Skip to content The Open University

Student and tutor module reviews

The physical world

see module description

  • Points: 60
  • Code: S207
  • Level: 2

Student reviews

I found this course to be very tough to handle as well as enjoyable. It introduced to many aspects of physics that I was able to experiment with theoretically and in turn I took up physical science based hobbies.

I had already applied and had to give up this course twice because of problems at home and with my understanding of many of the maths problems. I should recommend and insist to other students that you must take up S151 or MU123 and MST124. You really need to be able to read the language of maths to do this.

The books were very good reads on their own and came to realise that even though I have a working understanding of physics I need to practice it through sheer hard graft. I have already failed the exam and I am taking a re-sit. My biggest weakness with course was the quantum mechanics side of things.

I will however pass on some advice to the OU about getting more physics courses to choose from. My main reason for taking this course was because I needed the training for an aerospace field. So how about this. When S207 comes to an end replace it with three physics courses. One on classical physics, one on quantum mechanics and one on thermodynamics and electromagnetism.

Charlie Keeble

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: September 2013

This is a difficult course -however it is achievable at the price of hard graft. I moved house, changed career and became a father for the second time during this course but I still managed to pass. The workload is intense but the key is to get a routine going.

You will learn a great deal about physics and it will completely change how you look at things. Buy every past exam paper and do the questions. Then do them again and again. A great challenge and a huge achievement on completion. A bit different to studying social sciences.

Ralph Straw

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: August 2013

This is a wide ranging course covering many very intriguing areas of Physics. It is very enjoyable,though hard work, and requires a lot of commitment but it is definitely worth it. The course materials are generally very good and the support through tutors and forum is excellent.

The exam will be your limiting factor.
You need to adopt your own strategy from the start. Get well ahead with the TMAs, don't look for perfection, and get on with revision and past papers ASAP. The timing suggested by the calendar is ridiculous - it does not allow nearly enough time to prepare for the exam.
It is a pity that there is so little time to assimilate and reflect because this course covers some wonderful topics. You will want to go further!

Brian Thompson

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: July 2013

You will get a sound overview of all subject areas.

The material is much more than you can cope with (I would actually say this would be better in a 90 point course or several small ones. This would also allow for a little more depth and practice in each of the subject areas.)

The exam is definitely tough, not because of the difficulty of the questions but mainly because so many areas need to be covered. I managed well with several weeks of hard review and preparation work. Get to know past exams papers inside out, check your time while going through the exams, and know what pretty much every formula in the equations booklet means.

The lack of integration is also a complaint of mine, as several reviewers mentioned. It would be good to have some simple calculations included just to get familar with the subject. Overall a challanging and interesting course and that is what I asked for. Pleased!

Till Alexander Beck

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: January 2013

A fantastic, wide ranging course, excellent material and second to none tutor support. I would further echo comments made re. workload though, it is indeed a vast course and the pace is relentless. be sure to put in the hours if you want to do well (that goes for exam revision too!).

Daniel Robert Smith

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: July 2012

A fantastic course for anyone who wants a good grounding in physics.
Be warned however, the workload is heavy and demanding. Pay particular attention to your maths ability before you embark on this course. The prerequisites maths wise are I believe not adequate. I would have enjoyed this course far more if I did not have to concentrate on the maths as much. Then the physics would have been more digestable.

Overall a really good course, a bit too wishy washy in places as they have crammed all types of physics into one course. I would like to see this course split into two courses to make it a more enjoyable experience.

Duncan Collins

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: February 2012

This is a great course - a wide ranging view across the major areas of physics at a level which was interesting and provided enough content to decide which areas to study further. The highlights for me were the exploration of QM in the last two books, which even though at introductory level, brought the ideas into the 20th century.

The books are very good and interlaced questions generally well thought out - as the text was written by different people different styles show up in places. TMAs were challenging and well positioned to support and reinforce learning. On average I did a chapter per week, taking about 6-8 hours, and then did the relevant TMA question in rough before starting the next chapter. It took me ages to transcribe rough TMAs into word processed, equation edited form and check it for submission.

