You are on page 1of 102

GCE Physics

Guidance for the AS


practical
assessment
September 2008

Tutor support materials


Edexcel, a Pearson company, is the UK’s largest awarding body, offering academic and
vocational qualifications and testing to more than 25,000 schools, colleges, employers and
other places of learning in the UK and in over 100 countries worldwide. Qualifications include
GCSE, AS and A Level, NVQ and our BTEC suite of vocational qualifications from entry level to
BTEC Higher National Diplomas, recognised by employers and higher education institutions
worldwide.
We deliver 9.4 million exam scripts each year, with more than 90% of exam papers marked
onscreen annually. As part of Pearson, Edexcel continues to invest in cutting-edge technology
that has revolutionised the examinations and assessment system. This includes the ability to
provide detailed performance data to teachers and students which helps to raise attainment.

Acknowledgements
This specification has been produced by Edexcel on the basis of consultation with teachers,
examiners, consultants and other interested parties. Edexcel would like to thank all those
who contributed their time and expertise to the specification’s development.

References to third-party material made in this specification are made in good faith. Edexcel
does not endorse, approve or accept responsibility for the content of materials, which may
be subject to change, or any opinions expressed therein. (Material may include textbooks,
journals, magazines and other publications and websites.)

Authorised by Roger Beard


Prepared by John Crew
All the material in this publication is copyright
© Edexcel Limited 2008
This document should be read in conjunction with the
GCE Physics specification - issue 3 (Publication code
UA018902).
Contents

Introduction 4
How Science Works 4
General considerations 4

Preparing students for the practical assessment 6


Introduction 6
Safety 6
Planning: Identifying equipment 6
Planning: Identifying techniques to use 7
Implementation: measurements 9
Accuracy and precision 9
Implementation: Recording results in tables 10
Analysing: Graphs 10
Analysing: Limitation of results 11
Evaluating 12

Advice for students 13


Summary of the case study or visit 13
Plan 13
Implementation and measurements 14
Analysis 14

Uncertainties in measurements 16
What are uncertainties? Why are they important? 16
Calculating uncertainties 16
Calculating percentage uncertainties 17
Compounding errors 17

Guidance for visits 20


Guidance for case studies 21
Some ideas for practical assessments 22
Visits 22
Case studies 22

Conducting the AS assessment 23


The summary of the case study or visit 23
The plan 23
Carrying out the practical work 23
Providing guidance to students during the practical session 24
Carrying out the analysis 24
Returning work 25

Exemplar of assessed work: Refractometry 26


Briefing sheet 27
Case study on refractometry 28
AS Marking grid for case study on refractometry 35
Examiner’s comments on refractometry 38

Exemplar of assessed work: Geophysics 40


Visit report for Geophysics 41
AS Marking grid for visit to an archaeological site 49
Examiner’s comments - geophysics 52

Exemplar of assessed work: Focal length 54


Visit report for an optician’s shop 55
AS Marking grid for visit to an optician’s shop 65
Examiner’s comments for a visit to an optician’s shop 68

Exemplar of assessed work: Solar cells 70


Visit report for solar cells 71
AS Marking grid for solar cells 78
Examiner’s comments for solar cells 81

Frequently asked questions 82


Questions relating to the visit 82
Questions relating to written work 82
Questions relating to the practical session 83
Questions relating to marking work 84
Other questions 84

Further advice 86
Plagiarism and collusion 86
Annotation of student work 87

Glossary 89
Appendix 1: Briefing sheets for exemplars based on visits 91
Introduction 91
Briefing sheet for the geophysics case study 92

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 2


Briefing sheet for the optical case study 93
Briefing sheet for the case study on solar cells 94

Appendix 2: Precision, accuracy and sensitivity 95


Introduction

All AS students are required to carry out one piece of assessed practical work that is based on
either a case study or a visit that involves an application of physics. This book provides
guidance and examples for the practical work. It includes a section that discusses how students
should be prepared for this assessment, advice for students and some notes on uncertainties that
may be issued to students, and suggestions and exemplars of practical assessments.

How Science Works


The practical assessment gives students the opportunity to address some of the “How science
works” themes. These themes are about how scientists go about investigating the world about
us using the scientific method. It has nothing to do with content and is a development that builds
on and extends the science skills in Key Stages 3 and 4. Students can use this opportunity to
demonstrate:

• their knowledge and understanding to pose scientific questions, define scientific


problems, and to present scientific arguments and ideas
• their ability to use appropriate methodology to answer scientific questions and solve
scientific problems
• their ability to carry out experimental and investigative activities, including appropriate
risk assessment
• their ability to analyse and interpret data to provide evidence, recognising correlations
and casual relationships
• their ability to evaluate methodology, evidence and data
• their ability to communicate information and ideas in appropriate ways using
appropriate technology
• a consideration of ethical issues
• an appreciation of the ways in which society uses science to inform decision-making
• a consideration of applications and implications of science.

General considerations
It is important to ensure that all students have the opportunity to gain marks for all the
assessment criteria for unit 3 when selecting the visit or case study.
The practical work must relate to either the visit or case study and students must point out this
relationship. It would be beneficial to the students to be given a practical on a topic within the
AS course but this is not a requirement of the assessment criteria (however it is expected that
this work will show progression from GCSE). The case study or visit should be undertaken at an
appropriate time during the course so that it integrates into the teaching of the subject matter and
coincides with the teaching of the relevant topic.
The practical work needs to involve the variation of two interdependent quantities which can be
measured. Students need to be able to produce a graph which will usually be a straight line and
derive the relationship between the two variables or derive a constant. For example this might
involve one variable plotted against the square root of the other. It is not envisaged that AS
students will plot log graphs.
Edexcel does not specify a list of equipment that should be made available to students and
therefore the practical assessment may be achieved by using basic laboratory apparatus; this

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 4


does not preclude students from using more complex equipment, such as signal generators,
oscilloscopes and data logging devices where these are available.
The practical work has been designed to be flexible so that centres may use their existing
resources. If many students in large centres require the use of expensive equipment then
different groups of students may have to do the practical assessment at different times of the
year. If a staggered approach is taken then different groups of students should do different
experiments to avoid collaboration.

5
Preparing students for the practical assessment

Introduction
The practical work will assess each student’s ability to:
• plan
• implement
• analyse and
• evaluate.

Centres should devise and implement a suitable course of practical work throughout the AS
course to ensure that they acquire the skills and experience that will be needed for them to
succeed in each of these aspects of the practical assessment. The specification suggests
experiments that students could carry out to enable them to experience a wide range of practical
skills. The suggestions are not exhaustive and centres could use different experiments to those
suggested to reflect the equipment that they have available.
Students should be encouraged to calculate percentage uncertainties (discussed in another
section) whenever possible in experiments that they do throughout the course.

Safety
Teachers should emphasise the importance of safety in all practical work throughout the course
as a matter of good practice.

Planning: Identifying equipment


Students should be able to identify apparatus and materials that are needed to achieve a
particular aim. This includes the identification of the most appropriate measuring instruments
for a particular task. For example, if a student needs to measure the width and thickness of a
rule then they would be expected to select vernier callipers for the width and a micrometer for
the thickness (or a suitable digital device for both).
Students should be aware of the precision of instruments, in general:
mm scale 0.50 mm
vernier 0.10 mm
micrometer 0.01 mm
If measuring a mass such as the mass of a coin students should identify an appropriate
instrument to use. Different digital top pan balances have different ranges and different
precisions. The student should select the most appropriate top pan balance to use.
Where appropriate, students should calculate / estimate the values of equipment needed, eg,
resistors and their power rating in electrical circuits or suggest a range of values, eg weights,
that will be needed for their experiment.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 6


Planning: Identifying techniques to use
Students should develop their knowledge and understanding of a variety of techniques in order
to produce results which are as accurate and reliable as is reasonably possible. Experience
shows that students who do this are more likely to gain higher marks for the better results that
this achieves. The following list (which is by no means exhaustive) contains some common
techniques that should be experienced several times during normal practical work:
• zero error checks
• repeat measurements (at different places if appropriate)
• difference methods (eg for extension of a spring)
• eye level to avoid parallax error
• use of marker at centre of oscillations to aid timing
• use of set square for checking vertical or horizontal arrangements
• interpolation of analogue scales
• trigonometric methods for measuring angles

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 7


D

Technique for measuring the diameter of a cylinder that is several cm across

Tan θ = y/x
y θ
x

Using a trigonometric method for measuring angles

Pin

Cork

Using a marker at the centre of an oscillation to aid timing

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 8


Implementation: measurements
During the course, students should develop their skills for making valid, reliable measurements
using appropriate techniques. Students should provide written evidence when writing up their
assessed practical work to show the techniques that they have used to ensure that they get the
appropriate credit; it is recommended that students be encouraged to do this with the normal
practical work that they do throughout the course so that it becomes a habit.
Students should realise that a liquid must be stirred before using a thermometer to record its
temperature and this should be mentioned in the notes that the students produce.
Before taking measurements, students should check instruments for zero error and record that
this was done.
If measuring a fixed quantity, eg diameter of a rod, then students should take repeat
measurements in at least 3 different places at different orientations (recording all these
measurements to provide evidence they have done this).
Students should make and record sufficient relevant observations over a suitable range of values
with appropriate precision. What is a “sufficient” number of observations cannot always be
defined - it depends on the nature and context of the experiment and is in itself a “skill” which
is acquired through experience. For example, for a mass oscillating on a spring with a period of
about 1s it might be appropriate to time, say, 20 oscillations and then repeat this measurement.
However, with a heavily damped motion it might not be possible to count more than a few
oscillations, in which case it might be necessary to repeat 5 oscillations at least 4 times. Students
should be prepared to modify their planned procedures in response to their experimental
observations.
Students should realise that in some experiments (eg, plotting a cooling curve) it is not possible
to take extra measurements after obtaining a set of readings and therefore they should plan to
take as many readings as possible (eg by taking readings every 30 s rather than every minute). It
may actually be counter productive to take repeat readings in some cases, for example in an
electrical experiment a component may heat up and so a repeat set of readings would be
completely different from the first set of readings.
Where it is difficult to make a precise measurement, eg timing a ball rolling down a slope
(which is likely to be in the order of 2 seconds and subject to considerable subjective error) then
several readings should be taken and averaged.

Accuracy and precision


Students should be aware of the difference between the accuracy and precision of
measurements, for example although a stopwatch can read to high precision (0.01 s) timings
will be subject to error because of the reaction time in starting and stopping the stopwatch. This
will give rise to random errors, which can be reduced by taking several readings. When
measuring the resistance of a length of wire the contact resistance can lead to a systematic error.
Repeat readings might not do anything about this but plotting a graph of resistance against
length of wire should reveal a value of the contact resistance when length is zero.
Thermometers are notoriously inaccurate: although 0 – 100 ºC thermometers can be read (by
interpolation) to a precision of 0.5 ºC or better they are unlikely to be accurate (due to their
manufacture) to within 1 ºC, or even worse. This has less effect when measuring a temperature
difference (eg determining the rise in temperature when a beaker of water is heated) and so
students should still be trained to attempt readings to 0.5 ºC or better.
Students should recognise that even though an instrument is capable of high precision (eg
digital meter, electronic balance, digital stopwatch), its accuracy may well be in doubt

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 9


(particularly if the student hasn’t checked for any zero error) or there may be a further
uncertainty due to human error.

Implementation: Recording results in tables


Students should present work appropriately in written, graphical or other forms. In particular,
results should be tabulated with data columns headed by the corresponding units with the data
expressed to the appropriate precision, eg:

h1 / mm h2 /mm x/mm 20T / s 20T / s T ² / s²


327.5 321.0 6.5 19.52 19.64 0.96
327.5 314.5 13.0 27.64 27.50 1.90

All readings should be shown and recorded to the precision of the instrument. It is not essential
to record “intermediate” calculations (of, for example, the mean value of 20T and T), but the
required quantity, T 2, should be expressed to a suitable number of significant figures. The
number of significant figures is deemed to represent the precision of the value, eg 0.96 s2
indicates a value of 0.96 + 0.005 s2.

Analysing: Graphs
Graphs should be drawn using a large scale, but avoiding “awkward” scales, particularly scales
of three. A rule-of-thumb definition of “large” is that the points should occupy at least half the
grid in both the x and y directions (or else the scale could be doubled!); this may include the
origin if appropriate. The axes should be labelled with the quantity being plotted (or its symbol)
and its units (if applicable), eg T 2 / s 2, ln (V / cm 3)1, l / D 2 / m-2. Points should be plotted with
precision (interpolating between grid lines) and denoted by a dot with a small circle round it or a
small cross. Error bars are not expected, although students could be made aware of them.
Students should be taught to draw the line of best fit, whether it be a straight line or a smooth
curve, preferably with a sharp pencil.
If a straight line graph is anticipated, it is appropriate initially to take 6 measurements over as
wide a range of values as possible. Having plotted the graph it might be necessary to take extra
measurements, perhaps in a region where there is some doubt as to the nature of the line. This is
particularly so in the case of a curve where more points are generally required, especially in the
region of a maximum or minimum.

