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Limitations and Improvements

Two readings not enough to draw a
Difficult to release the ball without
applying force

Take six sets of reading and plot a graph
Clamp ball prior to release /Use a
mechanical hand to release the (thing)/ Use
a card gate/Cut string attached to ball {Use
these methods appropriately based on type of
experiment, sometimes cut string is not allowed
and card gate is allowes and vice versa}

Difficult to measure position of h because

ball stops at maximum height for a short
Parallax error when measuring (something)
{ This answer should only be used if
the measurement is difficult to make
and parallax error is very likely to

Use a video with a scale (or clamped ruler)

-Use a second rule with detail of position.
-Mark the bottle( liquid)
-(Suggest a better way to measure it, such
as use mirror scale)

Difficult to keep drop height constant /

drop height not constant

Use pointer mounted in a stand.

Difficult to judge if strip is horizontal

Measure height at each end

Difficult to judge the start and end of


Put marker at the centre of oscillation/Use a

video camera with slow motion feature and
timer to video the experiment with scale,
then view the video playback frame by
Use video with timer /(The way to make
the value of the quantity larger)

Large (percentage) uncertainty in t

(because times are short)/The value of (a
physical quantity) is small so the
percentage uncertainty of (the quantity) is
The movement/oscillation of (something) is Use a wind shield when carrying out the
affected by wind movement

Difficult to shape the plasticine into the

shape of (something)

Use a mould to shape the plasticine

Heat loss through the sides and bottom of

Use polystyrene container or insulate the
beaker/container( This answer should be beaker/container
used for experiments involving the
temperature of liquid.)

The (measuring instrument) is not precise

enough.(You should state in your

Use another (instrument) with greater

sensitivity and precision

answer the specific degree of

precision for the limitation and the

Friction at pulley

Apply oil to lubricate the pulley

Difficult to zero the newton-meter when

used horizontally
The length/diameter/thickness of
(something) is not uniform
Difficult to measure (something) due to
(specific reason based on experiment)
Resistance of contacts(This answer

Measure the length around/along the

(thing) and calculate the mean
(Suggest a better way to measure it)
Clean the contacts

should be used for electric


Difficult to maintain (something) at (a

particular position) / maintain ruler vertical

Use a clamp

Difficult to determine when (something)

reach the maximum height because it
remains there for too short a time

Use a video camera with slow motion

feature and (the measuring device) to video
the experiment with scale, then view the
video playback frame by frame.

Difficult to take the reading of newtonmeter immediately when (something) starts

to move because it moves suddenly

Use a video camera with slow motion

feature and (the measuring device) to video
the experiment with scale, then view the
video playback frame by frame.

Difficult to start or stop the stopwatch

immediately when (something) passes
through (somewhere)

Use a video camera with slow motion

feature and (the measuring device) to video
the experiment with scale, then view the
video playback frame by frame.// Use light
gates to measure time.


* Perform 3 sets of measurements for each different oscillation, (you will get more marks
if you do 2 sets of repeats).
* Measure at least 30 periods in total.
* Preferably make each measurement 20 periods long.
* Precaution: minimize oscillations in any other plane other than the one being observed
* Always write times to two d.p., never to the nearest second.
* Precaution: do small amplitude oscillations
* Precaution: say that you did several periods at once to minimize reaction time errors.
* Precaution: balance the ruler being used first.
* Use distances from the pivot of greater than 25 cm (250 mm).
* Weigh the unknown and known masses in your hands before using the ruler, and place
the lighter mass as far from the pivot as possible.
* Measure distances from the pivot to the centre of mass of the object.
* All measurements should be to 1 mm accuracy.
* To make sure the rule is balanced, pull each end down. If it comes up again then the
rule must have equal moments acting on it on either end.
Density Measurements
* When using a micrometer, one full rotation of the barrel is 0.5 mm (50 on the barrel
* The micrometer reads to 0.01 mm accuracy.
* Vernier calipers can read to 0.05 mm accuracy. However, it is advisable to quote the
figure to 0.1 mm accuracy, as this will give a larger uncertainty, which will make
comparisons in later parts of the question easier.
* If measuring a very small dimension, measure several "thicknesses" of it. Remember to
divide by the number of thicknesses after the measurement!
* Precaution: check the zero error on the micrometer and/or Vernier calipers. Wipe the
jaws of the micrometer to remove grease.
* Give answers to 2 or 3 s.f. : it is meaningless to write, for example, "density is
7785.654 kg m-3"!
* Always take at least 3 readings for each measurement, and take an average.
* When measuring string diameters or foil thicknesses (or similar), use a minimum of 10