Tutors were excellent and f2f tutorials very useful. The exam was as always about the worst mechanism possible to measure understanding - and I agree entirely with other comments to leave enough time to prepare well using timed past papers.

There is an extremely helpful book of equations, organised by chapter, together with list of constants and maths identities. This is also provided in the exam so you dont have to remember them - thank goodness. I did find it very helpful to write out what each equation represented in the equation book as it came up in the text and this made revision considerably easier.

The online forum was not very helpful.

One of the previous reviewers Terry noted that the cost is moving to 2500 pounds in future - despite the course being good I could not have signed up for it at even half that level.

Peter Ross Wilson

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

This is a terrific course and I'm very glad I took it - but you have to be prepared to put the hours in. I would add two tips which I was grateful to receive from my excellent tutor.
1. Set aside an hour or two each week for revision from the beginning of January. If you leave it all until the last four weeks you are likely to be overwhelmed.
2. Buy as many past exam papers as you can and use them for practice during the four weeks up to the exam.

David Rae

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

I loved this course, although I would echo one of the comments I have seen which described it as "relentless"; that said, if you are prepared to put the work in it is highly informative and very worthwhile .. plus one gets the feeling of a "badge of honour" just for having successfully completed it.

I read another comment which said that the exam did not reflect the course, I cannot disagree more strongly. My exam (2011) was a very fair reflection of the course, I have done every past paper in preparation since 2006 and they were all representative.

I got a distinction for this course, my two-cents on exam success (which is definitely harder than the TMAs) is to practice, practice, practice past exam papers ... certainly the specimen paper is a must, but I also strongly recommend the past papers from the OU shop.

For some reason the OU does not provide specimen answers to their own past papers (I'm sure there is a good reason, but it's beyond me), however our excellent tutor had provided his own specimen answers, so as I said I was able to do every past paper since 2006 and that was a huge help ... I have no doubts I would not have done as well otherwise, what with it being 30 years since I last did an exam.

Practice Qs is the only way to avoid being toasted in the exam, in my opinion.

Great course, OU ... I look forward to a Level 3 mathematical physics module such as SM358 or SMT359.

Andrew Kelly

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

I came to this course having last studied physics at O-level 45 years ago. Nevertheless most of the topics weren't too demanding conceptually, thermodynamics was the most notable exception. However there is an enormous amount of material to cover. I'm retired but this course has dominated my life for the last year, so you'll need to be sure you can find time to do the work required to get through (Data from 2008 suggests a 40% drop-out rate).

The material provided the motivation I needed. It's organised pretty much chronologically, from Newton to the extraordinary developments of the 20th century, and it tells a fascinating story. My tips:
* Book 1 is an overview. If you want to, read it after the exam.
* Start early, get second-hand copies of books 2 and 3 from Amazon or Abe.
* Do each TMA question asap after you've finished the chapter.
* Have some maths. You'll only need simple calculus but you do need to be comfortable doing the calculations. Doing MST121 helped me a lot.

A note on fees. From 2012 this course, which cost me £600, will increase to £2500 for new students. For many, including those in my situation, the course will be out of reach. This is a tragedy.

Terry McGregor

Course starting: October 2010

Review posted: August 2011

Absolutely fantastic course. A must for anyone who wants to know how everything works. I was planning a Maths degree but this may swing me towards the sciences (although OU do keep changing the prospectus!).

I can't speak for other lecturers but ours did a first rate job of explaining some of the concepts which were threatening to make my brain explode. ;-)

James Coombs

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: June 2011

Hard work, frustrating at times and ultimately very rewarding, I would highly recommend this course. It is a must for anyone interested in physics and I'd suggest that mathematicians who intend to do MST209 would benefit as well.

Sally Watson

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: May 2011

Excellent course, well worth the effort. If you want/need to do some physics, this course has no equal. There is a lot of material to cover so you have to keep on top of things consistently over the duration of the course. Like most Level 2 courses, don't even consider doing this course if you have only a handful of days per month to spare - not only will you perform poorly on the TMAs but you'll bomb the exam, which requires a fair amount of revision to do well in.

This said, I did S207 on top of a more-than-full-time job and managed fine. As long as you're motivated and, above all, happy to spend your free time reading the course books (which are great)this course should suit you.

