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Tips for Getting an A* for IGCSE Physics Alternative to Practical (ATP) (2023/ 2024/2025 Edition)

Updated: Mar 14

A teacher putting on full concentration while using a vernier caliper. He is sweating profusely.


Are you nervous about the "no-lab" aspect of the IGCSE Physics exam, specifically the Alternative to Practical (ATP)? Don't worry; it may seem unfamiliar, but with the right approach and understanding of the format, you can turn it into a chance to shine.

What is the Format for IGCSE Physics Alternative to Practical?

As of 2023, Paper 6 consists of four (maybe five) key questions:

Section 1: Buckle up for a thought experiment! The first three questions present hypothetical scenarios with details about an experiment, its data, and related questions. Your mission: analyze the data, demonstrate your understanding of relevant physics concepts, and explain your reasoning like a pro. Ray-tracing questions are more likely to appear in this section.

Section 2: Ready to put your thinking cap on? The fourth and final question throws you a real-world scenario related to the topics covered in Section 1. Here, you'll need to understand and apply the physics to design your experiment on paper. You'll propose the steps, choose suitable apparatus and methods, and even analyze potential results without the actual lab work.

How Do You Study for It?

Section 1:

  • Master Data Analysis: Interpret graphs, tables, and other data representations. Practice identifying trends, calculating uncertainties, and explaining their implications.

  • Concept Connections: Focus on understanding the core physics principles and equations tested in the IGCSE syllabus. Practice applying them to analyze the data in different scenarios presented in Section 1 questions. Pay particular attention to principles relevant to ray tracing, such as reflection, refraction, and geometrical optics.

  • Answering Techniques: Analyze past paper questions and mark schemes to understand how examiners assess Section 1. Learn how to structure your answers effectively, demonstrate clear reasoning, and support your claims with evidence from the data and relevant physics concepts. Be prepared to apply these techniques to ray-tracing questions as well.

Tackling Ray-Tracing Questions:

  • Visualize the Path: Draw a clear diagram illustrating the light paths, angles, and relevant objects.

  • Apply the Relevant Laws: Recall and apply Snell's Law, laws of reflection, and geometrical optics principles.

  • Calculate Carefully: Use the given information and equations to find angles, distances, or other required values. Show your calculations clearly.

  • Explain Your Reasoning: Describe your thought process, referring to the laws and principles you used. Don't just provide answers.

  • Consider Real-World Implications: Discuss the limitations of the ideal scenario and connect it to real-world ray-tracing applications, where possible.

Section 2:

  • Planning Prowess: Hone your experimental design skills. Practice crafting clear and logical plans, identifying manipulated, responding, and controlled variables, and justifying your choices of apparatus and methods.

  • Real-World Relevance: Connect the Section 2 scenarios to broader physics concepts and real-world applications. Think critically, propose alternative approaches, and demonstrate your understanding of physics's role in practical situations.

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Work through past paper Section 2 questions under timed conditions. Simulate the exam environment and analyze your performance. Identify areas for improvement and revisit relevant topics.

Utilize the Workbook Experiments Effectively:

Workbooks like the one below are designed to help you conduct experiments in each chapter. The experiments included in the workbook are similar to the experiments in ATP, which means you can expect to find a similar format and level of complexity.

Book cover for Revision Guide for IGCSE Cambridge Physics

Workbooks provide you with hands-on experience to better understand the concepts and theories covered in the textbook. Each experiment is carefully crafted to help you explore a specific idea or principle and to help you develop your scientific skills.

One of the best things about the experiments in ATP is that they are not overly complicated to understand. You won't have to worry about encountering a bizarre or never-before-seen experiment. Instead, you can expect to find well-explained, well-organized, and easy-to-follow experiments.

Remember: Utilize resources like revision guides and online tutorials, and consult tutors to gain additional insights and practice.

Remember: This is just a starting point. Continue researching, tailoring the content to your specific needs, and adding your insights for a complete and valuable article.

By focusing on these targeted study tips for each section, consistently practicing with relevant past papers, and seeking additional support, you'll be well-equipped to tackle the IGCSE Physics ATP confidently and achieve that A*!


The IGCSE Physics ATP may seem daunting, but by understanding the format, focusing on targeted study strategies, and practicing consistently, you can transform it into an opportunity to showcase your skills and knowledge. Remember, success isn't about memorizing facts but truly comprehending and applying the principles creatively.

Utilize past papers, revision guides, and online resources to deepen your understanding and familiarize yourself with the assessment style. Hone your data analysis, concept application, and experimental design skills through focused practice. Don't hesitate to seek help from tutors or online communities – collaboration can be powerful.

Remember, a strong foundation of core physics principles and the ability to think critically, explain logically, and connect concepts to real-world scenarios are crucial to tackling any ATP question. Stay focused, stay confident, and trust your abilities. By following these tips and dedicating yourself to adequate preparation, you'll be well-equipped to unlock your full potential and achieve that coveted A* in the IGCSE Physics ATP!

2 comentarios

thank you for this article !!<3

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Chern Jiek
Chern Jiek
15 may
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You are more than welcome 🤗!

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