1
Bold type indicates that this is an A2 requirement
Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 10
X

X X

X X

(i) (ii)

Does graph (i) curve to the origin, or continue as a straight line and give an intercept? More
readings would be needed (if possible) to decide. In graph (ii) extra readings in the region of the
maximum would help to define its shape more precisely.
At A2, and where appropriate at AS, students are expected to relate linear graphs to
y = mx + c and to understand that a straight line graph must pass through the origin to confirm
a proportional relationship. They should, however, bear in mind that not all relationships in
physics are linear! A2 students are expected to be able to plot logarithmic graphs in order
to test for exponential relationships or power laws.
Students should be able to interpret information from a graph, allocating units where appropriate
to the gradient, intercept and area under the curve where these represent physical quantities.
When a gradient is being determined, whether from a straight line or by drawing a tangent at the
appropriate point on a curve, as large a triangle as possible should be used and its co-ordinates
should be recorded in the calculation of its value.
The student’s graph may not pass through the origin, from which s/he might infer that there
could be a systematic error, eg there may be an additional constant term in the expression that
they are using.

Analysing: Limitation of results


In analysing their observations, students should be aware of the limitations of their experimental
measurements. They should understand that certain types of measurement are more reliable than
others. For example, finding the period of a mass oscillating on a spring from 20 oscillations
(say 20 s) should be a reliable, reproducible measurement, whereas the time for a ball to roll
down a slope is likely to be fairly unreliable for a number of reasons: human error in measuring
a time of about 2 s, the ball may not roll in a straight line and the ball might skid. Simple
electrical measurements using digital meters should be reliable, whilst thermal experiments may
be less so due to thermal energy losses and inaccurate and insensitive thermometers.
They should understand how repeat measurements and graphical methods can reduce random
and systematic errors and how such techniques can invariably improve the reliability of their
data.
Students should be aware of the precision of instruments as discussed previously. They should
recognise that if a measurement is the result of the difference of two readings (eg the depression
of a cantilever as measured by a metre rule), it would be unreasonable to quote an uncertainty of
better than 1 mm (ie 0.5 mm for each reading).
Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 11
Evaluating
In drawing their conclusions, students should be aware that as well as possible instrument errors
(even with high precision devices such as digital meters and electronic balances), values stated
on components (eg masses, resistors and especially capacitors) are only “nominal” values,
subject to manufacturers’ tolerances. For example, electrolytic capacitors may have a tolerance
of 10% or more.
They should also be aware of factors inherent within their apparatus or experimental
arrangements which limit the reliability of their measurements, eg friction, air resistance,
contact resistance, fluctuating power supplies and change of temperature during the experiment.
Students should assess the reliability of their data by considering the uncertainty of their
measurements. In general terms this should be taken to be half the range of their measurements
if several readings are taken or else the precision to which the instrument can be read if only a
single reading is taken. However, if human error is likely to exceed this (eg reaction time
starting and stopping a stopwatch) then this should be taken into consideration (eg although a
stopwatch can read to a precision of 0.01 s, a more realistic uncertainty when using it to time
oscillations might be 0.1 s to reflect reaction time). Uncertainties are usually of little value
unless expressed as a percentage, eg a 0.1 s uncertainty in timing 20 oscillations (say 20 s)
would give rise to a percentage uncertainty of only 0.5%, whereas a realistic uncertainly of 0.2 s
in timing a ball rolling down a slope (say 2 s) would result in a 10% uncertainty.
Conclusions, wherever possible, should be based on quantitative evidence. For example, in an
experiment to determine acceleration of free fall, the student might get a value for g of
10.4 ms-2. A valid conclusion would be that the experiment confirms the relationship within
experimental error because the value of g obtained is within about 4% of the accepted value and
the experimental uncertainty is 10% from just the timing. Comments such as “close to the right
value” get no credit!
Finally, students need to apply their knowledge and understanding of physics, together with
common sense. For example if in an experiment to determine a value for the density of a golf
ball it was found it to be 140 kg m-3 they should stop and think “but doesn’t a golf ball sink in
water?” A check of their calculations might enable them to discover, perhaps, that they had
used the diameter of the ball instead of its radius and hence found a volume that was 8 times too
large (“is the volume really 320 cm3?”). If a careful check does not reveal such an error, then a
suitable comment should be made to indicate that the student is somewhat surprised by the
result.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 12


Advice for students

Summary of the case study or visit


You will need to produce a summary of either a visit or a case study based on an application of
physics.
If you are doing a visit then you should include brief details of the venue that you visited.
If you are doing a case study, you should include at least three different types of sources of
information for writing your summary. These could be your text book, a website and a
magazine. Three different textbooks do not count as three different types of sources of
information. You should ensure that you list all the sources of information that you have used.
If you quote from any sources of information then you must ensure that you indicate this clearly
in your work and ensure that the source of each quote is acknowledged.
Describe the application that uses physics and relate it to the physics principles involved,
ensuring that you use specialist terminology correctly – use a textbook or website to help you if
necessary.
Discuss a social, environmental, historical or other relevant context in your summary.
Comment on the benefits of the physics used in the application that you are studying (eg
ultrasonic scans provide a quick, cheap method for detecting small cracks in aeroplane wings)
or risks involved (eg X-rays can harm the body and therefore special precautions need to be
taken to protect both the operator and patient, for example the operator usually wears a lead
apron).
Include at least one piece of information that has not been mentioned in any documents that you
received for the briefing or case study. This could, for example, be a diagram to illustrate a point
that you are making.

Plan
List all the materials that you require for your experiment.
State how you will measure two different types of quantities using the most appropriate
instrument. For example, you could write:
• I will use a voltmeter to measure the voltage across the resistor.
• I will use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water.
Explain why you have chosen two of the measuring instruments that you have listed. For
example, you could write:
• I will use a micrometer to measure the thickness of the ruler because this allows me to
measure to the nearest 0.01mm giving me a more precise measurement than vernier
callipers.
• I will use a data logger because I need to take several readings over very short time
intervals. It would be difficult for a human to take so many readings that are close together.
Describe at least two measuring techniques that you have used to make your measurements
reliable. For example, you could write:
• I will use a pin to mark the position of the spring at the centre of its oscillation.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 13


• The angle that I need to find is about 5o. This is too small to measure accurately with a
protractor so I will measure the height and length of the slope and use trigonometry to
calculate the angle.
Write down which is the independent variable and which is the dependent variable in your
experiment. You need to identify other variables that could affect your results and state how
these were controlled to ensure that you carried out a fair test. For example, you could write:
• I kept the weight at the end of the string constant throughout the experiment so that its
tension was the same for each measurement that I recorded.
If you will not be taking repeat readings you should explain why. For example, you could write:
• I will be recording the temperature of the liquid as it cools down, so it will not be possible to
repeat readings. However, I will take many readings that are close to each other in case I
misread the thermometer.
Identify any safety hazards in your experiment and any precautions you may take. For example,
you could write:
• I will wear safety goggles because the wire is under a lot of tension and could break while I
am taking a reading.
Indicate how you intend to use the data that you collected. For example, you could write:
• I will plot stress against strain and use the gradient of the linear part to find the Young
modulus.
Include a diagram showing the arrangement of the apparatus that you will use. Mark important
distances on this diagram and, in particular, mark any distances that you will measure.
Finally, remember that your plan should show logical thought by describing what you intend to
do in sequence. The plan should be written in the future tense but this is not essential.

Implementation and measurements


Record all your results in an appropriate table.
If you take the average of, say three readings, then you should ensure that you write down each
individual reading, not just the average value to show the examiner that you have taken an
appropriate number of measurements.
If you are plotting a graph then you should aim to take at least 6 readings and repeat these if
necessary. It is a good idea to draw a rough graph as you are taking the measurements so that
you can investigate anomalous readings or to take extra readings near any turning points in any
curves that you obtain.
Make sure that you take measurements over as wide a range as possible. For example, if you are
determining the distance between two nodes that are separated by a few centimetres then you
should not measure the distance between two nodes only. Instead, measure the distance
occupied by several nodes and then calculate the average distance between two of these nodes.

Analysis
When you draw your graph, you should use more than half the graph paper in both the x and y
directions. The graph need not necessarily include the origin; this depends on the measurements
that you are carrying out.
Use a sensible scale; for example avoid the use of a scale that goes up in steps of three as this
will make it difficult for you to process any readings that you take from your graph.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 14


Make sure that you label each axis with the quantity being plotted (or its symbol) and its units if
it has any, eg T 2 / s 2.
Plot points accurately, using either a dot surrounded by a small circle or a small cross.
Make a brief comment on the trend shown by your graph, eg as temperature increases,
resistance increases linearly. Remember that a straight line graph must pass through the origin
to confirm a directly proportional relationship.
If you need to obtain the gradient of your graph you should draw as large a triangle as possible
on your graph paper to show how you worked out the gradient. State the units of the gradient if
it has any.
Briefly list sources of error and calculate the uncertainties that these contribute to the result(s) of
your experiment.
Suggest at least one realistic non-trivial modification that you could make to reduce the errors
in your experiment or to improve your experiment. Trivial suggestions such as if I had more
time I would have taken more readings will not score this mark!
Briefly mention any physics principles that you use in your calculations and/or conclusion.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 15


Uncertainties in measurements

What are uncertainties? Why are they important?


When you repeat a measurement you often get different results. There is an uncertainty in the
measurement that you have taken. It is important to be able to determine the uncertainty in
measurements so that their effect can be taken into consideration when drawing conclusions
about experimental results.

Calculating uncertainties
Example: A student measures the diameter of a metal canister using a ruler graduated in mm
and records three results:

66 mm, 65 mm and 61 mm.

The average diameter is (66 + 65 + 61) / 3 = 64 mm.

The uncertainty in the diameter is the difference between the average reading and the biggest or
smallest value obtained, whichever is the greater. In this case, the measurement of 61 mm is
further from the average value than 66 mm, so the uncertainty in the measurement is:
64 – 61 = 3 mm.

Therefore the diameter of the metal canister is 64 +- 3 mm.

Even in situations where the same reading is obtained each time there is still an uncertainty in
the measurement because the instrument used to take the measurement has its own limitations.
If the three readings obtained above were all 64 mm then the value of the diameter being
measured is somewhere between the range of values 63.5 mm and 64.5 mm.

In this case, the uncertainty in the diameter is +- 0.5 mm.

Therefore the diameter of the metal canister is 64.0 +- 0.5 mm.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 16


Calculating percentage uncertainties
The percentage uncertainty in a measurement can be calculated using:

Uncertainty of measurement x 100%


Measurement taken

The percentage uncertainty in the measurement of the diameter of the metal canister is:

Uncertainty of measurement x 100% = 0.5 x 100% = 1 %


Measurement taken 64

The radius of the canister = diameter/2 = 32 mm.

The percentage uncertainty for the radius of the canister is the same as its diameter ie 1%.

Compounding errors2
Calculations often use more than one measurement. Each measurement will have its own
uncertainty, so it is necessary to combine the uncertainties for each measurement together to
calculate the overall uncertainty in the result of the calculation. The method for combing
uncertainties together depends on how the measurements are used in the calculation:

The total percentage uncertainty is calculated by adding together the percentage uncertainties
for each measurement.

Example 1: Calculating the percentage uncertainty for the area of a square tile.
A student using a rule to measure the two adjacent sides of a square tile obtains the following
results:
Length of one side = 84 +- 0.5mm
Length of second side = 84 +- 0.5mm
Show that the percentage uncertainty in the length of each side of this square tile is about 1%.
Calculate the area of the square.
(The above two calculations are left as an exercise for the student.)
[Area of square = 84 x 84 = 7100 mm]

2
This section applies for the A2 practical only
Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 17
The percentage uncertainty in the area of the square tile is calculated by adding together the
percentage uncertainties for its two sides.

Percentage uncertainty in the square tile is:

1% + 1% = 2%

Example 2: A metallurgist is determining the purity of an alloy that is in the shape of a cube by
measuring the density of the material. The following readings are taken:
Length of each side of the cube = 24.0 +- 0.5mm
Mass of cube = 48.230 +- 0.005g
Calculate (i) the density of the material (ii) the percentage uncertainty in the density of the
material.
Solution 2:
(i) Density of alloy = mass/volume = 48.230 x 10 -3 kg/ (24.0 x 10-3)3 = 3500 kg m-3.
(ii) Percentage uncertainty in the length of each side of the cube

= 0.5 x 100% = 2 %
24

Percentage uncertainty in mass of cube

= 0.005 x 100% = 0.1 %


48.2

Therefore total percentage uncertainty = 2% + 2% + 2% +0.1% = 6.1%


We normally ignore decimal places in calculating uncertainties so the percentage uncertainty in
the density of the material is 6%.

Example 3: Calculating the percentage uncertainty for the cross sectional area of a canister.
If the student determines that the radius of the metal canister is 32 mm with an uncertainty of
1% then the cross sectional area of the canister is:

=πr2

= π (32) 2

= 3200 mm2.

The cross sectional area was calculated by squaring the radius (ie multiplying the radius by the
radius). Since two quantities have been multiplied together, the percentage uncertainty in the

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 18


value of the cross sectional area is found by adding the percentage uncertainty of the radius to
the percentage uncertainty of the radius:

Percentage uncertainty in cross sectional area

= 1% + 1%

= 2%

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 19


Guidance for visits
The visit may be related to any practical application of physics; it need not involve an industrial
visit as some of the exemplars in this book demonstrate. The visit should, if possible, be
integrated with the teaching programme so that it becomes a natural part of the course of study.

Teachers should ensure that they are familiar with their centre’s policy for taking students off
site before arranging a visit.

The teacher should make a preliminary visit to the organisation that students will visit and
discuss its purpose with the employer (or other contact) before students go on the visit. The
teacher should identify the type(s) of practical work that students could undertake as a result of
the visit and ensure that the visit will provide students with the opportunity to achieve all the
requirements of the assessment criteria (see the specification for the assessment criteria). Some
visits will provide students with the opportunity to do different types of practical work; other
visits may provide the opportunity to do one type of practical work only. Health and safety
issues should be discussed with the employer at this stage.