* % Uncertainty =
* When multiplying or dividing quantities, add their % uncertainties together.
* When adding or subtracting quantities, add their absolute errors together, then divide by
the result of the addition/subtraction of the measurement, e.g. for , where , and , the
absolute errors added = 0.102 mm. Therefore the % uncertainty is:
* If you have to calculate the error in, e.g. , the absolute error in d must be multiplied by
pi and then added to the absolute error in x. The percentage uncertainty is this total error
divided by the calculated and the result multiplied by 100.
* If a measurement is to be raised to a power, then multiply the % uncertainty in the
measurement by the power to get the % uncertainty in the overall term.
* If two values, for say, a density are available, calculate the % difference between them.
If a value is given by the examiner, then use this as the "correct" value, and calculate the
% difference the following way: where x is your measured value, and c is the examiner's
value. If you have obtained two values, then the expression changes: where x1 and x2 are
your measured values, and is the median of the two, (not necessarily the mean!).
* Compare the % difference with your % uncertainty. Any relationship suggested, such as
that the two densities should be equal, can be considered correct if your % difference is
less than your % uncertainty. This will gain you marks!
* If your % uncertainties look small, check that you have multiplied by 100!

Electrical Experiments
* With capacitor discharges, either take readings every 5 seconds for the first part of the
discharge, or I think that every 10 seconds is sufficient.
* If a range is specified over which you should take measurements, do not exceed it: you
will be penalised.
* With an analogue ammeter, use the top scale. This reads (generally), from 20, to 0, to
10. These are in fact divisions of 10 m A, and the meter actually reads from -20 to 100 m
A. If you are out by a factor of 10, (e.g. you get a calculated cell voltage of 0.15 V),
check that you have read the meter correctly. Always remember that the polarity on the
meter must be correct.
* Any small discrepancy in your results can be explained by "electrical resistance at the
contacts in the circuit".
* With most electrical experiment where a curve will be obtained (e.g. the V/I
characteristic of a diode), 9 points on a smooth curve are sufficient.


* With any graph, a minimum of 6 to 8 points are needed, and you must have at least 4
points on a curve.
* When measuring the gradient of a graph, carry your tangent on to the sides of the graph
paper, however big your graph. The triangle you use should be greater than 10 cm in
length and height, although in some mark schemes 100 cm2 is fine.
* Your graph does not have to go through the origin. If the data does not indicate that it
does so, do not force it to. Comment on the fact that there must have been a systematic
* When choosing values to read of a graph, it is better to take them from the middle part
of the curve, as this is where you will have more points per change in y co-ordinate.
* When describing your "plan" in Experiment C, state that the graph you plot will be a
straight line through the origin (if this is the case!), of gradient = to an expression which
will help you confirm the relationship suggested by the examiner.
* Turning points on graphs require at least 4 points.
* If points near the origin deviate substantially from your line of best fit, point out that for
small measurements there is a greater uncertainty.
Experiments Involving Temperature
* Readings should be accurate to fractions of a degree.
* Stir any liquid being heated.
* Insulate the apparatus if possible.
* The thermometer should not be touching the sides of the container it is in, and should
be in the middle of the liquid you are measuring the temperature of.
* Precaution: read the thermometer at eye level to avoid parallax error.
* The bulb of the thermometer should be completely submerged.
* Comment on the result obtained being the right order of magnitude.

During the test, read the question and all information given carefully. Make sure that you
understand the experiment given. Certain parts of the question require you to record the
readings from the experiment in a table. You should draw the tables before carrying out
the experiment so that you can record your readings in the table straight away during the
experiment. Then, carry out the experiment by following the steps given in the question
exactly. You need to apply your Physics practical skills when carrying out the experiment.