Although our group had a slight hiccup in tutor arrangements, we were seamlessly moved to a different tutor who was excellent and, at least for my needs, provided ample support - which I think is key to success in this course.

James Stirrup

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: October 2010

This is a really good course, and gets more and more interesting as it progresses. I enjoyed it immensely (much more than I had expected to).

I agree that it covers a lot, but I think this is a strength rather than a weakness - I certainly felt that I'd "had my money's worth" by the end of the course. I don't think it is too much to take in (given that it is a 60-credit course). I found that I was able to keep up with a bit of self-discipline - in fact I stayed ahead, and submitted my final TMA a couple of weeks before the deadline (thus giving myself more revision time).

I never made it to any of the tutorials (it would have meant a nine hour round trip), but the support from my tutor was excellent nonetheless. I liked the way she used the message board - both to post the tutorial handouts, and to set additional thought-provoking questions.

I would recommend purchasing as many past papers as you can get your hands on - the cost is very reasonable and they are a great aid during revision.

This was my first Level 2 course and, as noted by others, the exam was a bit of a shock (I hadn't sat one for about three decades). I did less well than I'd expected/hoped as I sort of fell apart for the last 45 minutes - part stress and part fatigue, I think. I managed a grade 2, but I had been aiming for a grade 1.

If your exam technique is rusty it might be worth doing a different 30-credit course before tackling this one, just to get some exam practice in.

I also think that I made a mistake driving to the exam venue on the morning of the exam. It's a fair distance, and as I didn't know the area I had some difficulty finding the hotel. I arrived in time, but only just. In retrospect I should have travelled the day before and booked a room somewhere for the night.

Stewart Argo

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: October 2010

The breadth of material that this course covers is vast, you certainly earn your 60 points. However, it is too vast.

One of the main reasons the OU was set up was to allow people who have full-time jobs to work towards a degree. To this end the modules should be designed with that in mind. I appreciate that the course description makes it clear how much time is probably needed each week to complete the course, but this doesn't change the fact that the workload does not make the course attractive to a large section of the OUs customers.

You come away from this course feeling like you have covered a lot of ground but mastered none of it. The TMA timetable simply doesn't give you enough time to appreciate the well-written books and great multi-media support material. You are just slogging towards a deadline and are glad to see the back of each book as you complete it.

I understand that this used to be two 30 point courses but the OU changed it as students didn't want to sit 2 exams. I would gladly trade the one exam for two if it meant the workload allowed me to spend some time appreciating what I'd just worked on.

The workload aside, the course books are excellent and the TMA's do a good job of testing your knowledge. The exam is not such a trial, it lends itself well to proper revision and reflects the course content very well.

The lack of integration throughout the books is very strange. Would it not be better to make MST121 or 221 a pre-requisite for this course and raise the level of maths contained in S207 a bit?

Howard Meldon

Course starting: October 2009

Review posted: August 2010

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.


Module satisfaction survey

The figures below are taken from a survey of students who sat the exam/completed the end-of-module assessment for the October 2010 presentation of S207. The survey was carried out in 2011. 31.5% of our students responded to the survey covering what they thought of 10 aspects of the module. See this page for the full text of questions and more information about the survey.

Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of this module 89.6 %
Overall, I am satisfied with my study experience 85.2 %
The module provided good value for money 77.5 %
I was satisfied with the support provided by my tutor/study adviser on this module 88.7 %
Overall, I was satisfied with the teaching materials provided on this module 86.1 %
The module met its stated learning outcomes 93 %
I would recommend this module to other students 86.1 %
The module met my expectations 84.3 %
I enjoyed studying this module 85.2 %
Overall, I was able to keep up with the workload on this module 63.5 %
Faculty comment: "We are pleased to see the very high proportion of students who are satisfied with the quality, study experience, teaching materials and support on the module. It covers a wide range of physics, and the workload is quite high. We will be changing the structure of the continuous assessment over the coming year which should spread out the workload more evenly. The module team would like to take this opportunity to thank all the students who took part in this survey."
Enter a module code to find a review

To send us reviews on modules you have studied with us, please click the sign in button below.