University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)

Stage 1 Physics Problems Classes


At sixth-form level, students are often trained to solve physics problems by selecting a selecting one of a small number of standard methods and turning the handle get to a final answer. This is not the aim of these classes.

The Stage 1 problems classes train students to construct and present their own solutions to problems. It is largely an exercise in the development, presentation and criticism of a rational argument in writing. Students need to explain what physical assumptions and laws they are use, and the logical and mathematical steps they take by presenting them in a form that one of their peers can follow and verify or correct. The exercise is analogous to developing a piece of theory to explain experimental data and presenting it as a section in a research paper that is then peer-reviewed.

The cycle of solving problems, and problems-classes, requires students to prepare work that one of their peers can evaluate. In the class, the roles swap they become the referee and must evaluate another's work and judge the extent that it presents a correct coherent solution to the problem. They must try to diagnose misconceptions and errors in the solution where their colleague went wrong. In order to provide useful feedback, they must exercise judgement when assigning marks. Learning to evaluate the work of others is an essential part of the process of learning to self-evaluate one's own work.

These are high-level skills, and developing them requires active engagement by in the process.


  1. Module instructors publish Problems sheets on the Exeter Learning Environment one week in advance of the associated problems class. (See schedule below.)
  2. Students must attempt to answer the questions in both section A and section B and bring their solutions to the class. A cover-sheet must be attached and their personal tutor must be clearly identified:
  3. Demonstrators collect solutions from students at the start and redistribute them for peer-marking.
  4. The Module Instructor who provided the Section B questions makes a 30-minute presentation explaining how they can be approached and how they should be marked.
  5. Students carefully mark the work of one of their peers. Marking criteria will be provided either in the form of a PowerPoint presentation supplied by the Module Instructor (and presented by a demonstrator), or as a set of printed marking instructions supplied by the Module Instructor. This part of the class will normally last about 1 hour.
  6. Students must put their name name on the work they have marked and hand it in before leaving the class. These names will be removed before the work is returned to the student.
  7. At the end of the class, The demonstrator(s) will:
    1. record the marks for each student,
    2. provide brief feedback to module instructors
    3. sort the work, and a copy of the marking criteria, into packs for each tutor and dispatch these without delay.
  8. If a student believes that the marking of their script has been unreasonable, they may raise the matter with the senior demonstrator who will decide whether the mark should be changed.

Schedule of Problems

Stage 1 students take two core physics modules in each term. Problems are broadly split into 'Section A' questions, which are relatively straightforward problems designed to reinforce knowledge and test a student's ability to apply facts and techniques learned in the module. 'Section B' questions are more substantial and may take 2-3 times as long to answer as the section A questions. These train students to plan and execute multi-stage problems, and may sometimes draw on knowledge from areas from outside the module. Each complete problems set should take a typical student 4 hours to complete (i.e. 2 hours per module.)

Week NumberPHY1021PHY1022PresentationComments
Sec. ASec. BSec. ASec. B
T1:01-----Lecture - Plagiarism and Academic Honesty
Talk - Introduction to the IoP.
T1:02-----Lecture - Solving and presenting solutions to problems
T1:03428-PHY1021Problem Set 1 (Issued in T1:02)
T1:04-----Midterm Test 1
T1:058-42PHY1022Problem Set 2 (Issued in T1:04)
T1:06-----PHY0000 & eXfactor (Opportunities Week)
T1:07428-PHY1021Problem Set 3 (Issued in T1:05)
T1:088-42PHY1022Problem Set 4 (Issued in T1:07)
T1:09-----Midterm Test 2
T1:10428-PHY1021Problem Set 5 (Issued in T1:08)
T1:118-42PHY1022Problem Set 6 (Issued in T1:10)
T1:12428-PHY1021Problem Set 7 (Issued in T1:11)

The pattern for PHY1023/PHY1024 is similar:

Week NumberPHY1023PHY1024PresentationComments
Sec. ASec. BSec. ASec. B
T2:01 -- -- -Lecture(s) - Replacements for Bank holidays, etc.
T2:02 -- -- -Lecture(s) - Replacements for Bank holidays, etc.
T2:03 8- 42 PHY1024Problem Set 1 (Issued in T2:02)
T2:04 -- -- -Midterm Test 1
T2:05 42 8- PHY1023Problem Set 2 (Issued in T2:04)
T2:06 8- 42 PHY1024Problem Set 3 (Issued in T2:05)
T2:07 42 8- PHY1023Problem Set 4 (Issued in T2:06)
T2:08 -- -- -Midterm Test 2
T2:09 8- 42 PHY1024Problem Set 5 (Issued in T2:07)
T2:10 42 8- PHY1023Problem Set 6 (Issued in T2:09)
T2:11 8- 42 PHY1024Problem Set 7 (Issued in T2:10)

See also: Code of Practice for Problems Class Demonstrators.

University of Exeter Handbook (Physics) Questions/Comments Department (Physics)