- Certain questions may require your knowledge and understanding in Physics to answer
them. You may also need to give your own opinions. Your answer must be specific and not
too general. Give the most suitable answer according to the question.
- When recording readings from an measuring instrument (except metre rule, vernier
calipers and micrometre screw gauge), the number of decimal places used should be
equal to half of the smallest division of scale of the instrument (For example, if the
instrument's smallest division of scale is 0.1, you should record the reading to the nearest
0.05, which is 2 decimal places.) For digital instruments (except digital stopwatch), the
number of decimal places used should be the same as that shown on the display. The
reading should be recorded to the nearest 0.1cm for metre rule, 0.01cm for vernier
calipers, 0.01mm for micrometer screw gauge and 0.1s for stopwatch (both analogue and
digital). In all cases, do not give more or less number of decimal places. You must also
write the correct units.
- In most cases, you should take each reading twice, then calculate and record the mean
of the 2 readings. Ensure that you show in your answer both readings and the calculation
of their mean. However, for the part in Question 1 which requires you to record readings
in a table, questions that carry only 1 mark and questions which states that repeated
readings are not required, you only need to take each reading once and record it straight
- When plotting graph, draw both the horizontal and vertical axis on the graph paper
correctly. Label both axis correctly and state the unit (if any). Use a suitable scale for both
axis and do not use any odd scales such as 3:10. Both the x-axis and y-axis need not start
from 0. The scales should be chosen such that the points plotted on graph cover at least
half of the graph paper. The markings on the scales should not be more than 3 large
squares apart. Plot all points on the graph accurately. The points should be accurate to
half a small square. For all the points, their diameter should not be larger than half a small
square. Then, draw the correct straight line or curve. When drawing the straight line or
curve, it should pass through all points on the graph if possible. If this is not possible, the
line or curve should pass through as many points on the graph as possible, all the points
should be close to it and the number of points above and below the line or curve should
be almost equal.
- When determining the gradient of the line of graph, choose 2 points on the line and draw
a triangle. The distance between the 2 points chosen should be at least half the length of
the line. When determining the y-intercept of the line of graph, if the x-axis starts from 0,
you can read it off directly from the y-axis of graph, or if the x-axis does not start from 0,
you should choose a point on the line, preferably one of the points that you used to
calculate its gradient, and substitute its x and y values as well as the gradient into the
equation y=mx+c to determine the value of c which is the y-intercept.

- For any questions involving calculation, the number of significant figures of your answer
should be equal to or one more than the number of significant figures of the raw value
used in the calculation with the least number of significant figures. You should show all
workings and do not skip any important steps. You must also write the correct unit for the
final answer if it is not provided. You are not allowed to write extra solutions or answers. If
you do so and any of the answers or solutions is wrong, marks will be deducted. For a
calculation question which requires you to use your answer from the previous question,
even if your answer for the previous question is wrong and you use it for this question
causing your answer for this question to be wrong, usually you will still get full marks for
this question as long as your calculation for this question is correct. This is known as 'error
carried forward'.
- For the part of Question 2 which asks you to estimate the percentage uncertainty in a
particular value, in most cases the absolute uncertainty used to calculate the percentage
uncertainty should be equal to twice the smallest division of scale of the instrument used
to measure the value (For both analogue and digital stopwatch, the absolute uncertainty

used should be 0.2s). This is because the measurement for this part is often difficult to be
done accurately.
- For the part of Question 2 which asks you whether your results support the suggested
relationship between 2 variables, you have to calculate the percentage difference
between 2 values of a constant which is obtained in previous part of the question. The
suggested relationship is supported if the percentage difference is 5% or less and not
supported if the percentage difference is more than 5%.
- For the last part of Question 2 which is about limitations and improvements, I would
suggest that you use answers from my list of 20 common answers (see above) that you
memorised. The 1st answer in my list can be used for all experiments, so you should
always use it. You should also choose other answers from my list which are relevant to the
experiment. You may have to give 1 or sometimes 2 other relevant answers that are not
in my list since usually not all the 4 answers required can be found in my list. You are not
allowed to write more than 4 answers. If you do so, marks may not be given for the extra
answers, and marks may be deducted if any of them is wrong.
- For all questions, you should use the correct experimental and Physics terms in your
answer. Do not replace them with other terms that are inappropriate, even if their
meaning are the same. You should spell all experimental and Physics terms correctly. If
you can't do so, try to spell it in such a way where it sounds the same as the actual term
when read out. Marks are usually not deducted for spelling errors in experimental and
Physics terms as long as it still sounds the same and that it is not easily confused with
other terms. If you spell other terms wrongly or if you make grammatical errors in your
answer, marks will not be deducted for as long as the examiner can understand what you
are writing. You are allowed to use suitable short forms in your answer, especially for
representing physical quantities or their units.