PHY3053 General Problems 2023-24
Prof. M.K.M. Browning and Tutors
Delivery Weeks: T1:01-11, T2:01-11
Level: 6 (NQF)
Credits: 15 NICATS / 7.5 ECTS
Enrolment: 101 students (approx)


Problem-solving is the process of answering questions by using reasoning beyond the mere application of pre-learned procedures. This is a synoptic module that presents students with unfamiliar problems to solve. It requires them to draw on the skills and knowledge of core physics they have built up over their three years at University in order to develop their own solutions to these problems.

Module Aims

Professional physicists are expected to able to tackle many problems by the appropriate application of basic physical laws and by doing so demonstrate their knowledge of the relevant laws and deepen their understanding of the physical world. The ability to solve problems is also an essential life-skill, and most physics graduates earn a living not from their detailed knowledge of physics, but from their ability to solve their employers' problems. The aim of this module is to develop students' problem-solving ability and experience.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

A student who has passed this module should be able to:

Syllabus Plan

The examination may consist of problems on any area of physics. However, these will be soluble by applying laws and techniques included within the core modules common to the Physics programmes that include this module. Booklets of past questions and their mark schemes are publish on ELE (see link below). past examination papers and the associated solutions and hints are useful guide to the style of problems that they can expect to encounter in the assessment.

Learning and Teaching

Learning Activities and Teaching Methods

Description Study time KIS type
11×1-hour problem-solving classes 11 hours SLT
9×2-hour follow-up exercises 18 hours GIS
9×2-hour problem-sets 18 hours GIS
6×1-hour tutorials 6 hours SLT
Reading, private study and revision 97 hours GIS


Weight Form Size When ILOS assessed Feedback
0% Problems assigned by tutor 1×2-hour problem-set Week T1:08 1-10 Written and verbal
0% Problems assigned by tutor 5×2-hour problem-sets Fortnightly in Term 2 1-10 Written and verbal
100% Examination 2 hours 30 minutes May/June 1-10 Mark via MyExeter, collective feedback via ELE and solutions.


The following list is offered as an indication of the type & level of information that students are expected to consult. Further guidance will be provided by the Module Instructor(s).

Core text:

Supplementary texts:


Further Information

Prior Knowledge Requirements

Pre-requisite Modules Vector Mechanics (PHY1021), Introduction to Astrophysics (PHY1022), Waves and Optics (PHY1023), Properties of Matter (PHY1024), Electromagnetism I (PHY2021), Quantum Mechanics I (PHY2022), Thermal Physics (PHY2023) and Condensed Matter I (PHY2024)
Co-requisite Modules (Electromagnetism II (PHY3051), Quantum Mechanics II (PHYM002))/PHY3055 and Nuclear and High Energy Physics (PHY3052)


Re-assessment is not available except when required by referral or deferral.

Original form of assessment Form of re-assessment ILOs re-assessed Time scale for re-assessment
Whole module Written examination (100%) 1-10 August/September assessment period

Notes: See Physics Assessment Conventions.

KIS Data Summary

Learning activities and teaching methods
SLT - scheduled learning & teaching activities 17 hrs
GIS - guided independent study 133 hrs
PLS - placement/study abroad 0 hrs
Total 150 hrs
Summative assessment
Coursework 0%
Written exams 100%
Practical exams 0%
Total 100%


IoP Accreditation Checklist
  • Not applicable
Availability Physics only
Distance learning NO
Keywords Physics; Problem-solving; Physical laws; Unfamiliar problems.
Created 01-Oct-10
Revised N/A