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# GENERAL RULES FOR DOING PHYSICS EXAM

PAPERS
1. Read all of the parts of a question before answering it.

## 2. Learn all definitions and formulas word-for-word.

3. Give enough detail in your answers. State the obvious eg a force is a push or a pull.

4. Show that you can use Physics vocabulary whenever you can.

5. Note the action words in the question (and answer accordingly): State; Explain; Complete;
Describe; Use (the graph); Suggest; Evaluate

6. Part questions are usually on a single topic eg the answer to part (a) feeds into (b).

7. Stay aware of the time (1 mark per minute). If you get stuck, move on and return if you have time
at the end.

8. Don't be afraid to physically act out the electromagnetism hand rules in the exam.

9. Never leave a question blank. If nothing else, write down relevant formulas or definitions.

Calculations: always show your working: there are many marks for this even if the answer is wrong.
These are the stages: Formula - Rearrange - Information - Substitute - Calculate - Answer - Unit
Equations: if you are asked to write one down, use words not just symbols.
Rounding: if you are asked to show a quantity is 'approximately equal to' a given value, show the
rounding step: eg 8.7A (rounded to 9A).
Prefixes: convert units such as kN (kilo-newtons) and mA (milli-amperes) by multiplying or dividing by
1000.
Assumptions: many formulas can only be used with particular assumptions eg a fixed mass of gas or
temperature is kept constant etc.
Common-sense: consider whether numerical answers make sense eg a person of mass 5.0 or 500 kg is
not likely.

## Axis (label quantity and unit; numbers evenly spaced)

Plotting (usually 2 marks for accuracy of points). Mark points with small dots.

Line of best fit (don't join the dots; don't force it through the origin; only draw a straight line if it
looks straight; and if it is straight, use a ruler).
Anomalies can be identified as points far from the line of best fit.

Calculating gradient: actually draw the rise-run triangle (make it large). Use measurements of the
triangle for the calculation, NOT values from the coordinates. A gradient has a unit.

Proportional quantities: state that a relationship is proportional or linear if A = kB, but not if A = kB + C or
if A = kB2. Example: "kinetic energy increases with velocity, but the KE-v graph is non-linear (KE is prop.
to v squared)".

## Method: describe all the steps in the right order.

Quantities: give the number and unit (in a table, unit is in the heading).
Repeat readings. The reasons for this are:

make the result more reliable (gives the same result each time);

## to find a mean value;

to spot anomalies.

Zero error: make sure the ruler or meter starts at zero.
Apparatus: learn the names eg measuring cylinder; ray box; ticker-timer; air-track; stand and clamp etc

## Weights must not fall on toes.

Hot objects must be carried with insulating handles.
Fasten clamp stands to the bench.
Protect eyes from stretched wires; liquids; flying objects.
Labcoats protect skin and clothes from chemicals and hot materials.
Electricity supplies should be low voltage.
Mop up water if it is spilled.
Radioactive materials must be stored inside lead containers and handled with forceps.
Avoid damage to apparatus (don't exceed limits for elasticity/ current/ temperature/ force etc).

Variables
Independent variable is the one which you choose to change. You can make decisions about the range
and number of values. It should be the leftmost column in a table and the horizontal axis on a graph.
Dependent variable is the one which you measure. This is the variable you average when there are
repetitions.
Controlled variables are the ones you keep constant to ensure a fair test.

Evaluating conclusions
Precision - this means how many significant figures are used in a measurement. (eg 0.25s has a
precision of 0.01s). It can be useful to estimate the precision as a percentage of the reading (eg here it is
4%)
Accuracy - this means how close to the true value the result is.
Reliability - whether a result can be repeated.

Improvements
Reaction time - this can adversely affect measurements of time (add 0.1s). To reduce it, use electronic
timing or measure longer times.
For oscillations, measure several and divide to find time period which will reduce effect of reaction time.
To improve precision you can use a scale with smaller divisions.
Repeat measurement (consider if it is appropriate in each situation).
Does the question require improvement in the method (same apparatus used differently) or equipment
(same method, different instruments)?

Explanations
When explaining, give reasons.
Use labelled diagrams if it helps you to explain something.
Mention all of the relevant physics vocabulary.
When explaining a quantity, consider the relevant formulas: eg pressure depends force exerted on an
area.

Diagrams.
For magnetic fields, the lines must show the direction, form complete loops and NEVER cross nor
touch.
In light diagrams, draw the normal and arrows on the rays. Light travels into the eye.
In electric circuits, show conventional current.

## Don't say Do say

Renewable sources "can be used again and
They never run out
again"
Energy is "lost" It is transferred to heat/ the environment.
Gravity Force of gravity, gravitational force or weight
Gravity for 'g' Gravitational field strength
"Coils" of a solenoid Turns
"More accurate" apparatus More precise scale etc - give details
They move freely, randomly. Only particles in solids
Particles in liquids and gases "vibrate"
vibrate.
Heat Heat energy or thermal energy
Amperage Electric current
Potential Energy Gravitational or Elastic Potential Energy
Thermal or Electrical Conduction, whichever is
Conduction, Conductor, Insulator
relevant