PHYS1141 - Higher Physics 1A (Special)

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Difficulty: 9/10 · Time Commitment: 8/10 · Enjoyability: 5/10 · Mark: Satisfactory (Pass/Fail course)


I did PHYS1141 (Higher Physics 1A (Special)) in Term 1 2021. The subject is mostly a continuation of HSC Physics modules 4 and 5. It was a really hard subject and even after watching hours of lectures all the time, the questions were on a completely different level in terms of difficulty.


  • Lab experiments are really cool
  • Has a lot of real-life applications
  • Teaches you how to work well while being completely clueless


  • Huge workload and very difficult
  • Hard weekly-quizzes
  • Huge time commitment for lectures and lab reports



PHYS1141 is targeted towards students who want to major in Physics. It has the exact same course content and exams as PHYS1131 (Higher Physics 1A), except labs are more independent and the cohort is very small.

The course consists of weekly lab reports and quizzes, lab tests, and a final exam. While the course structure is actually really good and the course content is very sensible, the nature of physics as a subject means that applying the theory to actual questions can become very confusing.

Lab Reports

Labs were relatively easy to conduct and most of them were at-home labs because of COVID. I didn’t really have any problems with conducting the experiments themselves, however, writing up the reports got really tedious at times. There were always 10+ pages with instructions for the experiments, analysis and questions about the results.

There isn’t much to fault UNSW on because the difficulty of these was attributed to the content itself being really hard. One improvement that could be made is spending more time on uncertainties and how they work. I frequently got confused by the different types of uncertainties and how to calculate them. This was only briefly explained at the start of the term and I wish there was a bigger focus on it.

Quizzes and Lab Tests

When I did the course, there were weekly quizzes which contributed towards a significant portion of the course mark. These were repeatable and only the best mark counted. Each one used questionbank with 20 questions and these were really helpful because they gave feedback for each question done incorrectly. I definitely learnt much more from these quizzes than the lectures and although the quizzes were really time consuming, they were rewarding.

Lab tests access the same questionbank as the weekly quizzes. This is a great part about the course because lab tests only have a few questions but are worth substantial marks. I would recommend doing every weekly quiz 5 times to ensure you have tried out every possible question before attempting lab tests.

Final Exam

The PHYS1141 final exam was one of the hardest exams I have ever done. I’m glad the subject was pass/fail because it relieved a lot of the stress of usual exams and gave me more time to focus on learning and enjoying the course. Nonetheless, the exam really pushed understanding of course content and so it’s very important to be well prepared for it.


  1. Make sure to complete each weekly quiz at least 5 times.
  2. Stay up-to-date with lectures. There is so much content in Physics that falling behind by even one week is hard to recover from. Try to do everything well before it’s due.
  3. Go to in-person labs!!! I really enjoyed in-person labs and actual experiments. These really helped me put what I was learning into perspective of the theory and were so much more helpful than the at-home experiments.