The organisation may provide some documentation about the physics involved in the visit;
teachers should check that this documentation is at an appropriate level for all the students in the
group. Teachers may produce their own documentation or supplement any documentation
provided by the organisation with their own notes. A copy of any documentation provided by
the organisation and/or the centre that is issued to students should be included in work that is
sent to Edexcel for moderation or marking.

Teachers should brief students before they go on the visit. The briefing should include an
outline of what the students are expected to achieve. Students could each make up a list of
questions to ask when they do the visit. Teachers may wish to review in class the physics that
students will need to gain maximum benefit from the visit. Alternatively, teachers may require
students to review the necessary physics concepts for homework and possibly give them a test
on these concepts before the visit commences.

If the organisation has its own website then students should be encouraged to look at it, and
possibly compare this to similar sites. This may help them to formulate questions to ask when
doing the visit and also give them some preliminary background information. Teachers should
remind students that when writing their report, they may refer to material on websites but they
should not merely copy large chunks of text into their own work; instead they should use their
own words to convey their understanding of what they have read. However, short quotes may be
used provided that the source of the quotes are clearly identified.

Centres with a large cohort of students are unlikely to be able to take every student on the same
visit at the same time. For this reason, such centres may arrange staggered visits for different
groups of students. It is good practise to take students to different organisations when visits are
staggered over a long period of time to reduce the opportunities for students to collaborate with
each other. Alternatively, students in different classes could do different practicals that are
based on the same visit.

If a student misses a visit, or if a student produces a poor piece of assessed work for the visit
then the centre may allow the student to do a case study as an alternative to the visit. Centres
could produce a briefing for a case study that relates to the visit for students who miss the visit.
This document contains examples that illustrate how case studies may be based on visits.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 20


Guidance for case studies

Case studies may be based on any practical application of physics. The case study should be
integrated with the teaching programme so that it becomes a natural part of the course of study.
Alternatively, students may express an interest in an application that appears in the media,
possibly in a scientific magazine, eg Focus, Scientific American or New Scientist and this could
provide the opportunity to develop a case study that will capture their interest and thereby
provide a high motivation factor.
It is not necessary for all students to do the same case study; this is at the centre’s discretion,
although centres may find it convenient for all students in the same class to do the same
practical to make it easier to organise the resources required for the practical session. Teachers
could provide students with a selection of different briefs so that students can chose the one that
they find the most interesting. Teachers could build up a bank of case studies over time for this
purpose.
Case studies require a briefing paper. This could include general information such as the use of
the marking grid to ensure full coverage of all the assessment criteria, use of good English and
the importance of working individually. Exemplars are included in this book.
The briefing paper for the case study should identify an aspect of physics that has a broad
practical application. A specific application of this aspect of physics should not necessarily be
given in the briefing document, as this is something that students could determine for
themselves, providing greater scope for variety in their summaries. A statement such as “Many
industrial situations require an accurate measurement of the refractive index of liquids and
solids.” would be a sufficient introduction to set the scene for the work that is to be carried out.
This statement shows the aspect of physics that is to be at the focus of the practical work (ie
refractive index) has industrial applications although these are not specifically identified. The
briefing document should then instruct students to research the application(s) of this aspect of
physics and to explain how relevant physics principles are used. The document should also
indicate the type of experiment they will be doing.
A copy of the briefing document must be included in work that is sent to Edexcel for
moderation or marking.
If students in different groups do the practical assessment at different times then they should do
different case studies to reduce the risk of collaboration. In particular, this is likely to apply to
centres with large numbers of students.
Students may refer to material on websites but they should not merely copy large chunks of text
into their own work; instead they should use their own words to convey their understanding of
what they have read. However, short quotes may be used; the source of any quotes must be
clearly identified in the text.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 21


Some ideas for practical assessments

Some examples of possible practical assessments that relate to different learning outcomes are
listed below. The list is not exhaustive – there are many other opportunities for incorporating
practical assessments into the course.

Visits
• Theme park: Experiment involving conversion of potential energy and kinetic energy
(learning outcome 53).

• Diggerland: Experiment involving the Young’s modulus of materials used (learning outcome
24).

• Church: Experiment involving the length of organ pipe and frequency of note (learning
outcome 35).

• Construction site: Experiment involving a property of a material used in construction or


safety clothing (learning outcome 26).

• Local garage: Experiment involving viscosity of oil or the properties of materials used in a
car (learning outcome 21).

• Concert hall: Experiment involving the length or tension of guitar string and frequency of
note (learning outcome 35).

• Food manufacturers: Experiment involving a property of a material used in food production


(learning outcome 26).

Case studies
Case studies may be based on all the suggestions above. Further suggestions for case studies
include:

• Fishing rods: Experiment involving Young’s modulus (learning outcome 24).

• Cameras: Experiment involving the focal length of lenses (although lenses are not mentioned
on the specification, this does not prohibit students from using them).

• Historic development of cells: Experiment to determine the emf of a lemon cell (learning
outcome 59).

• Crashes: Experiment investigating the crumple zone in a car (learning outcome 16).

• Solar cells: Experiment on efficiency of energy conversion (learning outcome 70).

• Lifts: Experiment on the efficiency of an electric motor when raising different weights
(learning outcome 53).

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 22


Conducting the AS assessment

The summary of the case study or visit


Students may produce the summary of the case study or visit either in class or at home; this part
of the assessment need not be conducted under supervised conditions.
Students should complete the summary of the case study or visit report before they produce
their individual plans since the summary should be used as the basis of the practical work..
Teachers should collect in the summary of the case study or visit from students and return them
when they are producing their plan, doing their experiment and analysing their results under
supervised conditions.

The plan
If students in different classes will be doing the same practical experiment then all students
should produce their plan for the experiment before any students carry out practical work. This
will ensure that students in some classes will not produce plans that are informed by practical
experience gained by students in other classes.
Students should be given, in advance, a brief description of the experiment that they will be
planning and its title so that they can review the physics that may be needed. The experiment
must have a clear relationship to the case study or visit.
Students should be able to produce the plan for the practical work in one normal practical
session.
The plan must be produced under supervised conditions to ensure that students do not help each
other. Students should be advised that they will need to ensure that the practical work that they
are planning can be completed in one normal practical session; they will need to gain sufficient
practical experience throughout the course to judge the timing of practical work. It may be
helpful to give them some planning exercises for practice before they each produce their own
plan for the unit 3 assessment.
Teachers should return the summary of the case study or visit to students, issue a copy of the
assessment criteria and issue a copy of briefing documents at the start of the practical session;
students may not bring their own copies to the session as there is a risk that students may
annotate these. Teachers may provide students with any formula that are needed during the
session without penalty.
The teacher should collect the plans and summaries of the case study or visit at the end of the
planning session. Plans must be checked for health and safety issues before the students carry
out the practical aspect of this assessment. The student may have identified health and safety
issues and provided comments on how to deal with these in their plans. However, if a student
has not identified a relevant health and safety issue, then the teacher should raise this issue with
the student before beginning any practical work and the student will lose the mark for P10:
Comments on safety.

Carrying out the practical work


Students must carry out the practical work individually under supervised conditions.
It is advisable to have spare parts available, particularly for vulnerable components.
Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 23
It should be possible for students to set up their equipment and record all necessary
measurements in one normal practical session. If it is not possible to complete the practical in
one session the n the teacher may decide to use the following session to complete the practical.
The unmarked plan and summary of the case study or visit should be returned to students at the
beginning of the lesson. Teachers may give students a copy of the assessment criteria (marking
grids) from the specification and briefing documents at the start of the session; students must
not bring their own copies of any documents to the session to prevent them from accessing
annotated versions that they may produce. Teachers may provide students with any formula that
are needed during the session without penalty.
Teachers should remind students of health and safety issues before they begin the practical work
and advise students to have, for example, electrical circuits checked before the power is
switched on. Relevant warnings should be given, eg warning students that a component may get
very hot during the course of the experiment.
Students must work individually.
Teachers must collect in all the work that the student has produced at the end of the lesson
including the summary of the case study or visit.

Providing guidance to students during the practical


session
The specification states that “Teachers may provide guidance to students without penalty.
Guidance is feedback that a teacher might reasonably be expected to give to a student who asks
questions about the work that they are carrying out. In effect, the teacher is being used as a
resource.” For example, the student may ask the teacher to check whether apparatus has been set
up correctly if the apparatus does not appear to be working correctly. For example, a student
carrying out an experiment using an electrical circuit might sensibly ask the teacher whether the
circuit is correct before switching on the power supply. The teacher should check the circuit and
tell the student if it is incorrect. The error still needs to be identified and corrected by the student
and this advice would carry no penalty. If however after several attempts the teacher feels the
error needs to be explained and corrected then this should be noted clearly on the Candidate
Record Sheet.
The specification continues: “Students may require assistance whereby the teacher needs to tell
the student what they have to do. Assistance in this respect carries a penalty. The teacher should
record details of any assistance provided on the report.” It may be necessary to tell a student
how to connect up a circuit so that they can carry out the experiment and record some
measurements. In this situation, students will be penalised. If the teacher has to explain how to
use an instrument, eg micrometer, then the help given should be recorded and the student should
lose the mark for P4: States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most
appropriate instrument. However, if the student provides a satisfactory reason for the choice of
this measuring instrument they will not lose the mark for P5: Explains the choice of the second
measuring instrument with reference to the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the
number of measurements to be taken.

Carrying out the analysis


The analysis may be carried out in a separate lesson under supervision.
At the beginning of the lesson, teachers should return the summary of the case study or visit and
other work that students produced for the experiment. Teachers may also give students a copy of
the assessment criteria, briefing documents and formula that may be needed.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 24


Working individually under supervised conditions, students should analyse their results and
write up their conclusions. Teachers must not assist students with the analysis or presentation of
their results, or provide any hints about possible conclusions.
At the end of the session the teacher should collect in all the documents that students have in
their possession.

Returning work
Teachers must not return work to students to improve. However, students may do more than one
case study or visit. Their best piece of work should be submitted to Edexcel for assessment
purposes.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 25


Exemplar of assessed work: Refractometry
Introduction
In this refractometry example a case study topic was given (see student brief on the next page)
to the student. The students were expected to research the topic and present a report. The
experiment which followed modelled one of the two refractometry techniques that the student
had researched. The student was expected to establish a clear link between the experiment and
case study.

The same experiment could have been based on a visit to a food manufacturing company.

The practical which follows was planned in approximately 45 minutes. The student then carried
out the practical, took measurements, produced a graph for the results and discussed conclusions
within a one and a half hour lesson. The practical report was originally hand written.

Important note
This report and all the other exemplars have been word processed for ease of reproduction in
this book and in this respect they do NOT exemplify actual reports as students are required to
hand-write their experiment reports.
Specification links
Unit 2 Physics at Work
Concept-led approach: Topic 2 Waves, outcomes 36, 37 and 38
Context-led approach: Chapter 1 The sound of music, outcomes 36, 37 and 38

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 26


Briefing sheet
The following briefing explains what you must do for the assessment for unit 3. You should
refer to the marking grid for this unit to ensure that you cover all the requirements of this
assessment.

Remember that some marks are awarded for the use of clear English.

You should work by yourself for this assessment.

Background

Many industrial situations require an accurate measurement of the refractive index of liquids
and solids. Two main types of refractometers are used for measuring refractive index – the Abbe
refractometer and the Pulfrich refractometer.

For this assessment, you are going to identify applications that require an accurate measurement
of refractive index, describe each type of refractometer, explain how they operate using relevant
principles of physics, and find the concentration of a sugar solution by measuring its refractive
index.

What you should do

1. Outline applications that require the accurate measurement of refractive index.

2. Describe and explain the principles of:


(a) an Abbe refractometer
(b) a Pulfrich refractometer.

You will be planning an experiment that uses one of these principles to measure the refractive
index of a sugar solution. The title of the experiment is: using refractive index to determine the
concentration of a sugar solution.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 27


Case study on refractometry

Refractometry can be used to find the refractive index of a particular liquid.

This is useful because knowing its refractive index should enable us to

• Identify the liquid if it is unknown


(this could be useful as a forensic aid)
• Check whether it is a pure sample ie not polluted in any way
(for instance checking a water supply)
• Check the concentration of something which has dissolved in the liquid
(for instance checking how much sugar is in a fruit juice)

Using refraction provides manufacturers with a fast method to measure the


concentration of a sugar solution.

The diagram below shows the main components of one type (Abbe) of
refractometer.

This type relies solely on refraction. Light passes into a sample of the liquid from
the illuminating prism.

Illuminating
Prism

A θ
i
Sample
B

Refracting
Prism θ
r C

Light Dark

(Source:http://www2.ups.edu/faculty/hanson/labtechniques/refractometry/theor
y.htm)

Light is refraction as it passes the boundary between the illuminating prism and
the sample.
Light is further refracted as it passes between the sample and the refracting
prism. Look at ray AB. It is refracted BC. This is the widest angle of light so
anything further to the right of C will not have any light and will be dark.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 28


The longer the dark strip the greater the refraction at B.

This gives an indication of the refractive index between the sample and the
refracting prism. The more the refraction the bigger the difference in speed of
the light between the two media. The larger the refraction the less the speed of
light is in the sample and therefore the smaller the refractive index between the
sample and air.

The other type of refractometer (Pulfrich) relies on total internal reflection.

A liquid sample is placed along the side of a prism.

(source: Edexcel Physics examination paper psa2 January 2001)

A light beam is introduced into the prism. It internally reflects off the first
surface between glass and air providing the angle is bigger than the critical angle
ie about 42 degrees.

