# O-Level Physics (5054) | Exam Tips

This post contains tips and advices
that highlight some common mistakes made by past candidates. It is intended
that these tips will help candidates in their preparation and even when
undertaking their upcoming O-Level Physics (5054) exams.

__GENERAL ADVICE__- There
is no escaping it; the best way to prepare for a physics examination is
__thorough and careful revision__. - Just
reading your notes over and over again is not an efficient way to revise. Make
your revision productive by making it interesting and fun. Make notes, revision
cards or mind maps.
__Revision should be an active process__, i.e. you should be ‘doing things’, not just sitting and reading a book. - Don’t
try to learn it all in one go! Not understanding a particular concept at one
time does not mean you will never understand it. Do not give up easily! Take
regular breaks and
__review what you have learnt regularly__. __Learning equations is essential__; put them on small pieces of paper and stick them somewhere you will see them every morning.__Revise with a friend__so you can test each other or try explaining the physics of a topic to a friend – as if you were a teacher! Share your tips with your friend for topics you understand very well and do not hesitate to ask for help from your friends on topics you are less familiar. Do not try to learn on your own.__Working through past paper questions__is the best way to complete your revision. This helps you to know the type and style of questions to expect in the examination. This also helps you develop your problem solving skills, which are essential for physics.- Try
__timed questions__so you can learn to answer quickly. - Get
your answers checked so you
__know you are correct__!

__Spelling__
The spelling of technical terms is
important, so make sure your writing is legible as well as spelt correctly. If
your writings cannot be read properly, you will lose marks. Some words are very
similar, such as

*reflection*and*refraction*,*fission*and*fusion*. Check the spellings of technical terms carefully.

__General tips__
In Cambridge O Level Physics (5054)
examinations candidates have to be able to complete a variety of tasks;

**always read the question carefully to make sure you have understood what you are expected to do**.

__Descriptive answers__
In descriptive answers, candidates
should:

__Check the number of marks available__and make sure you give sufficient points.__Plan your answer first__so that you don’t repeat yourself or contradict yourself.__Read your answer through carefully afterwards__to check you have not missed out important words.__Read the question again__to check you have answered the question asked.__Use sketches and diagrams__wherever you can to help your explanation.__Add labels when referring to a diagram__, e.g.*point X*, so that you can refer to it easily in your explanation. This can save many words and much confusion.

__Numerical answers__
In numerical answers, candidates
should:

- Quote
any
__formulae__you are going to use and**show clearly all the steps**in your working. It may be tempting to use your calculator and just write down the answer, but if you write down one figure wrongly then you may lose all the marks for the calculation. If the examiners can see the formula and the numbers you have used then you will lose only a little credit. Some questions ask for a formula to be quoted; even if you get the right answer, failure to quote the formula will lose you a mark. __Check the units are consistent__, e.g. if the distance is given in km and the speed in m/s, then you must convert the km to m.__Be careful when you are converting minutes and seconds__: 1 minute 30 seconds is not 1.3 minutes and 150 seconds is not 1.5 minutes. These are common mistakes, so always double check any conversion of units of time.- State the answer clearly at the end.
- Give your answer as a decimal to an appropriate number of significant figures. Don’t leave your answer as a fraction unless specifically asked to do so.
- Check
that you have given the
**unit**of your final answer. __Look at your final answer and see that it is reasonable__. If you have calculated the cost of using an electrical appliance such as a kettle for a few minutes and found it to be hundreds of dollars, then check the powers of ten in your calculation.

__Graphs__
Plotting graphs can be tested in
Papers 2, 3 or 4 (reading from graphs may be present in Paper 1 too).

When drawing graphs, candidates
should:

- Remember
to
__label the axes with both quantity__(e.g. distance or d)__and unit__(e.g. metres or m). Then write it as distance / metres or even just d / m. __Make sure the axes are the correct way round__. You are usually told, for example, to plot distance on the x-axis, so make sure you know that x is the horizontal axis!__Make the scales go up in sensible amounts__, i.e. 0, 5, 10… or 0, 2, 4… but not 0, 3, 6… or 0, 7, 14…__Make sure that the plotted points fill at least half the graph paper__. This means if you can double the scale and still plot all the points then you should double the scale.__Check if you have been told to start the scales from the origin__. If not, then think carefully about where to start the axes.- When you are told to start the axes from a certain point (e.g. x=1, y=20) you must do so. You will lose a mark if you use a different point (e.g. the origin).
- Use a sharp pencil to plot the points and draw the line.
__Plot the points carefully__. It is best to use small neat crosses. Every point will be checked by the examiner, and you will lose the mark if any are wrongly plotted.__Draw either a straight line or a smooth curve__. In physics we never join the dots!– especially in the practical papers.__Your line may not go through all the points__- Remember that a best fit line (curve or straight) should have some points above and some points below the line.

When taking readings from a graph,
candidates should:

__Draw a large triangle when measuring the gradient of a line__. It must be at least half the length of the line.**Top tip:**draw a triangle the full size of the graph! It is best to show the numbers on the sides of the triangle when finding the gradient.__Always use points on the line__, not your plotted points, when calculating the gradient.**Draw a tangent to find the gradient of a curve**. Make sure it is at the right place on the curve. Again, use a large triangle.- Make sure you read the scales correctly when reading a value from a graph. It may be that they are in mA rather than A or km rather than m.

When describing the shape of a
graph, remember that:

**directly proportional**means a straight line*through the origin*.

There
are two ways to check if quantities are directly proportional:

–
doubling one quantity will cause the other to double

–
dividing one by the other will give the same result

**i.e.**if two quantities

*F*and

*L*are directly proportional then if you find several values of

**they should be the same.**

*F/L*- if
the straight line does not go through the origin, then it is just called a
**linear graph**.

**inverse relationship**means increasing one quantity will cause the other to decrease.

- if
doubling one quantity causes the other to halve, then they are
**inversely proportional**.

This
can also be checked by:

–
multiplying the two quantities together will give the same result

**i.e.**if two quantities F and L are inversely proportional then if you find several values of F × L they should be the same.

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