e.g. The use of circuits for measuring current and voltage].
  2. Open-ended enquiry [e.g. What affects the sag of a bridge?]
  3. Testing a given prediction [e.g. Electromagnets with more coils are stronger].
  4. Verifying a law [e.g. The relationship between force and acceleration, Newton’s second law of motion].

Simple experiments with data loggers are also recommended. 

The investigations may be chosen from any area of the syllabus.


Assessment of Practical Work 

In assessing one would look for evidence of: 


  1. A simple safe procedure has been planned.
  2. A prediction has been made and a fair test planned.
  3. Appropriate equipment has been selected.
  4. Scientific knowledge and understanding has been used to plan a procedure.
  5. A suitable range of measurements has been chosen.


  1. Equipment has been used safely to obtain measurements.
  2. Appropriate measurements have been taken.
  3. The measurements have been recorded clearly and accurately in tables.
  4. The measurements are sufficient, appear to be accurate and repeated.


  1. The student has explained what has been found out.
  2. A graph has been drawn to present the findings where applicable.
  3. A trend has been identified.
  4. Numerical methods have been used to process the evidence.
  5. A conclusion is drawn and linked to scientific knowledge.
  6. Explanation of how results match or do not match the original prediction.


  1. Relevant comment about the procedure and evidence obtained.
  2. The accuracy of the results and any sources of error are discussed.
  3. The suitability of procedures are evaluated.

Communicating results

  1. Report written in an acceptable format.
  2. Use of technical vocabulary.
  3. Ability to justify conclusions reached verbally and during class discussions
  4. Proper format in presentation of results including tabulation, graphs, etc.

Marking Criteria

Criteria for Experiments


Actual conduct of experiment including handling of apparatus.


Format of experiment report to include date, title of experiment, aim and procedure.


Clear, neat fully-labelled diagram of apparatus.


Results obtained by observations in the form of a table and graph with labelled axes if applicable.


Discussion of precautions undertaken to ensure accuracy in the results observed.


Discussion of results obtained in view of the aim of the experiment/investigation.





Criteria for Investigation


Planning of investigation and determining a hypothesis.


Choosing and setting up of apparatus.


Carrying out the investigation.


Results obtained.


Discussion of results including precautions taken.





Moderation of Practical Work


  1. Laboratory Report books are to be available at the candidates’ schools for moderation by the Markers’ Panel.
  2. The Markers’ Panel will look for evidence that the candidates have actually carried out practical work and were capable of:
    1. following verbal and written instructions;
    2. planning and organizing practical work;
    3. handling laboratory apparatus;
    4. carrying out and recording observations and measurements, and
    5. processing experimental data and drawing conclusions from them


Grades Awarded 

Candidates sitting for Paper I and Paper IIA may qualify for Grades 1, 2 , 3, 4 or 5.  The results of candidates who do not obtain at least a Grade 5 shall remain Unclassified (U). Candidates sitting for Paper I and Paper IIB may qualify for Grades 4, 5, 6 or 7. The results of candidates who do not obtain at least a Grade 7 shall remain Unclassified (U).


Source: SEC Physics Syllabus 2018