At the top (second) surface some of the light will totally internally reflect and
some will refract because the critical angle is larger than with air - typically 66
degrees between glass and liquid. This is because the refractive index (n) is closer
to 1. This is because the speed of light in liquid is closer to the speed of light in

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 29


glass. Finally critical angle = sin -1 1/n , as the fraction 1/n will typically be in the
range between 0.9 and 1 then the critical angle will be large compared to glass-air.

Any light more than the critical angle totally internally reflects and arrives at the
scale.

So the more dense the liquid – the closer in speed the speeds of light in glass and
liquid, the ratio is nearer to 1, the greater the critical angle, the less light arrives
at the scale.

Sources:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refractometry
2. Physics Review Volume 15 No 1 Article on refraction pages19/20
3. AS Salters Horners Advanced Physics (ISBN: 0435 628 909) Heinemann
pages 257/259

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 30


Experiment to determine an unknown Sugar Concentration

I am going to use the Pulfrich method. This experiment uses the principle of the
pulfrich refractometer to determine the critical angle at the interface between a
prism and liquid. I first have to calibrate my equipment – that is obtain a
calibration graph.

I am going to use a semi-circular prism. Ray box. Protractor. Sugar paper and
various strips of different known concentrates of sugar/water to calibrate my
equipment.

Method

I will arrange the apparatus as shown. I can use a white board and pens which wipe
clean after use on which to draw the outline of the prism and the path of the light
rays. I can soak the sugar paper in the liquid then stick it to the edge of the prism
as shown.
Normal
Incident ray Reflected ray

Sugar paper

I will determine the critical angle by rotating the prism until the ray totally
internally reflects.
I will measure the critical angle c – shown with the protractor – this is the
dependent variable. A protractor can measure to the nearest degree and as I am
expecting to measure angles of about 60o this should give an appropriate level of
accuracy.
I will then calculate refractive index n using n = 1/sin c.

I will start with pure water. Then I will make up some different sugar
concentrations. I will do this by mass and express it as a percentage. For instance
a 50% solution will be made up of 100 grams of water and 50 grams of sugar. I can
use a top-pan balance to measure the masses. I will start by measuring the mass
of an empty beaker. The top pan balance I am going to use will measure to the
nearest 0.1 gram which is an appropriate level of accuracy for the typical masses
(50 grams) I am going to measure out.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 31


Repeat for several different sugar solutions – this is the independent variable.

I will plot a graph of refractive index vs sugar concentration.

I have asked the technician to make up an unknown concentration for me. I will
then find c for the unknown solution. Calculate n. Then use the graph to find
concentration.

I expect to be able to measure an angle to the nearest degree, I will repeat the
rotation of the block and retake the angle a second time to check.

I will look vertically down onto protractor and lines to avoid parallax errors.

I will do the experiment in as dark a laboratory as possible.

Safety

Ray boxes can get hot – take care not to burn fingers etc.
I may use the razor kit rather than the ray box which uses a small laser.
Lasers: do not look directly at these. Ensure always flat on bench for other
peoples sake.

Results

Solution Critical Angle / Critical Angle/ Refractive Index


Concentration / % degrees degrees
0 63 63 1.12

15 65 64 1.10

30 67 67 1.09

45 70 70 1.06

60 74 74 1.04

Unknown 69 69

The refractive index of the unknown solution is 1.07 .

Note that the angle is measured to 2 sf.

Refractive index to 3 sf. If rounded off too much then graph loses sensitivity.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 32


Conclusions

The refractive index is linearly related to % concentration of Sugar. The gradient


of the graph is – 0.08 /60 = 1.33 x 10-3
So the equation of the line is n = - 1.3 x 10-3 . concentration + 1.12 over this range
of concentrations.

The points do not lie perfectly on the straight line.

This represents lack of uncertainty in the experiment. I measured the angles to


the nearest degree. The change in critical angle was only a few degrees so this
represents quite a wide range of inaccuracy. The accuracy could be improved by
using a larger protractor to measure the angle.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 33


My unknown concentration has a refractive index of 1.07 – from my graph this has
a concentration of 39%. The technician told me afterwards that she made it 40 %.

My line of best fit may not have been drawn in the right place. My points are a
little scattered due to the reasons given above and this means my straight line is
possibly not quite in the right place but my result is quite close.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 34


AS Marking grid for case study on refractometry

A: Summary of case study or physics-based visit


Ref Criterion Mark
Ref Criterion Mark

S1 Carries out a visit OR uses library, consulting a minimum of three different 1


sources of information (eg books/websites/journals/magazines/case study
provided by Edexcel/manufacturers’ data sheets)

S2 States details of visit venue OR provides full details of sources of information 1

S3 Provides a brief description of the visit OR case study 1

S4 Makes correct statement on relevant physics principles 1

S5 Uses relevant specialist terminology correctly 1

S6 Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is 1
not mentioned in the briefing papers for the visit or case study

S7 Briefly discusses context (eg social/environmental/historical) 0

S8 Comments on implication of physics (eg benefits/risks) 1

S9 Explains how the practical relates to the visit or case study 0

Marks for this section 7

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 35


B: Planning
Ref Criterion Mark

P1 Lists all materials required 1

P2 States how to measure one relevant quantity using the most appropriate 1
instrument

P3 Explains the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the 1


scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P4 States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most 1
appropriate instrument

P5 Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with reference to 1


the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P6 Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques 0

P7 States which is the independent and which is the dependent variable 1

P8 Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make it 0
a fair test

P9 Comments on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case 1

P10 Comments on safety 1

P11 Discusses how the data collected will be used 1

P12 Identifies the main sources of uncertainty and/or systematic error 0

P13 Draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the apparatus to be used 1

P14 Plan is well organised and methodical, using an appropriately sequenced 1


step-by-step procedure

Marks for this section 11

C: Implementation and Measurements

Ref Criterion Mark

M1 Records all measurements using the correct number of significant figures, 1


tabulating measurements where appropriate

M2 Uses correct units throughout 1

M3 Obtains an appropriate number of measurements 0

M4 Obtains measurements over an appropriate range 1

Marks for this section 3

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 36


D: Analysis

Ref Criterion Mark

A1 Produces a graph with appropriately labelled axes and with correct units 1

A2 Produces a graph with sensible scales 1

A3 Plots points accurately 1

A4 Draws line of best fit (either a straight line or a smooth curve) 1

A5 Comments on the trend/pattern obtained 0

A6 Derives relation between two variables or determines constant 1

A7 Discusses/uses related physics principles 1

A8 Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error 1

A9 Suggests realistic modifications to reduce error/improve experiment 1

A10 Calculates uncertainties 0

A11 Provides a final conclusion 1

Marks for this section 9

E: Report

Ref Criterion Mark

R1 Summary contains few grammatical or spelling errors 1

R2 Summary is structured using appropriate subheadings 1

Marks for this section 2

Total marks for this unit 32

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 37


Examiner’s comments on refractometry

A: Summary of case study


The student has provided five different sources, including one text book, two web sites and one
journal. The two sources from which the diagrams were obtained are also identified. The
description of the application is clear and the physics is reasonably well explained. There are
two relevant diagrams to illustrate both techniques and the context/purpose is discussed. The
report indicates various uses of this technique in industry and states the benefit that it provides a
fast method for measuring the concentration of a sugar solution, therefore the mark for S8:
comments on implication of physics (eg benefits/risks) was given. How the practical relates to
the case study is stated at the start of the practical write-up. Although the student has listed three
applications of refractometry in the summary, the student should have linked the experiment to
one of these applications and therefore the mark for S9: Explains how the practical relates to
the visit or case study was not awarded.

B: Planning
The equipment is listed. Measuring instruments for the two variables are stated and which is
dependent etc. There is a comment about repeat readings and safety. The student doesn’t
appreciate that by measuring the angle between the incident and reflected ray and then dividing
by two a more accurate value of the critical angle C can be determined and therefore no mark
were awarded for P6: Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques. The mark for
P8: Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make it a fair test is not
awarded as the student does not mention control of other variables. The student has repeated
readings as shown in the table of results and therefore the mark for P9: Comments on whether
repeat readings are appropriate in this case is awarded. There is no real attempt to discuss the
main source of uncertainty. The student doesn’t appreciate that the range of differences in
angles is going to be quite small losing the mark for P12: Identifies the main sources of
uncertainty and/or systematic error = 0. The apparatus set-up is drawn out. Although the
student has not included the ray box or labelled the incident/reflected rays, the diagram can be
understood and, importantly, the quantity to be measured (critical angle) has been clearly
marked and therefore the mark for P13: draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the
apparatus to be used is awarded. The method is clear. The plan explains how the results will be
used to calculate refractive index and the graph that will be plotted.

C: Implementation and measurements


Correct units and measurements have been used but there are only 5 sets of results; the student
could easily have made up an extra concentration to give six points on the graph so M3: Obtains
an appropriate number of measurements did not receive a mark but the range is satisfactory and
therefore M4: Obtains measurements over an appropriate range scored a mark.

D: Analysis
The graph is sensibly scaled. The points are correct and the best line fit seems appropriate.
Although the student has obtained a straight line graph there is no comment on the trend
obtained eg as the sugar concentration increased, the refractive index decreased so the mark for
A5: Comments on the trend/pattern obtained is zero. The equation relating refractive index and
concentration is derived using the graph. The student has used physics principles – the relation
between n and critical angle – and therefore scores the mark for A7: discusses/uses related
physics principles. The student has considered sources of error, suggested an improvement but
has not quantified the sources of error and therefore the mark for A10: Calculates uncertainties

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 38


could not be awarded. There is a conclusion in the form of an equation and the concentration of
the unknown solution has been identified so the student gains the mark for A11: Provides a final
conclusion. The student has included the minus sign with the gradient when stating the equation
(this was omitted when calculating the gradient) so the student has not been penalised for
omitting it in the calculation.

E: Report
The report had few spelling or grammar errors, although the presentation could be improved. It
was understandable and sensibly organised.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 39


Exemplar of assessed work: Geophysics
Introduction
The suggested case study and visit address the same topics, and lead to similar practical work
suggestions. Although the student exemplar is from a visit, a very similar report and practical
could result from the case study (see appendix 1 for a more detailed briefing sheet that could be
issued to students).

Visit to an archaeological site, museum with geophysical links, university or local


authority department.

A visit to one of the above should provide opportunities to explore geophysical techniques in
practice. Students could note the importance of geophysical surveys for planning decisions as
well as archaeological purposes.

Suggestions for practical work.


Any standard method could be used by students to determine the resistivity of a given wire. The
brief could be linked to the visit by asking students to use the resistivity to identify the material
of the wire. In this case a copy of a table of metal resistivities should be provided for each
student, as consulting textbooks in the laboratory during the planning and implementation of the
experiment is not permitted.

Specification links

Unit 2 Physics at Work


Concept-led approach: Topic 2 DC Electricity, outcome 57
Context-led approach: Chapter 3 Digging up the Past, outcome 57

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 40


Visit report for Geophysics

Visit summary report

We went to visit a museum of archaeology attached to a local university. While


at the museum we had a talk on the latest geophysical survey of nearby Roman
sites and a demonstration of metal detection. The main speaker came from the
local university’s Department of Archaeology which has an archaeological
services section. Planning applications are now checked by local authorities as
archaeology is now an integral part of the planning process, and planning
applications can be refused if there is any doubt that archaeological implications
have not been taken into account. For this summary I am going to explain
resistance surveying and metal detecting, although we saw other applications of
physics including ground penetrating radar and magnetometry.

Geophysical surveying

The first stage in archaeological surveys is a site walk, although sometimes


there is evidence from aerial photographs too, sometimes nowadays from Google
Earth. On a photograph you can see dark lines and circles which suggest building
foundations or pits. The next stage is often a magnetometry survey, which looks
at changes in the direction of the magnetic field which can be produced for
example by forges or iron working. At two of the sites we heard about there
had been a ‘Time team’ investigation and a picture of one of these is shown
below.3

[Photograph of the time team removed for copyright reasons.]

The resistivity survey uses the idea of measuring the resistance between two
electrodes stuck into the ground. In 1916 Frank Wenner started using four
electrodes4, as shown in the diagram below. Two electrodes, a fixed distance
apart, are connected to the supply and a current is passed through them. To
avoid polarization an alternating supply is used. Another two probes are pushed
into the soil and connected to a voltmeter: the voltmeter readings are built up
into a map of the resistance of the ground.

3
http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/T/timeteam/episode_guides/pastprogs/ind
ex.html Accessed 5/8/8
4
Science Education Group, University of York (2000) Salters Horners Advanced Physics:
Student Book AS Level (Salters Horners Advanced Physics) Oxford, Heinemann

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 41


Multi-probe resistance surveying

Power supply

air

soil
probes
Electrodes

Ditches are often wet so they have a low resistance. Stone foundations are
more usually of high resistance.

Theory

If the original current is known, as well as the distance the electrodes go into
the earth, their separation and their width, then as V = IR, the resistivity of
the ground can be calculated from ρ = RA/l.

Advantages

Geophysical surveying is non-destructive, so saves time, money and damage to


any remains. Although techniques haven’t changed very much in recent years,
the developments in computing have made geophysical surveying much easier and
quicker. So much so that there are now community ‘digs’ which even involve
children.

Limitations

The resistivity of soil varies according to how wet the soil is, so it is important
that surveys are done on the same day. Geophysical resistivity plots can’t sort
out changes over time and can’t survey under tarmac, although ground
penetrating radar can. Interpretation of results needs an expert!

