Creating a Solid Foundation for HSC Physics

Posted on November 28, 2016 by June Heo

The Science team at Matrix believes that the ultimate key to success in Year 12 Physics is the ability to retain knowledge from important theories and concepts learnt in the Preliminary course. Read below to see the interweaving of topics previously covered, which form the foundation of the HSC course. 

BOSTES says the Preliminary Physics course is assumed knowledge for the HSC… What does that mean? Will you ever need it again? Well, yes, you will. And it may not be that easy to work out when.

The Year 11 Preliminary Physics course provides a foundation for the material in Year 12. The HSC course has more complex concepts that require you to apply Year 11 knowledge in order to understand the new concepts.


Building knowledge requires a solid foundation

For example, in the Space module, you learn about the “sling shot effect”. This is where a space craft drifts by an orbiting planet and is flung through the Solar System at higher speed. What do we require to understand this manoeuvre? Forces, Newton’s 3rd Law, conservation of momentum and energy, elastic collisions, and resultant motion. These are a lot of the core components of the Moving About module, covered in Year 11.

At least you were spared vectors, right? No, vector decomposition and addition is necessary in “projectile motion”, another topic of the Space module, as well as a lot of other aspects of the Year 12 course. 

Since the HSC course is looking at integrated concepts and applications, a synthesis of preliminary knowledge is required. This is why Space isn’t just Cosmic Engine Part 2. And Motors and Generators (the second Year 12 module) is not Electrical Energy Part 2. Multiple Year 11 concepts are integrated and applied to support a Year 12 concept. If we look at the network of required preliminary knowledge for Year 12 modules, it’s a criss-crossing web:




So your current understanding of particular concepts learnt in Year 11, will affect the way you apply them in Year 12.  

If you’re heading into Year 12, it’s worth brushing up on your Year 11 material. Are there any concepts you didn’t really grasp in Year 11? Well, odds are that in Year 12 they will be required knowledge for more in-depth concepts. Ask your teacher, or even a friend for some assistance in understanding particular concepts. It will all make the Year 12 material sink in a bit more easily. It’s important enough that in the Matrix Physics courses we include and revise the relevant Year 11 content just before we introduce the new Year 12 material. 




Our pick for the most important concepts to get comfortable with is vector decomposition, forces, and resultant velocity, from the Moving About module. These concepts underlie almost all the Year 12 modules and ensuring that students have a solid grasp of this will ensure that they can continue comfortably throughout the course. 


Do you want a competitive edge against your peers?

Develop an outstanding ability to describe and explain Physics concepts clearly and accurately with our Year 12 Physics Holiday Accelerated Course. The holiday course is held over 9 days in the school holidays over 2 weeks. Gain an in-depth understanding of all syllabus dot points and outcomes for each module prescribed by the NSW Board of Studies.  At Matrix we have the most experienced teachers working with the best, time-tested resources to help you excel. 

View our Physics holiday course at


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