So, you’ve just started Year 11 Physics Module 4: Electricity and Magnetism and feeling a little confused about it?

You don’t have to be!

Let us clear the syllabus up for you, walking you through each enquiry question as well as tips to get a Band 6 in Year 11 Physics Module 4: Electricity and Magnetism!

So, what are you waiting for?

Let’s dive in!

Where the Year 11 Physics Module 4 Fits into Place
General Changes to Year 11 Physics
What to Expect from Year 11 Physics Module 4
Overview of Year 11 Physics Module 4
How to Get a Band 6 in Year 11 Module 4

Where the Year 11 Physics Module 4 Fits into Place

In Physics so far, you’ve installed a whole bunch of apparently disconnected pieces (mechanics, thermodynamics, waves).

Although, by this time next year, you’ll know all the working parts like the back of your hand – and you’ll have an appreciation of how every part is interconnected with all the other parts!

Electromagnetism (EM) is one of the most illuminating things you will study in Physics (light is literally made out of electromagnetic field; electromagnetism it’s literally illuminating).

EM is about half the explanation of everything operating underneath the periodic table (and hence all of chemistry).

The end goal of physics research is to perfect the *ultimate* machinery that computes all of the interactions and movements and changes that happen inside our universe.

In other words, if we “finish” Physics, you could probably use it to create a second universe exactly like this one, or at least exactly simulate one.

Is that, perhaps, what we are? Somebody’s perfected-physics simulation? We’ll park that train of thought right here, but… don’t you love the questions physics walks you in to?

That was not all a ridiculous tangent – it turns out that if you understand:

  1. Gravity
  2. Electromagnetism

You have essentially understood 3 out of the 4 modes of interaction between things in this universe. If you coded this stuff in and ran the application, it’d more or less look like our universe (as long as you didn’t let anyone look too closely).

So, this is a big topic. It’s Year 11 Physics Module 4. It’s also Year 12 Physics Module 2.

You know it’s an important topic if the syllabus designers deliberately designed the course to paint a second coat of this topic on to your brain (like they did with mechanics!)

In fact, the way your brain starts installing this topic in o your long-term memory… is itself… electromagnetism (neurons transmit electricity!)

General Changes to Year 11 Physics

The major change is a move to depth-over-breadth, strongly focused in on core/pillar concepts (side-line concepts removed), treated more mathematically (the number of equations has more than doubled overall from 40 to 82).

Depth-exploring Physics’ common threads makes total sense and much better matches what’s needed for uni level Physics/Engineering.

This means students will have to be more active in their study (being tested on deep understanding of core concepts).

Although, if you need some help studying HSC Physics, we’ve got you covered with our 3 Easy Steps to Memorising Content in Physics article here!

What to Expect from Year 11 Physics Module 4

Here’s the bird’s eye view of the module:

1. Electric fields (E-fields) are essentially visual maps of how charges feel each other through space.

2. You’ll solve problems in terms of the push/pull E-fields put on charges that wander in (as well as the energy available to turn in to kinetic energy in that direction, which is essentially position/”height”-dependent).

3. This is an excellent opportunity to get good at fields (as they’ll come back in a big way in Year 12’s first two modules).

4. This module is preparing the ground on which you will grow your understanding of EM in Year 12 (2 modules down the road). Treating this module with great interest is forward-thinking wisdom.

5. You will spend a lot of your time in this module playing with and understanding electric circuits.

Overview of Year 11 Physics Module 4

Inquiry question 1: How do charged objects interact with other charged objects and with neutral objects?

This is an “experiment-y” part of the course where you will charge up hand-held objects and see how they “feel” each other.

How we map out this “feeling” over space is with field lines, which point to where E-fields push positive charges.

Bunched-up lines indicate conversion of larger amounts of potential energy to kinetic energy (large force) over short distances (we call that big positional energy difference a big voltage).

With voltage and charges, this part’s priming you for circuits, which are just over the horizon!

And always remember very single thing we talk about in electricity and magnetism is in reference to what positive charges are doing. If you wish to know about negative charges: They do the opposite thing.

Tip: Make your understanding of electric fields as solid as you possibly can: it’s going to come in handy for the next two topics in Year 12.

Inquiry question 2: How do the processes of the transfer and the transformation of energy occur in electric circuits?