Metal detection

Metal detection is often a hobby, but sometimes the finds can alert
archaeologists to sites that were previously unknown, as happened at one of the
sites that the ‘Time team’ visited in the county. We saw a demonstration of
metal detecting. A metal detector involves magnetic coils, induction and

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 42


oscillations. An alternating current is passed into a coil which induces a
magnetic field. If this is disturbed by passing over a piece of metal a change in
tone is heard by the detectorist.

[Illustration removed for copyright reasons.]5

Economic and environmental factors


Planning implications have already been mentioned but there are more reasons
for using physics. The Treasure Act 1996 and Treasure (Designation) Order
2002 says that ‘All coins from the same find provided they are at least 300
years old when found (but if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or
silver there must be at least ten of them)’, and ‘Any metallic object, other than
a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal
(that is, gold or silver) and that it is at least 300 years old when found’ will be
counted as treasure trove.6 If you find any ‘treasure’ it has to be reported to
the coroner of the district within 14 days, so it is important to know what metal
your find is. The experiment we are going to do is to identify a metal by finding
its resistivity. Resistivity is important both for metal detectorists and for
people doing resistivity surveys of sites. The latest discoveries we were told
about were said to have changed historians’ views of Roman sites in the county,
so that now they know there were civilian as well as military sites.

Word count 766

Other sources
Briefing materials from the visit
Clark, A. (1996) Seeing beneath the soil London, Routledge

5
http://www.ukdetectornet.co.uk/andy1.htm Accessed 5/8/8
6
http://www.finds.org.uk/treasure/treasure_summary.php Accessed 5/8/8

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 43


Name that wire

Plan
After our visit we were asked to identify a metal by measuring its resistivity ρ.
Resistivity is the resistance of a 1 m3 cube of the material measured between
opposite faces. Resistivity is different for different materials, and unlike
resistance is independent of the size of the sample.
ρ = RA/l
R = resistance
A = area = π r2
r = radius of wire
l = length of wire

Area will be constant. The resistance will change with length. The length will be
changed as follows: 1.00 m to 0.10 m in 100 mm steps. I will measure current,
keeping the p.d. constant at 6.00 V, using multimeters. I will then calculate
resistance for each length.
I will measure the diameter of the wire with the micrometer at three different
places and orientations to ensure the diameter is uniform. From this I will
calculate the radius, r, and then the cross-sectional area, A, of the wire using A
= π r2. It is important to reduce the uncertainty in the measurement of
diameter as much as possible as it is a small wire and any uncertainty will be
doubled in the final calculation as the radius is squared to give the area which
doubles the uncertainty. I will also need to measure the lengths of the wire. A
metre rule will be suitable for this as it has sensitivity of 1 mm and for a length
of 1.0 m, this will give a percentage uncertainty of about 1 %. Unfortunately the
percentage uncertainty in length will rise as the lengths get shorter.
I will draw a graph of resistance against length. Length is the independent
variable and resistance is the dependent variable. Ρ = gradient x area. Once I
have found resistivity I will check the table of resistivities I have been given to
identify the metal.

Ideally the experiment should be repeated to increase reliability but I don’t


think I will have time.

Apparatus
The apparatus I will be using will be as follows.
wire
2 multimeters
power supply
variable resistor
micrometer screw gauge
metre rule
crocodile clips
leads

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 44


Circuit diagram

Power supply

Variable resistor
V

Crocodile clip
Wire - unknown

Take care with electrics and do not allow any liquids near the area. Be careful
not to short circuit the Wire, and be aware that the wire will get hot due to
electric currents. Also be careful with wire cutters.

Accuracy
To improve the accuracy I will use the same ruler/meter scale/wires /etc
throughout and assume that the contact resistance will be negligible. The
ammeter and voltmeter are both digital and so will easily measure to 2 decimal
places. The accuracy of such devices is generally good; however the final digits
tend to flicker.

Method
1. Cut the wire (1 m) and measure with the ruler
2. Set up the equipment shown in the circuit diagram, use the variable
resistor to keep the p.d. at 6.0 V.
3. Measure current and record this in the results table.
4. Using the wire cutters cut 10 cm off the wire and repeat the steps
above.
5. Calculate R.
6. Draw a graph as explained and take the gradient.
7. Calculate resistivity.
8. Retake any anomalous results if time permits.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 45


Results
Diameter of wire: 0.45 mm, 0.44 mm, 0.46 mm average 0.45 mm
Area = 1.59 x 10-7 m
Length of wire/cm Potential Current/A Resistance/Ω
difference/V
100.00 6.0 1.43 4.20
90.00 6.0 1.62 3.70
80.00 6.0 1.76 3.40
70.00 6.0 1.94 3.10
60.00 6.0 2.22 2.70
50.00 6.0 2.50 2.40
40.00 6.0 2.86 2.10
30.00 6.0 3.16 1.90
20.00 6.0 3.87 1.55
10.00 6.0 5.00 1.20

The graph was a straight line but did not go through the origin. This is probably
a systematic error caused by contact resistance.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 46


Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 47
Analysis
Gradient of first line = 3.4
Alternative gradient of second line = 3.15
Resistivity = 1.59 x 10-7 x 3.4 Ωm = 54.1 x 10-8 Ωm
From alternative gradient, resistivity = 50.1 x 10-8 Ωm
So resistivity = 52 ± 4 x 10-8 Ωm allowing for uncertainties in the gradient.
The values I have found are most similar to that of constantan which has a
resistivity of 47 x 10-8 Ωm. (Gold and silver are 2.44 and 1.59 x 10-8 Ωm.) So if
this was a find I would not have to report it.
The graph I drew had its anomalous points retaken.

Modifications
If I was to do this experiment again I would look for away of reducing the
contact resistance. Thinking about the experiment, I didn’t need to cut the wire
but could have moved the crocodile clips along to get the required length. This
would also have made repeats easier.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 48


AS Marking grid for visit to an archaeological site

A: Summary of case study or physics-based visit


Ref Criterion Mark
Ref Criterion Mark

S1 Carries out a visit OR uses library, consulting a minimum of three different 1


sources of information (eg books/websites/journals/magazines/case study
provided by Edexcel/manufacturers’ data sheets)

S2 States details of visit venue OR provides full details of sources of 1


information

S3 Provides a brief description of the visit OR case study 1

S4 Makes correct statement on relevant physics principles 1

S5 Uses relevant specialist terminology correctly 1

S6 Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is 1
not mentioned in the briefing papers for the visit or case study

S7 Briefly discusses context (eg social/environmental/historical) 1

S8 Comments on implication of physics (eg benefits/risks) 1

S9 Explains how the practical relates to the visit or case study 1

9
Marks for this section

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 49


B: Planning
Ref Criterion Mark

P1 Lists all materials required 1

P2 States how to measure one relevant quantity using the most 1


appropriate instrument

P3 Explains the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the 0


scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P4 States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most 1
appropriate instrument

P5 Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with reference 0


to the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P6 Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques 1

P7 States which is the independent and which is the dependent variable 1

P8 Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make 0
it a fair test

P9 Comments on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case 1

P10 Comments on safety 1

P11 Discusses how the data collected will be used 1

P12 Identifies the main sources of uncertainty and/or systematic error 1

P13 Draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the apparatus to be used 1

P14 Plan is well organised and methodical, using an appropriately 1


sequenced step-by-step procedure

11
Marks for this section

C: Implementation and Measurements


Ref Criterion Mark

M1 Records all measurements using the correct number of significant 0


figures, tabulating measurements where appropriate

M2 Uses correct units throughout 0

M3 Obtains an appropriate number of measurements 1

M4 Obtains measurements over an appropriate range 1

2
Marks for this section

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 50


D: Analysis

Ref Criterion Mark

A1 Produces a graph with appropriately labelled axes and with correct 1


units

A2 Produces a graph with sensible scales 1

A3 Plots points accurately 1

A4 Draws line of best fit (either a straight line or a smooth curve) 1

A5 Comments on the trend/pattern obtained 0

A6 Derives relation between two variables or determines constant 1

A7 Discusses/uses related physics principles 1

A8 Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error 1

A9 Suggests realistic modifications to reduce error/improve experiment 1

A10 Calculates uncertainties 1

A11 Provides a final conclusion 1

10
Marks for this section

E: Report

Ref Criterion Mark

R1 Summary contains few grammatical or spelling errors 1

R2 Summary is structured using appropriate subheadings 1

2
Marks for this section

34
Total marks for this unit

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 51


Examiner’s comments - geophysics

General
The visit report is over the suggested minimum length and mainly descriptive. The
experiment is one for which a variety of methods could have been chosen: the student has
not chosen the best method but has carried it out well.

A Summary of physics-based visit


The student has produced a report including appropriate subheadings. She has used the
reference facility in Word to insert footnotes which makes her use of sources very clear.

Although the report is mainly descriptive it does link physics clearly to the visit. The report
makes reference to legal and historical implications of the work and comments on the link
between the visit and practical.

All marks have been awarded in this section.

B Planning
The student could usefully have commented more on the choice of meters.

The student correctly chose to use a micrometer to measure the diameter of the wire so
the mark for P2: States how to measure one relevant quantity using the most appropriate
instrument is awarded but this decisions is not justified, eg she could have discussed the
precision 0.01mm in relation to the typical diameter of a wire and therefore P3: Explains
the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the scale of the instrument as
appropriate and/or the number of measurements to be taken was not awarded.

The second quantity is length and the student correctly identifies a rule so the mark for P4:
States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most appropriate instrument
was awarded. However, she refers to sensitivity when they meant precision and incorrectly
calculates this as 1% so P5: Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with
reference to the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken was not awarded.

The mark for P8: Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make
it a fair test was not awarded as the student has not commented on the temperature of the
wire and this could lead to incorrect conclusions.

C Implementation and Measurements


M1: Records all measurements using the correct number of significant figures, tabulating
measurements where appropriate as not awarded as lengths are given to 0.01 cm which is
not possible with a rule.

The student has not given the correct unit for area. She has also not given units for the
gradient of the graph, so M2: Uses correct units throughout has not been awarded.

D Analysis
The student has made a good attempt at quantitative uncertainties by drawing two
alternative lines.

The mark for A5: Comments on the trend/pattern obtained was not awarded because the
student could have stated that the relationship between the resistance and length of the
wire is linear.

The mark for A8: Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error was awarded as the
student commented on the systematic error and identified its source.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 52


E Report
The student has included subheadings and the report has few spelling or grammatical errors
so both marks in this section have been awarded.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 53


Exemplar of assessed work: Focal length

The exemplar experiment is not based on a topic directly in the specification but is linked to
specification material and is accessible for AS students who will probably have met lenses in
Key stages 3 and 4. Although the student exemplar is from a visit, a very similar report and
practical could result from a case study based on astronomy or optometry (see appendix 1 for
a case study briefing sheet that could be issued to students).

Visit to an optician, astronomical society or observatory


Introduction

Both venues offer opportunities to see physics at work, for example in telescopes, prescribing
spectacles and eye testing. The optician would provide opportunities to link to the medical
applications of science, while an observatory would link to topics that will be studied in A2.

Suggestions for practical work

Experiments could be designed to determine the refractive index of glass or plastic. However
the exemplar material looks at the related topic of focal length.

Specification links

Unit 2 Physics at Work


Concept-led approach: Topic 1 Waves: 36 -39
Context-led approach: Chapter 1 The sound of music: 36-9

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 54


Visit report for an optician’s shop

A visit to an optician’s

We went on a visit to an optician’s shop in the local high street. In the shop we
met the optometrist who tests a person’s eyes and a technician who makes up
the glasses. There is a lot of physics used in the process from optics in
refraction to the properties of materials both for lenses and frames Although
we learnt some interesting facts about materials and polarisation, I am going to
concentrate on refraction in this report.

The optometrist
As well as finding the right power of lenses to correct some-one’s eyesight the
optometrist also has other health related roles in checking for diabetes and
high blood pressure, both of which can affect sight.
By shining a parallel beam of light into the eye the optometrist can find whether
a person is long or short-sighted. A long sighted eye will focus parallel beams of
light behind the retina, and will need a convex (positive) lens to bring light to a
focus nearer the front of the eye. This can be caused by having too weak a lens
or too short an eyeball. A short sighted eye on the other hand will focus light
before the retina because the eyeball is too long or the lens is too strong in this
case a (negative) concave lens will be needed.

Concave lens for short sight

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 55


Convex lens for long sight

Sometimes eyes are not perfectly curved so the optometrist has to check for
astigmatism and prescribe lenses which are cylindrical or toric to correct this.

Theory
The equation for the power of a lens P is P = 1/f, where f is the focal length of
the eye. Glasses are usually thin lenses and the formula linking object distance
1 1 1
u, image distance v and focal length is: = + . Power is measured in
f u v
dioptres (D) which are 1/m.
Powers of lenses can be added together: concave lenses have negative powers
and convex lenses have positive powers. So if a person’s eye should have a
power of 50 D and has actually a power of 56 D they would need a convex lens of
–6 D to correct that eye. This would be a concave lens and the person is short
sighted.

The technician
The technician selects and cuts the lenses according to the prescription and
frames chosen. I was surprised at how much of this was done by machine. We
looked at titanium and memory metal frames and learnt how strong and flexible
these can be. We also saw polarised lenses which are used in sunglasses to
prevent glare. Only transverse waves can be polarised, that is vibrate in one
plane rather than all planes. As light is a transverse wave it can be polarised and
it is often polarised horizontally by reflection. So a polarising lens can be used
to cut out the glare from light reflected from the sea or shiny roads. We were
surprised that the tints on sunglasses were applied by ‘cooking’ the plain lenses
in a hot dye.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 56


Limitations
It is not always possible to balance red and green vision, as red light and green
light have different wavelengths, different wave speeds in different mediums
and therefore different refractive indexes as 1 μ 2 = (speed in medium 1)/(speed
in medium 2). A test which is used to try and check this for people is to look at
alternating red and green circles and ask which is clearer, but compromises have
to be made.

