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Physics at Oxford - Course Outline

Project Work

A broad choice of fourth year MPhys project is available throughout six Physics sub-departments and sometimes from related departments. Periodically, students arrange to execute their project at outside laboratories.

First Year


Foundation Courses:

  • Mathematical methods I
  • Electromagnetism & circuit theory
  • Classical mechanics & special relativity
  • Differential equations, waves & optics

Short Options

  • Astronomy
  • Quantum ideas
  • Complex analysis


First university exams

Short option paper
Four written papers
Satisfactory laboratory work

Second Year


Core Courses:

  • Electromagnetism & optics
  • Thermal physics
  • Quantum physics
  • Mathematical methods II

Short Options:

  • Classical mechanics
  • Energy studies
  • Medical and environmental physics


Final university exams, Part 'A' (both)

Laboratory work
Short option paper
Three written papers

Third Year


Mainstream courses:

  • Atomic physics
  • Particle & nuclear physics
  • Condensed matter physics
  • Atmospheric physics
  • Astrophysics
  • Mathematical physics

Short Options:

  • Chaos
  • Plasma physics
  • Classical mechanics


Final university exams, Part 'B' (MPhys)

Short option paper,
Three written papers
Laboratory work

Final university exams, Part B (BA)

  • Short option paper
  • Project report
  • Two written papers
  • Laboratory work

Fourth Year


Project and two option courses:

  • MPhys projects (runs for one term)
Major Options
  • Astrophysics
  • Condensed matter
  • Atmospheres & oceans
  • Particle physics
  • Biological physics
  • Theoretical physics
  • Laser science & quantum information processing


Final university exams, Part C (MPhys)

  • Two major option papers
  • Project report

Exams are conducted in June at the end of each year of the course. Some of the written papers are of approximately three hours duration. Short options are shared across years 1-3. The above mentioned options are illustrative and can change from year to year of the course.

Weekly Timetable

In the first year, students' time is equally divided between Physics and Mathematics with about ten lectures and two paired tutorials a week. Additionally, students have to spend one day a week, over two terms in the practical laboratories. In the second and third years, the mainstream and core physics topics are covered with almost ten lectures a week and a mix of small group classes and tutorials.

Students need to take practical exercises two days a fortnight over four terms. Students who are taking a three-year BA need to undertake a short project in the second year term of their third year. In the fourth year, students need to take two major options approximately six lectures, one class a week and the MPhys project in the second term.

Entrance Requirements

  • A-levels: AAA
  • Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
  • IB: 38 - 40 consisting of core points
  • Or any academic equivalent

Candidates are expected to have Mathematic and Physics to A-level, Higher Level or Advanced Higher in the IB or any academic equivalent. The inclusion of a Maths Mechanics module is recommended. Further Mathematics may be useful to candidates in completing this course; however, they are necessary for admission.

Application Procedure

Candidates ought to follow the application procedure as mentioned in the how to apply page. The information given below provides details for students applying for Physics course.

Written Test

Candidates do not need to submit any written work while applying for this course. Nevertheless, they should take the Physics Aptitude Test, typically at their own college or school on the prescribed date by the university. Candidates must ensure that they are available to take the test at the stipulated time. For more information about the course and the test, candidates are advised to refer the Physics pages on the university website.

What Tutors Look for?

During the interview, tutors look for enthusiastic and motivated students with a physicist's ability to apply basic principles to unfamiliar situations. However, the course needs a good level of mathematical competence. The major requirements here are the capability to formulate a problem in mathematical terms and subsequently take out the physical consequences from the solution.

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