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Subject Summary: Part II Physics

The course contains work of three types: 'Core LecturesCourses' and 'Optional Lecture Courses', which are examined at the end of the year in the usual manner, and units of 'Further Work', which are assessed during the year. The four core Lecture Courses and the computing exercises are compulsory for all students. Students also choose three or four Optional Lecture Courses and take three or more units of Further Work. 

The aim of the Core Lecture Courses is to complete basic instruction in physics.  In the first term there are four Core Lecture Courses in Advanced Quantum Physics, Thermal and Statistical Physics, Relativity, and Electrodynamics and Optics.  In the second term there are four Optional Lecture Courses in Particle and Nuclear Physics, Soft Condensed Matter Physics, Quantum Condensed Matter Physics, and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics. All students take the Computational Physics course, which is assessed by performance on the class exercises. 

For Further Work, students choose three or more options from several on offer. They may select a more experimental course by carrying out up to two experimental investigations, each lasting two weeks.   Alternatively they may choose up to two theoretical courses.  Students may also take a mix of experimental and theoretical options.  Students may also choose to carry out a Computational Physics project, write a Research Review or take a course in Physics Education.   The Physics Education course offers experience of developing and presenting teaching material at the secondary-school level. Students may also choose to perform supervised Long Vacation Work, for instance in industry or a Government Laboratory. 

There are also unexamined courses on Concepts in Physics and all students have an opportunity to explore Current Research Work in the Cavendish Laboratory.

Programme Specification: Part II Physics

This is a full-time course, taught by the Department of Physics. All students make choices between more experimental and more theoretical options. Half Subject Physics in NST Part II Physical Sciences consists of about half the Part II of the course.


  1. to establish the final part of the core understanding of physics at a professional level;
  2. to introduce new themes including a full development of statistical mechanics, more advanced quantum theory, more advanced electromagnetism with special relativity, and an introduction to general relativity, as well as a range of optional courses;
  3. to provide experience in a number of skills important to professional physicists;
  4. to broaden awareness of the breadth of the subject and its major applications, and to provide an understanding of the importance of scientific communication;
  5. to provide a sound basis in general physics, judged at the highest international standards.

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students should

  1. have mastered further powerful tools for tackling a wide range of topics, including formal methods in classical and quantum physics;
  2. have consolidated their ability to apply computers to the solution of problems in physics;
  3. have written a report on at least one element of the coursework;
  4. for those taking a theoretical option, have developed both classical and quantum theoretical techniques to the point where they could be used in research;
  5. for those taking an experimental option, have gained experience of major experiments lasting about two weeks, and reached the point of being ready for experimental research;
  6. be ready to undertake professional work in physics at a high level.

Teaching and learning methods

These include lectures, supervisions and practical and examples classes, practical computer programming, supervised report writing, and, in some cases, supervised project work outside the Department. Unexamined lectures are also provided, including talks on current research.


Assessment for this course is by

  • seven or eight unseen examinations, based on lectures (for aims 1, 2 and 5 and learning outcomes 1 and 6);
  • assessed coursework (for aims 3-5 and learning outcomes 1-6).

The assessment of coursework includes oral assessment of a Research Review, Long Vacation Work or Physics Education reports (if offered), and may include oral assessment of a Computing Project report. It may also include up to two written tests on theoretical topics taken during the year, and oral assessment of up to two major experiments reports. Communication skills are appraised in all coursework assessments.

Courses of Preparation

Essential: Either NST Part IB Physics A and NST Part IB Physics B, Or Part IB of the Mathematics Tripos.

Additional Information

Further information is available on the Course Websites pages.