Economic and environmental factors


Checking peoples’ health is very important, and ensuring that people can see as
well as possible is a very useful contribution to their health.

Word count
608

Sources
Briefing materials from the visit
Lens formula from Anning, P et al (2004) Revise AS Physics for Salters Horners,
Oxford, Heinemann
Red and green information from http://www.sgoeyecare.co.uk/fAQ.htm
Wikipedia

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 57


An experiment to determine how different focal length and hence refractive
index is for red and green light.

Discussion
After our visit we were asked to find how different are the focal lengths of red
light and green light. This has implications for the design of lenses, as different
focal lengths would mean that correcting spectacles would not necessarily work
for different colours of the white light spectrum. The following equation will be
used.

1 1 1
= +
f u v

f = focal length
u = distance from the light to the source
v = distance from the light to the image
One way to do this is to find the intercepts of the graph lines 1/u and 1/v. Both
intercepts are 1/(focal length).

u v

lens screen
Light
source

We will be controlling distance u (the independent variable). We will increase it


from 20-50 cm in 2 cm steps. After recording this measurement, we will move
the screen until the light is focused. Then distance v will be recorded. The
results in the result table will be calculated as 1/u or 1/v, than a graph will be
drawn. The intercepts will give 1/f.
The variables involved in the experiment are as follows: distance u, distance v
and the lens size/strength. The distance u is the distance we are changing,
distance v is being measured and the lens we use shall remain the same
throughout.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 58


Here is an example of the graph I will draw.

Intercept or 1/focal length


1/v

Graph line

1/u

Apparatus
The apparatus I will be using will be as follows.
Red LED
Green LED
Clamp and stand
Metre rule
Convex lens
White card screen and stand
Lens holder
Connecting wires
Electricity supply

Try to keep experiment area darkened.


Red and green light are in the same area of the electromagnetic spectrum. This
means that they have almost the same wavelength. However white light is split
in a prism as refractive index is different for different wavelengths. Red light
is not refracted as much as green light.

Safety
The LEDs may get hot and working with electricity needs special care. No
liquids in the experiment area.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 59


Diagram

u v
Power LEDs
supply

screen

lens

mains

Metre rule
Clamp and
stand
Lens holder

Accuracy
All measuring will be done as accurately as possible. Apparatus which may cause
slight errors is listed.
metre rule: +/- 0.5 mm
lens: this depends on the sharpness of the imaging which will be as
constant as possible

Method
1. Collect and set up equipment (see diagram).
2. Turn on the power supply, make sure the LED, lens and screen are all in line
and the lens and LED are roughly half way up the screen.
3. Distance u is being controlled. Set this to 20 cm, then move the screen and
lens until there is a red or green dot (depending on which colour LED you are
using) on the screen. Focus the dot by moving the screen, make the image as
sharp as possible.
4. Using the metre rule, measure the distance marked v and record it, along
with the distance u (20 cm).
5. Repeat this for the other coloured LED.
6. Take the results for each LED every 2 cm (20 cm, 22 cm 24 cm, etc) up to 50
cm.
7. Turn off the LED.
8. Work out 1/u and 1/v for each result and record this alongside the other
results.
9. Draw a graph of 1/u against 1/v. 1/u should be on the x axis.
10. Retake any anomalous results and take results for any gaps in the graph.
11. Put away equipment making sure all sockets are turned off.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 60


12. Draw graph lines for red and green light. Take the intercept for each and
record this as 1/(focal length).
13. Work out the focal length as intercept-1.

Results
Red light
u (cm) V (cm) 1/u (1/cm) 1/v (1/cm)
20.0 46.5 0.050 0.022
22.0 43.0 0.045 0.023
24.0 40.0 0.042 0.025
26.0 36.0 0.039 0.028
28.0 32.0 0.036 0.031
30.0 30.0 0.033 0.033
32.0 27.5 0.031 0.036
34.0 26.0 0.029 0.039
36.0 26.0 0.028 0.039
38.0 25.5 0.026 0.040
40.0 25.5 0.025 0.039
42.0 23.5 0.024 0.043
44.0 23.0 0.023 0.043
46.0 22.0 0.022 0.045
48.0 22.5 0.020 0.044
50.0 22.0 0.020 0.045

Green light
u (cm) v (cm) 1/u (1/cm) 1/v (1/cm)
20.0 47.5 0.050 0.021
22.0 43.0 0.045 0.023
24.0 40.0 0.042 0.025
26.0 36.0 0.039 0.029
28.0 32.0 0.036 0.030
30.0 30.0 0.033 0.032
32.0 27.5 0.031 0.036
34.0 26.0 0.029 0.039
36.0 26.0 0.028 0.036
38.0 25.0 0.026 0.039
40.0 25.5 0.025 0.040
42.0 23.5 0.024 0.041
44.0 23.0 0.023 0.042
46.0 22.0 0.022 0.044
48.0 22.5 0.021 0.045
50.0 22.0 0.020 0.044

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 61


Error boxes
As shown in the ‘accuracy’ part of the plan, the closest I can read the ruler is to
0.5 mm. this means error boxes could be drawn on the graph. They will be
calculated as follows.
Error = 0.5 mm (0.05 cm)
Example: 46.5 could be (A) 46.55 or (B) 46.45

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 62


The boxes would be extremely small and make little or no difference to the
graph line. Therefore there is little point putting them on.

Anomalous results
There are few anomalous results on my graph. The ones which are slightly off
the graph line could have been caused by an error when reading the ruler, or not
measuring from exactly the middle of the lens. The ruler may not have been
straight and the focusing may not have been as good as it could have been. I
have circled 5 anomalous results on the graph - 2 red, 3 green – out of a total of
32 results. I think these results can be discarded as a good graph line can be
drawn with the remaining 27 results.
If I had more time I could retake the anomalous results several times and take
an average for them and record these on to the graph. This may give a better
and more accurate graph line.

Red focal length 15.39 cm


Green focal length 15.87 cm
Difference 0.48 cm
This difference is very small, and taking into account that the experiment error
is quite large (relatively), it would not be wrong to say that there is no
difference.

Evaluation
In general, this experiment went well. The only anomalous results have been
explained and there were no problems on the practical side, except the
focussing of the light which was done to the best of my ability, although it might
not have been accurate enough or constant. I think that is the problem (along
with the ruler uncertainty) which could have contaminated the results.
If I could do this experiment again, I would use equipment which was more
accurate and fix the light source to the bench so it could not wobble or move. I
would use colours at the opposite ends of the spectrum (red and violet) so that
any difference in focal length caused by wavelength would be larger and more
noticeable. I would compare the red/violet difference. If the two differences
were similar (within +/- 0.25 cm of each other), then I could state that there is
no significant difference between the focal lengths of any colour light. Any
larger difference between the two ‘differences’ would mean that there is a
difference between the lengths of different colours of light and this could be
investigated further.

Conclusions
From my graphs I can see that there is a difference between the focal length
of red and green light and therefore in the refractive indexes. However this
difference is extremely small (0.48 cm), and more or less unnoticeable, although
as explained in the visit summary optometrists do try to allow for the
differences. To determine whether or not these results are entirely accurate

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 63


another experiment would have to be done using more accurate equipment.
Fixing the light source (on the clamp and stand) to the bench may help, as it
would not wobble or move. (Other modifications can be found in the evaluation
above.) So I don’t think that there is any great problem making spectacles from
glass like this as the wearer would be unlikely to notice any difference between
red and green parts of the image.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 64


AS Marking grid for visit to an optician’s shop

A: Summary of case study or physics-based visit


Ref Criterion Mark
Ref Criterion Mark

S1 Carries out a visit OR uses library, consulting a minimum of three different 1


sources of information (eg books/websites/journals/magazines/case study
provided by Edexcel/manufacturers’ data sheets)

S2 States details of visit venue OR provides full details of sources of 1


information

S3 Provides a brief description of the visit OR case study 1

S4 Makes correct statement on relevant physics principles 1

S5 Uses relevant specialist terminology correctly 1

S6 Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is 1
not mentioned in the briefing papers for the visit or case study

S7 Briefly discusses context (eg social/environmental/historical) 0

S8 Comments on implication of physics (eg benefits/risks) 0

S9 Explains how the practical relates to the visit or case study 1

7
Marks for this section

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 65


B: Planning
Ref Criterion Mark

P1 Lists all materials required 1

P2 States how to measure one relevant quantity using the most 1


appropriate instrument

P3 Explains the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the 0


scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P4 States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most 0
appropriate instrument

P5 Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with reference 0


to the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P6 Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques 0

P7 States which is the independent and which is the dependent variable 1

P8 Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make 0
it a fair test

P9 Comments on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case 0

P10 Comments on safety 1

P11 Discusses how the data collected will be used 1

P12 Identifies the main sources of uncertainty and/or systematic error 0

P13 Draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the apparatus to be used 1

P14 Plan is well organised and methodical, using an appropriately 1


sequenced step-by-step procedure

7
Marks for this section

C: Implementation and Measurements


Ref Criterion Mark

M1 Records all measurements using the correct number of significant 1


figures, tabulating measurements where appropriate

M2 Uses correct units throughout 1

M3 Obtains an appropriate number of measurements 1

M4 Obtains measurements over an appropriate range 1

4
Marks for this section

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 66


D: Analysis

Ref Criterion Mark

A1 Produces a graph with appropriately labelled axes and with correct 1


units

A2 Produces a graph with sensible scales 0

A3 Plots points accurately 1

A4 Draws line of best fit (either a straight line or a smooth curve) 1

A5 Comments on the trend/pattern obtained 0

A6 Derives relation between two variables or determines constant 1

A7 Discusses/uses related physics principles 0

A8 Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error 1

A9 Suggests realistic modifications to reduce error/improve experiment 1

A10 Calculates uncertainties 0

A11 Provides a final conclusion 1

8
Marks for this section

E: Report

Ref Criterion Mark

R1 Summary contains few grammatical or spelling errors 1

R2 Summary is structured using appropriate subheadings 1

2
Marks for this section

28
Total marks for this unit

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 67


Examiner’s comments for a visit to an optician’s shop
General
The visit report is just the recommended length. The experiment is very detailed in parts, but
also repetitive and misses some important elements in planning. The student has used the
word ‘we’ in places but it is clear both from the set of work submitted and the signed
declarations that the student has worked independently as required by the specification.

A Summary of physics-based visit


The student has produced a report including appropriate subheadings.

The student has only given the home URL and not the page used on Wikipedia, nor has the
date on which the website was accessed been given but three sources have been used as
required for S1: Carries out a visit OR uses library, consulting a minimum of three different
sources of information (eg books/websites/journals/magazines/case study provided by
Edexcel/manufacturers’ data sheets). This is a visit and details of the visit have been given,
so S2: States details of the visit venue OR provides full details of sources of information has
been awarded.

S6: Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is not
mentioned in the briefing papers for the visit or case study was awarded for the diagrams of
the eye as these were not included in the original briefing materials.

The word count has forced the student to limit the visit report to only one physics application
but correct statements have been made about the relevant physics principles for the
application chosen, so the mark for S4: Makes correct statement of all relevant physics
principles has been awarded.

Although some attempt has been made to discuss the context and implication of the physics
involved neither is strong, so neither S7 or S8 have been awarded.

The student has not commented on the link between the visit and the practical in the summary
report, however this is mentioned in the practical plan so S9: Explains how the practical
relates to the visit or case study has been awarded.

B Planning
There is a very clear explanation of the proposed data treatment. Although the student
discusses the use of the metre rule, no mention is made of why this is the most suitable
instrument so P3: Explains the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the scale
of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of measurements to be taken has not been
awarded.

The experiment requires two measurements of length using a rule and therefore a second
measuring instrument cannot be used. Consequently P4: States how to measure a second
relevant quantity using the most appropriate instrument and P5: Explains the choice of the
second measuring instrument with reference to the scale of the instrument as appropriate
and/or the number of measurements to be taken have not been awarded.

The student explains which is the independent variable and which the dependent although he
does not use both words explicitly, so P7: States which is the independent and which is the
dependent variable has been awarded.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 68


P6: Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques has not been awarded as the
student has not discussed the exact measurements to be taken, eg measuring from the centre
of the lens.

P8: Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make it a fair test has
not been awarded as the student could have commented on the alignment of the lens
remaining consistent throughout the experiment.

No comment has been made on whether repeated measurements are appropriate so P9:
Comments on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case has not been awarded.

Although the student has incorrectly stated that the LEDs will get hot the mark for P10:
Comments on safety is awarded for the other relevant comments.

The mark for P12: Identifies the main sources of uncertainty and/or systematic error is not
awarded as the student did not comment about the subjective aspect of obtaining a focussed
image.

C Implementation and Measurements


All marks have been awarded in this section.

D Analysis
The student’s graph is of the minimum size acceptable. However, he was looking for a very
small difference in gradient so a larger scale would have been better, and A2: Produces a
graph with sensible scales has not been awarded.

There is no comment on the trend obtained so A5: Comments on the trend/pattern obtained
has not been awarded.

A7: Discusses/uses related physics principles has not been awarded as the student did not
explain why a graph of 1/u against 1/v gives a straight line with gradient -1 and both
intercepts 1/f. The relationship with y=mx+c should have been discussed.

The mark for A8: Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error was awarded as the
student offered one source of error. However, the student did not consider the main source of
error – the subjective focussing of the image.

