

Teachers' Resources
Teachers' Health Warning for ''A Cavendish quantum mechanics primer''
Chapter 1 of the Primer is physics and
maths preparation for the Senior
Physics Challenge (SPC) held in Cambridge to stretch seriously able
students at the end of their AS year. This chapter is freely
downloadable from the SPC website. Other chapters introduce quantum
mechanics based on these largely AS level skills, but they require a
fluency and willingness to apply these skills beyond the sphere they
were introduced in. It is this fluency and willingness that is
probed at admissions.
If you are thinking of
recommending a student for the SPC and are looking at chapter 1, it
will seem tough. However, our experience is that nearly all
students attending the SPC manage the material well on arrival just
after AS, being in a high state of practice and having put effort
into doing the examples. Some material, for instance, the
derivatives of sine and cosine, is simply given without detailed
derivation in the Alevel syllabus, and we likewise just cite the
results. The unfamiliar potential approach to dynamics is first
solved as an example and then further problems are given. Students
should be able to see the idea themselves from the worked example,
and then practise further. Likewise it is likely students will not
have consciously met differential equations before, except of course
they will have thought about Newton's Second Law!
If you are using chapter 1 as
practice for Cambridge admissions, and using chapter 2 as selfstudy
that will stretch a student with useful practice, be aware that it
is demanding. The writing style is closer to that of a university
text and requires active reading with readers performing multistep
calculations. It is pitched at a level that a student fluent with
this material by the time of interview in December would feel that
the playing field is at least level! In any event, such students
should also consult past papers and other sample material, for
instance that available on the Corpus
Physics website and that at Trinity
College. The section on differential equations is unlikely to
come up in admissions but is useful practice in confronting more
advanced material.
We urge you to register as a teacher on
the SPC website. Teachers on this list are automatically informed as
soon as we set a date for the next SPC, and then also informed when
registrations are opened.
