Leaving Cert: Why should I study physics?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Oct 19 2023

If you’re a Junior Cycle student in the Republic of Ireland, you’re probably thinking about which subjects to take as part of the Leaving Cert. With 34 subjects on offer and the restriction to choose just seven, it can be difficult to decide between some of your favourite subjects. If you’re interested in studying physics, but not sure where it could lead you, here are some of the benefits of pursuing the subject.


What does the Leaving Cert physics course involve?

The course is broken up into six compulsory sections and two optional sections:

Compulsory sections:

  • Mechanics: study of movement
  • Waves: study of light and sound as waves
  • Heat and temperature: changes of state and energy conversions
  • Electricity: study of how electricity works
  • Electricity and Magnetism: study of motors and generators
  • Atomic Physics: the study of the electron and the nucleus.

The two optional sections are:

  • Particle Physics: the study of the building blocks of matter
  • Applied Electricity: a more detailed study of electricity.

Only higher level students take the optional sections. Schools choose one of the optional sections for their students to take. Students also complete 24 experiments which put the theory they’ve learnt into practice

Leaving Cert physics is assessed with a three hour exam. 

Why should I study physics as part of my Leaving Cert?

Studying physics is a great way to learn more about the world we live in, and why and how it operates. X-rays for broken bones, microwaves for reheating food, cinemas for watching movies . . . so much of our modern world wouldn’t be possible without physics. 

Furthermore, the theory you learn as part of physics puts you in good stead for a range of careers. From medical physicist (applying physics theory to develop medical equipment), to meteorologist (making weather predictions) and even patent attorney (using your science background to help inventors apply for patents), physics prepares you for the future. 

Do I need to take maths to do physics?

It’s true that maths is a key part of physics study, but you don’t need to do higher or ordinary level maths to succeed. However, it might be worth talking to the physics department before you start so they can support you through any tricky maths bits.

Bear in mind however that many STEM degrees (engineering, computer science) require you to take higher level maths, unless you take a higher certificate programme.