The mark, A10: Calculates uncertainties, has not been awarded as there is no attempt to do
this in the final results, although here is a qualitative comment so A8: Attempts to
qualitatively consider sources of error has been awarded.

E Report
The student has included subheadings and the report has few spelling or grammatical errors
so both marks in this section have been awarded. It is good to see that the student has referred
to the visit in their final conclusion.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 69


Exemplar of assessed work: Solar cells
Introduction
The exemplar experiment is on a topic linked closely to the AS specification. The students
were directed to find the internal resistance of a solar cell. Although the report is based
around a visit the topic could easily be covered by a case study on alternative energy (see
appendix 1 for a case study briefing sheet that could be issued to students).

Visit to the Science museum to see a solar car or a site using alternative energy
Both venues would offer opportunities to see physics at work and link to environmental
issues.

Suggestions for practical work


Experiments could be designed to determine the relationship between distance from the light
source and output from the cell as an alternative to the internal resistance determination used
here.

Specification links
Unit 2 Physics at Work
Concept-led approach: Topic 4 DC electricity 52, 59, Topic 5 Nature of light 72
Context-led approach: Chapter 2 Technology in space 52, 59, 72

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 70


Visit report for solar cells

Exemplar: visit and practical - Science museum

Visit summary report


In February we visited the Science Museum in London mainly to see the Durham
University Solar Car (DUSC). The car is being built by a group of engineering students
at the university ‘on a shoestring’, although they have got some sponsorship from local
companies and the local branch of the Institute of Physics. The team building the car
are going to compete in July 2008 in the North American Solar Challenge: a 2,400-mile
race from Dallas to Calgary.

The car
[Photograph of car removed for copyright reasons.]
The car has three wheels and is covered in 9 m2 of solar cells. The solar cells are
supplied by RWE Schott Solar/Carl-Zeiss and are high efficiency silicon units. The cells
are connected to an electric motor in the rear wheel via lead-acid batteries giving 5
kWh of battery storage. There are no gears but the car accelerates very quickly to a
top speed of 62 mph. The car can travel for up to five hours when the batteries are
fully charged, which even in the UK only takes nine hours. However when the car is
working in sunny conditions it is being recharged and also the brakes are regenerative
which means that energy is generated while the car is braking or freewheeling. It has
no air conditioning and the driver can get very hot.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 71


Solar cell theory

Two different materials

Absence of Excess
electrons electrons
- - - - - -
- - - - -

Positive Negative
charge charge

Light

Electrons

Electrons

Solar cells are junction diodes usually made from silicon which work by using charged
particles to transfer energy from incoming light radiation to an external circuit. The
silicon has different impurities introduced on each side of the junction. The front of
the cell has to be transparent to allow light to pass through to the material underneath.
The top surface is coated with an anti-reflection coating so that as much light as
possible is absorbed. Electrons naturally drift to one side of the junction so there is an
excess of electrons on one side and a shortage of electrons on the other, giving

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 72


negatively and positively charged sides. When light falls on the cell the electrons get
enough energy to move, either back across the junction or more usefully around an
external circuit.
To get the maximum power from the cells it is important that the external load is
matched to the internal resistance of the cell. However maximum power does not always
mean maximum efficiency. The cells used by DUSC are 16% efficient. We are going to
find the internal resistance of a solar cell for our practical.

Economic and environmental factors


Solar cells are being developed not just for cars like the one we saw but also for
industrial and domestic use and also for powering satellites in space. Domestic uses can
be ‘fun’ such as solar powered fountains and more serious as part of domestic electric
supply when fixed to a roof. Even in the UK there is sufficient sun to provide houses
and businesses with a useful amount of energy. In remote places, solar panels are
increasingly being used for power and so help to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

Word count 520

Sources
Discussion with the students at the museum and http://www.dur.ac.uk/dusc/
http://www.howstuffworks.com/solar-cell.htm
http://www.soton.ac.uk/~solar/intro/tech0.htm
Science Education Group, University of York (2000) Salters Horners Advanced Physics:
Student Book AS Level (Salters Horners Advanced Physics) Oxford, Heinemann

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 73


The internal resistance of a solar cell

Plan
Following our visit we were asked to determine the internal resistance of a solar cell.
We were interested in the internal resistance as we had learnt that the maximum power
is derived from a supply when the external load matches the internal resistance of the
power supply. This is derived from ε = IR = r and P = IR2, which together give
ε 2r
P= .
( R + r )2
ε is the EMF of the power supply, I the current, R the load resistance, r the internal
resistance of the power supply and P the power in the external load. The circuit I will
use is shown below.

Circuit diagram

V R
r

Solar Cell

Apparatus
wires
solar cell
ammeter
variable resistor
voltmeter
lamp
power supply for lamp
ruler
protractor

Method
1. Set up the circuit as shown above
2. Using the protractor and ruler, place the lamp at right angles above the solar
cell, with a distance of 15 cm. This means the solar cell will have the maximum
amount of light energy hitting it and it will be a constant distance from the cell,

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 74


so the intensity of light hitting the lamp will be constant. I hope the
temperature of the circuit will remain constant throughout.
3. Set the variable resistor to its minimum value and set the power supply to 12 V.
4. Turn on the power supply and record the readings from the ammeter and
voltmeter.
5. Turn off the power supply and move the rheostat bar along a half centimetre.
6. Repeat stages 2 and 3 to get at least 7 results.
7. Calculate the power from P = VI and resistance from R = V/I.
8. Plot a graph of power against load resistance: resistance is the independent
variable and power the dependent variable.
9. Find the resistance at the maximum power.

Safety
There aren’t many risks in this experiment. The greatest risk is from the lamp which
will get very hot during the experiment and could burn it if I touch it. So I will need to
be careful and will switch off if it is not in use.

Choice of instruments
I am going to use digital meters as they are more accurate. For a voltmeter the digital
meter has a very high resistance (10MΩ) so very little current is drawn. The advantage
of using a multimeter as an ammeter is that I can change the scale if necessary to get
the best sensitivity.

Results

Potential difference Current/mA Power/mW Load resistance/Ω


across load/V
0.01 0.80 0.008 0.013
0.08 0.75 0.060 0.107
0.22 0.65 0.143 0.338
0.29 0.65 0.189 0.446
0.32 0.55 0.176 0.582
0.35 0.45 0.158 0.778
0.38 0.40 0.152 0.950
0.39 0.30 0.117 1.300

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 75


Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 76
Analysis
The graph was a curve which went to a maximum and then tailed off. The maximum
power is at 0.46 Ω. The maximum power corresponds to the point at which the internal
resistance is equal to the external load, so the internal resistance of the solar cell is
0.46 Ω. Looking at my curve the 0.35 Ω point appears to be anomalous. I think that I
should also have taken more readings around 0.2 to 0.6 Ω as this is a turning point and
the critical area of the graph. It was quite hard to get a variety of readings with the
variable resistor and if I was doing this again I would try to find another way of varying
the current.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 77


AS Marking grid for solar cells

A: Summary of case study or physics-based visit


Ref Criterion Mark
Ref Criterion Mark

S1 Carries out a visit OR uses library, consulting a minimum of three different 1


sources of information (eg books/websites/journals/magazines/case study
provided by Edexcel/manufacturers’ data sheets)

S2 States details of visit venue OR provides full details of sources of 1


information

S3 Provides a brief description of the visit OR case study 1

S4 Makes correct statement on relevant physics principles 1

S5 Uses relevant specialist terminology correctly 1

S6 Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is 1
not mentioned in the briefing papers for the visit or case study

S7 Briefly discusses context (eg social/environmental/historical) 1

S8 Comments on implication of physics (eg benefits/risks) 1

S9 Explains how the practical relates to the visit or case study 1

9
Marks for this section

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 78


B: Planning
Ref Criterion Mark

P1 Lists all materials required 1

P2 States how to measure one relevant quantity using the most 1


appropriate instrument

P3 Explains the choice of the measuring instrument with reference to the 1


scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P4 States how to measure a second relevant quantity using the most 1
appropriate instrument

P5 Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with reference 0


to the scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of
measurements to be taken
P6 Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring techniques 0

P7 States which is the independent and which is the dependent variable 1

P8 Identifies and states how to control all other relevant variables to make 1
it a fair test

P9 Comments on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case 0

P10 Comments on safety 1

P11 Discusses how the data collected will be used 1

P12 Identifies the main sources of uncertainty and/or systematic error 0

P13 Draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the apparatus to be used 1

P14 Plan is well organised and methodical, using an appropriately 1


sequenced step-by-step procedure

10
Marks for this section

C: Implementation and Measurements


Ref Criterion Mark

M1 Records all measurements using the correct number of significant 1


figures, tabulating measurements where appropriate

M2 Uses correct units throughout 1

M3 Obtains an appropriate number of measurements 0

M4 Obtains measurements over an appropriate range 1

Marks for this section 3

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 79


D: Analysis

Ref Criterion Mark

A1 Produces a graph with appropriately labelled axes and with correct 1


units

A2 Produces a graph with sensible scales 1

A3 Plots points accurately 1

A4 Draws line of best fit (either a straight line or a smooth curve) 1

A5 Comments on the trend/pattern obtained 1

A6 Derives relation between two variables or determines constant 1

A7 Discusses/uses related physics principles 1

A8 Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error 0

A9 Suggests realistic modifications to reduce error/improve experiment 1

A10 Calculates uncertainties 0

A11 Provides a final conclusion 1

9
Marks for this section

E: Report

Ref Criterion Mark

R1 Summary contains few grammatical or spelling errors 1

R2 Summary is structured using appropriate subheadings 1

2
Marks for this section

33
Total marks for this unit

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 80


Examiner’s comments for solar cells
General
The visit report contains details of the physics of solar cells and discusses their implications.
The student has been asked to use a method for finding internal resistance which involves
maximum power and results in a curved graph.

A Summary of physics-based visit


The student has produced a report including appropriate subheadings. The student has provided
details of the venue for the visit so S2: States details of visit venue OR provides full details of
sources of information, has been awarded, even although the list of sources does not include the
date at which websites were accessed.

S6: Provides one piece of relevant information (eg data, graph, diagram) that is not mentioned
in the briefing papers for the visit or case study was awarded for the data given in the paragraph
about the car

B Planning
There is a very clear explanation of the method to be used but little justification or discussion
about techniques.

The mark P5: Explains the choice of the second measuring instrument with reference to the
scale of the instrument as appropriate and/or the number of measurements to be taken has not
been awarded because the student refers to sensitivity instead of precision.

P6: Demonstrates knowledge of correct measuring technique is not awarded as the student
could discuss the use of different range settings on the digital multimeters to obtain sensible
results.

No comment has been made about repeat readings nor sources of uncertainty, so P9: Comments
on whether repeat readings are appropriate in this case and P12: Identifies the main sources of
uncertainty and/or systematic error have not been awarded.

P13: Draws an appropriately labelled diagram of the apparatus to be used has been awarded
even though the connection for the variable resistor is incorrect.

C Implementation and Measurements


It is noted in the analysis that insufficient reading were taken around the critical turning point so
M3: Obtains an appropriate number of measurements has not been awarded.

D Analysis
A7: Discusses/uses related physics principles is awarded as the student uses P=IV and V=IR.

The marks A8: Attempts to qualitatively consider sources of error and A10: Calculates
uncertainties have not been awarded as there is no attempt to discuss uncertainties.

E Report
The student has included subheadings and the report has few spelling or grammatical errors so
both marks in this section have been awarded.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 81


Frequently asked questions

Questions relating to the visit


Does the visit have to involve an industrial setting?
No. There are many applications of physics that are not found in an industrial setting that may
be used for the visit (see exemplar visits in this document for examples).

Do students have to talk to a physicist employed at the site?


No, but they should be asking physics-related questions. The questions could be directed to, and
answered by, their teacher.

Should the organisation provide documents for the visit?


Organisations need not provide documentation for the visit. If any documents are provided, then
teachers should check that that they are at an appropriate level for the group of students who
will be doing the visit. A copy of any documents that are issued to students must be submitted
with the moderation sample or with work sent to Edexcel to be marked by examiners.

Can I give the students a worksheet for the visit?


Yes, but it should not give the ‘answers’. The worksheet must be submitted with the
moderation sample or with work sent to Edexcel to be marked by examiners.

Do the students have to get and use data from the visit?
Students do not have to get and use data from the visit, although the use of data obtained from
the visit is highly recommended. Students could for example, do an experiment to determine a
constant that was mentioned during the visit and compare the value they obtained with that
mentioned in the visit.

Questions relating to written work


Can students submit draft work for checking?
The assessment has been designed to enable students to show that they have appropriate skills,
knowledge and understanding for this level of study. If, for example, a student does not use the
appropriate number of significant figures and this is pointed out to them, then the assessment
will not be a realistic measurement of the student’s own knowledge. Consequently, students
must not submit draft work for checking.

How should sources be referenced?


The full address of websites must be stated in the text. To avoid errors, students could copy the
address from the address line and past it into their work. The Joint Council for Qualifications
provides guidance on the references of books and suggests that Harvard referencing be used
(this uses the format Author, A., (Year of publication), “ Title of book”, publisher). However,

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 82


students will not be penalised if they do not use this format. Whatever format is used, it must be
possible for the reader to identify the source.

Should students show all their workings?


If students enter numbers into a calculator and write down a result without showing their
calculations then if the result is wrong it will not be possible to allow for the accidental pressing
of the wrong button(s) on their calculator. For this reason, it is recommended that students show
their workings in full.

Should the plan be written in the future tense?


Yes, but a student should not be penalised for using a different tense.