You are going to spend tonnes of time drawing circuit diagrams.

Make sure you understand the quantities you’ll be handling as well as possible: voltage, current and resistance.

Inquiry question 3: How do magnetised and magnetic objects interact?

There are a few levels of understanding that you will progress through when it comes to magnetism.

In this section (priming you for Magnetism in Year 12), you will be:

  • Running experiments to get a sense of how magnetised things feel/push/pull each other over space
  • Drawing field lines (which point to where the field pushes “north poles”)

Build a good intuition for magnetism here, it becomes a massive focus point in year 12 when looking at motors and power generation.

How to Get a Band 6 in Year 11 Module 4

Step 1: Make Fields your new field of study

The chemist writes “C” for carbon. To most people, it’s just the letter C. But to those in-the-know it represents nearly a whole universe of details.

Chemists will passionately tell you that “C” means a non-metal with a 6-proton-6-neutron nucleus which seats two electrons around it in its 1s shell, one in the 2s and three in the 2p subshells with a mid-range electronegativity.

Fields are a bit like this in physics: To those out of the loop, they’re lines. For those in the club, they tie together almost all the information there is.

There’s only one module between this one and the Year 12 version of Electromagnetism – where you go so far as to understand how power stations use electric and magnetic fields to turn mechanical energy in to electrical energy and how car engines do exactly the reverse.

If you carry a solid understanding of how fields work in general over to that topic, your learning of those hard concepts there will be significantly unlocked!

Gravitational (g) fields (in the Year 12 module just after this one) are almost identical in their operation to E-fields.

g-fields are weaker, with only one response direction; masses don’t seem to carry cards (we labelled them “+” and “–“ in Electromagnetism) in their pockets that tell them which way to go when sitting on field lines – there’s only one choice!).

You’ll be able to mobilise your solid understanding of E-fields as the machinery to understand g-fields in the next module; and Year 12 electromagnetism in the module after.

Study fields beyond your class level. Learn everything you can about them. They are unifiers that sit underneath so much of the physics that’s coming up in the program!

Step 2: Analogies are the keys to circuit concepts

If you google something like “I don’t understand why adding more resistors in parallel reduces the total circuit resistance”, the answers you find will almost always be in terms of visual analogies.

You’ll be reading about:

  • Opening up more elevators/escalators between the same two floors.
  • More parallel slides at a water park taking riders between the same two places
  • Opening a second road/trainline between the same two cities
  • Extra water pipes from the mountain top to the bottom

Seek out as many analogies as you can for:

  1. Voltage drops across series elements/blocks
  2. Currents branching off and recombining across parallel blocks
  3. Parallel and series resistance

When you think you’ve nailed one of the above concepts, develop your own analogy and use it to teach the concept to a classmate.

Step 3: Do virtual circuit experiments at home

Do circuits experiments at school but do virtual circuit experiments at home!

Churn through as many circuits questions as you can get your hands on (on paper).

Circuits mastery is very much a practiced skill where you want to get every mistake you’re ever going to make and shove it behind you in to the past!

Warning: You can only really do well in circuits if you know exactly what voltage and current are actually measuring.

Remember the last-name units (Volts, Amps and Watts) by all means. But concern yourself with the real units at all times J.C-1; C.s-1; J.s-1

I.e. difference in potential energy available to a coulomb between these two places; how many coulombs are passing past this point every second; how much energy’s transferring through here every second.

Once you’ve got a really clear picture of the types of circuit question they’ll throw at you, go and make up a bunch of your own on PhEt here!

Make up circuits with blocks of parallel light-bulbs in series with others and predict what will happen to the individual light-bulbs if you modify the circuit by adding more in series or parallel in different places (or making some of them small resistance and others bigger).

You can bring in ammeters and voltmeters on the PhEt screen experiment, so try to calculate out individual voltage drops and current branchings on paper and then confirm by checking with the screen experiment!

Step 4: Recast the role of class-time in your life

For the rest of your life, your main learning grounds will be outside of class.

Class is a place where you have access to an expert consultant (your teacher!). Pre-develop your questions. Jump ahead through the textbook and repurpose your class as a revision/understanding-checking session.

The HSC is your company and you’re the owner!

And that wraps up our ultimate guide to Year 11 Physics Module 4: Electricity and Magnetism – good luck!

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