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What is Physics and why is it important?

Physics is a key part of science and technology; it deals with how and why things behave as they do. Physics is used to solve problems: environmental, social, health, technological and many more. It’s about practical things but also involves ideas such as the origin of the universe and the tiniest building blocks of all materials. Physics is important because it is a fundamental science that lies at the heart of science, engineering, technology, our planet and the universe itself.

Course Content?

The Physics course also involves a lot of theory which is tested in the written examination. Students are expected to be able to use various formulae with respect to SI units and significant figures and have a good understanding of the role of physics in modern society and technology.


The study of Physics for Leaving Certificate is broken down into eight sections or topic areas: 

(a) Six compulsory sections (b) Two option sections (Higher paper only, one to be done)


Compulsory sections


Optics / Waves: the study of light and sound and real life applications of the theory.

Mechanics: time, space, distance, speed and acceleration.

Heat: changes of state, energy conversions and mathematical problems.

Electricity: develops on from simple circuits to more detailed concepts.

Electricity and Magnetism: gravity, relationship between electricity and magnetism, study of how a motor works, ac. and dc. circuits and phenomena with real world applications.

Atomic Physics: cathode rays, x-rays, radioactive decay, fission and fusion, nuclear reactors and real world applications.




Particle Physics: recent type of physics, delving into the new discoveries leading to a better understanding of the formation of the universe and where we came from.

Applied Electricity: detailed study of electricity and the working of a motor developing from electricity already studied.


At Higher Level, there is a deeper, more quantitative treatment of physics.  The two option sections are omitted from the Ordinary Level Leaving Certificate course. The course also consists of 24 core mandatory experiments complementing each section in an aim to develop students’ technical skills and enhance understanding and reinforce key concepts.


What kind of student takes Physics?


  • Students who wonder why and ask how.
  • Students who are interested in the following careers would be advised to study Physics: Electrician, Optician, Doctor, Dentist, Engineer, Computer Technician and Programmer.

Career Possibilities


Physics is a useful subject for many courses and career areas and a good foundation for a broad range of scientific and technical careers in particular.  

Many careers benefit from the logical and numeracy skills developed in the study of physics. Many technical courses involve components of physics.

Students may move into employment or into further study following their two years of Physics at Senior Cycle. They may choose to progress to a Post Leaving Certificate course (PLC) or move on to a third level course.


For more detailed information on the Leaving Certificate Physics syllabus click the link below.