Do error bars have to be used on graphs?


Use of error bars could be encouraged where the variables plotted are simple. However, their
use is not required by the assessment criteria and therefore students will not be penalised if they
are not used.

Questions relating to the practical session


Can apparatus be set up for students?
No. Teachers will need to sign a form to verify that students have been able to handle
equipment themselves. Consequently apparatus cannot be set up for students. However, teachers
may check that the apparatus has been set up correctly before students use the equipment to take
measurements. This will give teachers the opportunity to check, for example, that electrical
circuits have been wired up correctly and to warn students of any health and safety risks, for
example components that may become hot. If a student experiences difficulties with this aspect
of the work then it should be noted on the Candidate Record Sheet.

Can students use a Physics simulator?


No. Teachers will need to sign a form to verify that students have been able to handle
equipment themselves. If students use a software package to simulate an experiment, then they
will not handle any laboratory equipment. Consequently the teacher will not be able to verify
that students have been able to handle equipment and therefore the student will not pass the
assessment for unit 3.

Can students have more time than is available in one lesson to complete the practical
work?
Yes but in general this should not be necessary. Edexcel does not prescribe the amount of time
that the practical work should take. It should be possible for the practical aspect of the AS
assignment to be completed within one lesson; however, teachers may allow students to
complete the practical in the following session.

Can work be done in pairs?


No, all aspects of the work that is produced for the practical assessment must be done
individually.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 83


Can I give the student any help?
If the student is doing something dangerous the teacher must intervene. If a student requests a
formula then this may be given without penalty. If apparatus is being used incorrectly and the
student is unlikely to obtain any measurements, help may be given in order to ensure that the
student will have some data to process. Any help given of this nature must be noted on the
Candidate Record Sheet.

Questions relating to marking work


Will I receive class sets of the marking sheets?
No, the templates provided by Edexcel should be copied for each student.

Will the marking grids be returned?


No. Please note that since they are removed during the moderation process it is essential that the
actual work of the student be clearly marked with the centre and student details.

How much annotation is needed?


Brief annotation only. It is highly recommended that you make use of the codes given on the
Edexcel marking grids.

Do I need to use the Edexcel marking grids?


Yes, this has been seen to lead to more accurate marking.

Can work for one skill be credited in another?


Yes.

Can I award a half mark if a criterion has not been fully met?
No. If the criterion has not been fully met then no mark should be awarded.

Other questions
How do I know if an experiment is AS standard rather than GCSE?
Does the experiment use AS physics theory? Does the experiment use measuring techniques
that are post GCSE eg micrometers? Does it lend itself to some mathematical analysis of errors
(but note that combining errors is not required at AS level)?

What is the maximum number of case studies/visits that a student can attempt?
Edexcel does not specify the maximum number of case studies or visits that a student can
attempt. However, time restrictions are likely to limit the number of assessments that are
attempted by students during the course. Students may attempt several case studies (or visits)
under supervised conditions and the best one submitted for assessment.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 84


Can students use ICT?
Students can word process their summary of the visit or case study, although they will not gain
any extra marks for doing so. The report of the experiment must be hand-written and graphs
must be hand-drawn. ICT may be used for collecting data, eg the use of data loggers is
permitted. ICT must not be used for processing results. If a student use a spreadsheet package to
produce a graph then it will be assumed that the student has used its facilities for automatically
selecting an appropriate scale, drawing the best line through the points, etc, and hence the
student will lose the relevant marks.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 85


Further advice

Plagiarism and collusion


Teachers must be able to declare that the work submitted by the student is solely the work of
that student. Any work submitted which does not have a record sheet signed to that effect will
be returned for such authentication.
Edexcel is likely to penalise any student that deliberately copies information and attempts to
pass it off as original work of their own. Since 2006, Edexcel has been using new software to
identify any potential cases of plagiarism.
Plagiarism is defined by the Joint Council for Qualifications as “The failure to acknowledge
sources properly and/or the submission of another person’s work as if it were the student’s
own.” For example, this would apply if the student has included an extract copied from an
internet site without suitable identification of the material and acknowledgment of its source.
The Joint Council publish very useful leaflets for teachers and for students, which are available
on the JCQ website www.jcq.org.uk. This includes advice on how to detect plagiarism:
Keeping watch on content
• Varying quality of content is one of the most obvious pointers. Well-written passages
containing detailed analyses of relevant facts alternating with poorly constructed and
irrelevant linking passages ought to give rise to suspicion.
• Another practice is for candidates to write the introduction and conclusion to an assignment
to make if fit the question, and then fill in the middle with work which has been lifted from
elsewhere.
• If the work is not focused on the topic, but presents a well-argued account of a related
matter, this could be a sign that it has been used elsewhere. The same applies if parts of the
work do not fit well together in developing the response to the assignment.
• Dated expressions, and references to past events as being current can also be indications of
work which has been copied from out-of-date sources.

Keeping watch on vocabulary, spelling and punctuation


• The use of a mixture of English and American vocabulary or spellings can be a sign that the
work is not original.
• If the piece contains specialised terminology, jargon, obscure or advance words, the internal
assessors should ask if this is typical of this level of candidate and reasonable, or if it is
because the candidate did not write the passage.
• Is the style of punctuation regular and consistent?

Keeping watch on style and tone


• Look for differences in the style or tone of writing. If a candidate uses material from
textbooks alongside items from popular magazines the change of tone between the two
should be marked.
• Look at level of sophistication of the sentence structure. Is this the sort of language that can
be expected from a typical student? Is the use of language consistent, or does it vary? Does a
change in style reflect a change in authorship at these points?

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 86


Keeping watch on presentation
• Look at the presentation of the piece. If it is typed, are the size and style of font uniform?
What about use of headers and sub-headers? Are the margins consistent throughout? Does
the text employ references and if so is the style of referencing consistent? Are there any
references, for example, to figures, tables or footnotes, which don’t make sense (because
they have not been copied)?
• Lack of references in a long, well-written section could indicate that it had been copied from
an encyclopaedia or similar general knowledge source.
• Look out for quotations that run on beyond the part which has been acknowledged.

Other techniques
• Type in phrases or paragraphs into ‘Google’ (use the ‘advanced search’ option) and see if
this comes up with a website that matches closely, if not entirely.
• Search parts of the bibliography for suspicious websites that are too closely matched to the
title.
• Use free software as described on www.plagiarismdetect.com, www.turnitin.com,
www.plagiarism.com, www.wordchecksystems.com or www.canexus.com/eve/index.shtml.
Remember that the centre, as well as the student, is liable for any plagiarism because the teacher
will have signed a declaration ensuring that the student’s work is their own.

Collusion
Collusion includes excessive help from teachers or parents or collaboration with other students.
A student must not work with another student to carry out an assessed experiment.

Annotation of student work


The QCA Code of Practice requires that internal assessors show clearly how credit has been
assigned in relation to the criteria defined in the specification. The codes in the marking grids
provided by Edexcel are designed to facilitate this. Some teachers also send commentaries,
which are useful but are not required. The annotation codes should be placed in the margin of
the work at the point where it was decided to award that criteria.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 87


Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 88
Glossary

Accuracy The degree to which a measurement matches the true value of the quantity that is
being measured. This is a qualitative term only.

Error An offset or deviation (either positive or negative) from the true value.
Dependent A variable physical quantity, the values of which are not chosen by the person
variable doing the experiment, but change with another variable ie the independent
variable.

Independent A variable physical quantity, the values of which are chosen by the person doing
variable the experiment.

Percentage
uncertainty
Percentage uncertainty = Uncertainty of measurement
x 100%
Measurement taken

Precision of an This is a term meaning 'fineness of discrimination'. In practice, it is the smallest


instrument scale division on an instrument that can be read.

Random error An unpredictable error that has no pattern or bias. To reduce the effects of
random errors when measuring a quantity it is necessary to take the mean of
several values.

Range The difference between the smallest value and the largest value of a set of
readings.

Reliability The extent to which a reading or measurement gives the same value when a
quantity is measured several times under the same conditions.

Sensitivity The change in response of an instrument divided by the corresponding change in


stimulus. For example, the sensitivity of a thermometer is expressed in mm/oC

True value The value that would be obtained if there were no errors in the measurement of
that value.

Systematic error An error that has a pattern or bias, for example, errors caused by background
lighting. This type of error adds or subtracts the same value to each measurement
that is taken.

Uncertainty A range of values which are likely to contain the true value.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 89


Validity The level of confidence that is associated with a measurement or conclusion.

Zero error An error that is caused when an instrument does not read true zero, eg a spring
balance may not read zero when there is nothing hanging from it. This type of
error is a form of systematic error.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 90


Appendix 1: Briefing sheets for exemplars based on
visits

Introduction
This book contains exemplars of materials that were used for visits to a museum of archaeology, an
optician’s and the Science museum.
A case study brief can be based on each of these visits. This appendix shows how case study briefs may be
produced for each of these visits. The briefs are written for students.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 91


Briefing sheet for the geophysics case study

The following briefing explains what you must do for the assessment for unit 3. You should refer to the
marking grid for this unit to ensure that you cover all the requirements of this assessment.

Remember that some marks are awarded for the use of clear English.

You should work by yourself for this assessment.

Background

Geophysics is used extensively to explore areas of ground before new building work is carried out and for
archaeological sites. For this assessment, you are going to identify two methods which are used to explore
ground areas, discuss the relevant principles of physics that they use and explore potential uses of these
methods.

What you should do

1. Identify two methods that are used to explore areas of ground before new building work
commences and/or for archaeological sites.
2. Discuss the two methods that you have identified, including the physics principles involved and
potential applications.

You will be planning an experiment to identify a given metal wire by determining its resistivity. The title
of the experiment is: Identifying a metallic material using its resistivity.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 92


Briefing sheet for the optical case study

The following briefing explains what you must do for the assessment for unit 3. You should refer to the
marking grid for this unit to ensure that you cover all the requirements of this assessment.

Remember that some marks are awarded for the use of clear English.

You should work by yourself for this assessment.

Background

Lenses have a wide variety of different applications. For example, they are used to make telescopes for
astronomical observations and they are used to correct poor eyesight. However, lenses do have their
limitations.
For this assessment, you are going to explore how lenses may be used to correct long and short sight, the
limitations of a lens to focus red and green light at the same point and the implications for this when
correcting eyesight. You will do an experiment to investigate this limitation.

What you should do

1. Identify the type of eye defects that may be corrected by lenses.


2. Discuss how lenses may be used to correct short and long sight, and the limitations of a lens to
focus different wavelengths of light at the same point. You must include relevant physics
principles in your discussion.

You will be planning an experiment to investigate the ability of a lens to focus red and green light at the
same point. The title of the experiment is: Measuring the focal length of a lens for red and green light.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 93


Briefing sheet for the case study on solar cells
The following briefing explains what you must do for the assessment for unit 3. You should refer to the
marking grid for this unit to ensure that you cover all the requirements of this assessment.

Remember that some marks are awarded for the use of clear English.

You should work by yourself for this assessment.

Background
Solar cells provide an alternative source of electrical energy to, for example, traditional coal stations. They
may be used in a variety of different industrial and domestic applications.

For this assessment, you are going to identify applications that use solar cells, discuss how they work and
determine the internal resistance of a typical solar cell.

What you should do

1. Briefly outline applications that use solar cells.

2. Explain how a solar cell works, using relevant physics principles.

You will be planning an experiment to measure the internal resistance of a solar cell. The title of the
experiment is: Measuring the resistance of a solar cell.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 94


Appendix 2: Precision, accuracy and sensitivity

Precision is a term meaning 'fineness of discrimination' but is often used erroneously to mean 'accuracy'
or 'uncertainty'. It relates to the smallest division that can be read from an instrument. A thermometer that
is marked in 1oC steps is less precise than one that is marked in 0.1oC steps because the latter has a more
finely divided scale.

Accuracy relates to the difference between the measured value of a quantity and its ‘true’ value. Suppose
that the temperature of a boiling liquid is actually 60oC and it is measured with two mercury-in-glass
thermometers, one of which reads 59oC and the other reads 57oC; the first thermometer is the most
accurate of the two because its reading is the closest to the actual value of the boiling liquid. Accuracy is a
qualitative term only.
Accuracy can be improved by removing or compensating for the cause of a systematic error eg checking
an instrument for a zero reading error and either adjusting the instrument to eliminate the error or noting
the error and deducting its value from readings.

Sensitivity is defined as the change in response of an instrument divided by the corresponding change in
stimulus. So for example, the sensitivity of a thermometer is expressed in mm/oC.

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 95


A note on precision and accuracy
Precision and accuracy are often confused with each other. One instrument may be more precise than
another, but it may not be as accurate.
The diagrams show two thermometers that are being used to measure room temperature. The first
thermometer is marked in 1oC steps and reads 22oC. The second thermometer is marked in 0.1oC steps and
reads 20.2oC. If the room temperature is actually 23oC then the first thermometer gives the more accurate
reading because it is closest to the true temperature. The second thermometer is more precise because the
scale has finer divisions.

25

20
22°C

More accurate

21

20.2°C
20

More precise

Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 96


Tutor support – AS Physics – Draft 1 – September 2008 © Edexcel Limited 2008 97
Further copies of this publication are available from
Edexcel Publications, Adamsway, Mansfield, Notts NG18 4FN
Telephone 01623 467467
Fax 01623 450481
Email: publications@linneydirect.com

August 2008

For more information on Edexcel and BTEC qualifications please


visit our website: www.edexcel.org.uk

Edexcel Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 4496750


Registered Office: One90 High Holborn, London WC1V 7BH. VAT Reg No 780 0898 07