Wednesday, January 7, 2015

O-Level Physics (5054) | Exam Structure

  • O-Level Physics (5054) | Exam Structure

The Cambridge O-Level Physics (5054) syllabus has 4 examination papers, but any candidate will be entered to only 3 papers. The candidate will sit to 2 theory papers and 1 practical paper.

O-Level Physics (5054) examination papers are as listed (with some details) below:
  • Paper 1 (Multiple Choice)Duration: 1 hour. Marks: 40 marks. Content: 40 multiple choice questions. % of total examination (weightage): 27.6%
  • Paper 2 (Theory)Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes. Marks: 75 marks. Content: Short answer and structured questions. % of total examination (weightage): 51.7%
  • Paper 3 (Practical Test)Duration: 2 hour. Marks: 30 marks. Content: Candidate will do a practical exam which is supervised by a teacher. % of total examination (weightage): 20.7%
  • Paper 4 (Alternative to Practical)Duration: 1 hour. Marks: 30 marks. Content: Candidate will answer a written paper about practical work. % of total examination (weightage): 20.7%

Paper 1 and Paper 2 are compulsory for all candidates. They can then choose between Paper 3 and Paper 4. Candidates need to ask/tell their teachers which of the 2 practical papers they are taking.

Paper 1 (Multiple choice)
Candidates need to choose 1 of the 4 possible answers. This paper covers the entire 5054 syllabus, apart from Section 25 on Electronic Systems.

Paper 2 (Theory)
Questions in this paper are answered in the actual question paper itself. Paper  2 consists of 2 sections.
Section A contains short structured questions where candidates may have to write a few words or sentences or make a calculation. All questions are compulsory for this section.
Section B has three longer questions, only 2 of which are to be answered. Each question is worth 15 marks. So, candidates are advised to take their time to read the questions carefully before choosing which questions to answer. Questions on section 25 (Electronic Systems) will always be optional.

Paper 3 (Practical Test)
This practical test has 2 sections. Section A contains 3 short questions and lasts 1 hour. Section B contains 1 question that takes 1 hour. So, candidates need to carry out 4 short experiments.

Candidates are given instructions, which enable them to carry out the experiments. The following are expected from the candidate:
  • Take readings and record them in a table
  • Use a sensible number of figures and give the unit in the heading
  • Draw a graph and make some conclusions, commenting upon accuracy and on how to improve the experiment

Among the techniques (other techniques may also be asked) that the candidate may be asked to use are following:
  • recording current and potential difference and drawing circuit diagrams
  • ray tracing and drawing ray diagrams
  • measuring temperature
  • balancing (centre of mass and moments)
  • stretching of springs
  • timing of oscillations

Proper experience of practical work during the course should enable the candidate to handle the apparatus. During the course, teachers will be able to give more examples to candidates and explain how to take readings and analyse the data.

Paper 4 (Alternative to Practical)
Paper 4 is a written paper, testing the same skills as Paper 3. There are usually 4 questions which test practical procedures in the physics laboratory.

Candidates may be asked to:
  • record readings from diagrams of apparatus e.g. reading current from an ammeter
  • answer questions on the arrangement of apparatus
  • complete tables of data
  • draw conclusions from information
  • answer questions about experimental data
  • plot a graph from a table of readings
  • interpret information from graphs
  • draw ray diagrams
  • identify sources of error and suggest improvements in the experiment
  • suggest suitable apparatus for investigations

To score a good mark on this paper, candidates will need to do plenty of practical work during the course.

Note: Any information given here or in other posts is taken from materials provided by Cambridge (which are most probably based on data collected from past candidates). Therefore, you can be sure that the information given is accurate. I’ll try to update them as soon as possible whenever changes to the syllabus occur.


  1. Physics olevels 5054 paper2 section B,i would like to know how marking is carried out when a candidate answers all 3 questions instead of 2 in section B,will first 2 answers scores or 2 best ones????

    1. Sorry, I do not know. I would recommend that you answer only 2 questions, those that you are most confident.

  2. the first 2 questions will be marked

  3. i am a private candidate who would like to find alternative for my physics in spm. So this would the paper i should take to replace with spm physics isn't it? which paper would you recommend me to take for the alternative papers 3 or 4?

    1. I don't know much about spm. Paper 3 here is an actual practical paper while paper 4 is a written paper on practical physics.

      If any of one of the readers knows about spm, you are welcomed to help.


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