A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

P2 Radiation and life Module summary

What is radiation, and what are some of its effects?

This is about the 2006 course. The 2011 modules are mostly similar. See the OCR 2011 specification.

This module summary and the downloadable module map, are taken from the GCSE Science Teacher and Technician Guide published by OUP. We are grateful to OUP for permission to publish these resources on this website.
>>Download Module Map P2 Radiation and life (78 KB).

Why radiation and life?

The term ‘radiation’ can generate unnecessary public alarm, so it is useful to understand how some types of radiation can pose health risks while others are benign. Radiation from the Sun, for example, is vital to life on Earth.

Human activities are changing the atmosphere and so causing climate change. Present concerns about reducing carbon emissions arise from understanding the role of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s radiation balance.

A model of radiation (Science explanation)

Students are introduced to a general model of radiation travelling from the source to a receiver. They learn about a family of radiations described as the electromagnetic spectrum. The energy carried by a photon determines its effect on a living cell.

Frontier science (Science explanation)

The science of mobile phones and of global warming is ongoing, the latter because of the difficulty of modelling complex, inter-related systems such as the atmosphere and oceans. Watch the news media and science journals for new developments.

Correlation and cause (Idea about Science)

The module builds on ideas of correlation and cause introduced in C1 Air quality. They learn how to evaluate reported health studies.

Risk (Idea about Science)

The module introduces ideas about risk. The vocabulary of risk that students should develop is deliberately restricted. However, researchers and the news media use a wider vocabulary. It may be helpful for teachers to be aware of these additional terms: incidence, mortality, life-time risk, risk factor, relative risk, absolute risk.

Skills assessment

Possible topics for a Case Study include the use of sun beds and mobile phones, or the debate about global warming.


See our guide to OCR website for the GCSE Science specification to which this module relates.
Module P2 is on pages 30-34: this gives you the Science Explanations and the relevant Ideas about Science.

Read more about Ideas about Science in Appendix F pages 85-91.
For this module you want Idea about Science 2 ‘Correlation and cause’ and 5 ‘Risk’. You will find it especially useful to read the overview on page 85.