Are you preparing to complete your National 5 Physics assignment?  If so, the expert Physics team at Saturday School have put together this essential guide for you.  We are made up of experienced teachers, SQA Markers and Principal Teachers and our guidance and advice will help ensure you attain maximum marks in this crucial externally assessed item of work.

Before you begin make sure you read these vital SQA documents:

  1. https://www.sqa.org.uk/files_ccc/PhysicsN5CAT.pdf
  2. https://www.understandingstandards.org.uk/Subjects/Physics/national5/Assignment

 

These documents outline the marking criteria used by SQA Markers for the assignment (p20 doc1) and the understanding standards link (doc2) provides many real exemplars of student work. Not all of them are of a good standard so it’s useful to see how marks are lost and gained. Use the marking scheme to mark them yourself before comparing your findings to the marker commentary. Once you’ve tried a couple you’ll have a good idea of what is expected of you and how your assignment will be marked.

Top Tips

Here are our top tips.

Choose a title and an aim

The title should not simply be “National 5 Assignment”, it must be informative and represent the chosen topic or key area e.g. solar cells, stopping distances etc.

The aim must include the variables involved, for example “to investigate how vehicle speed affects stopping distance.

Underlying Physics

Invest the time researching and studying the key area your assignment is based on.  Use your notes, textbooks and online resources such as BBC Bitesize to ensure your knowledge and understanding of the key area is robust – this is vital to gain full marks in the underlying Physics section.

Your knowledge must be at N5 level (or above). You can use an extract/excerpt from a webpage or textbook to support the writing of this but all explanations should be in your own words. If possible, include a labelled diagram and an example calculation as these help show your understanding of the Physics involved.  Don’t just write a story!  Keep it clear, brief and make the correct Physics points.

Describing the experiment

Keep this brief (2 lines). What did you measure and what did you use to measure it? E.g. the current was measured using an ammeter, the voltage was measured using a voltmeter, stopping distances were measured using a tape measure.

Experimental Results

Bring your table of results into the reporting stage – minus headings, units and any averages. These need to be added during your reporting stage.

Common errors are forgetting to take repeated readings that can be averaged and not including units in the table headings.

Graphing

Most experiments for the N5 Physics assignment generate a scatter graph (or occasionally a bar chart if comparing). This will require a best-fit line or curve and must be a line drawn in a single stroke.

The top graph is good. The scales are correctly labelled with units; the points are small making them precise and have a smooth curve of best fit.

The bottom graph is not good enough. It has data points that are too large to accurately match the values from the data, and the best-fit curve is not a single line.

Hint

To help with graphing round final results to 1 d.p.

Get plenty of practise producing your graph at home before write up day.

2nd data source

Choose a second data source from the Internet and bring a printed copy to the reporting stage – this is the easiest way to reference.  It must have a full URL.

Be careful, if you have found your second data source using Google images, as you must provide the full URL or no marks will be awarded.

Compare the data from both sources and state if they agree and why.  Think of what similarities, trends or differences there are in the two data sets.

Conclusion

 It must match the aim! 

For example:

Aim: to investigate how the speed of a vehicle affects its stopping distance.

Conclusion: as the speed of the vehicle increases the stopping distance increases.

Always use increase and decrease not bigger or smaller to gain the marks.

Evaluation

 Pick a factor that you could change to improve the experiment. E.g. solar cell in blackout room with only one source of light will produce results free from background light but may not be possible in a school classroom.

Know the difference between accurate, precise and reliable.

Reliable

If results have been repeated many times they are more reliable.

Precise

The readings are close in value to each other, for example gEARTH = 11.1, 11.0, 11.1, 11.0.  They are precise readings but not accurate.  Also consider that 11.32 is a more precise reading than 11.

Accurate

How close to a known value did you get? 9.7 ms-2 is accurate because it is close to the accepted value for gEARTH.

Watch out

A common mistake is writing accurate when you mean either precise or reliable.

 

Finally, many students are unclear about what they are allowed to take in to the reporting stage with them.  You may have:

  • the instructions for candidates, which must not have been altered
  • the candidate’s raw experimental data
  • comparative data from the internet or literature
  • a record of the source of the comparative data
  • extract(s) from internet/literature source(s) to support the description of the underlying physics
  • the experimental method, if appropriate.

 

Have a practise attempt at home and check against the above suggestions.  Following these tips should lead to a positive outcome when marked.

Good luck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The graph on the left is good. The scales are correctly labelled with units; the points are small making them precise and have a smooth curve of best fit.

The graph on right is not good enough. It has data points that are too large to accurately match the values from the data, and the best-fit curve is not a single line.

 

Hint – To help with graphing round final results to 1 d.p.

 

Get plenty of practise producing your graph at home before write up day.

 

  1. 2nd data source

 

Choose a second data source from the Internet and bring a printed copy to the reporting stage – this is the easiest way to reference.  It must have a full URL.

Be careful, if you have found your second data source using Google images, as you must provide the full URL or no marks will be awarded.

Compare the data from both sources and state if they agree and why.  Think of what similarities, trends or differences there are in the two data sets.

 

 

  1. Conclusion

 

It must match the aim!  E.g.

Aim: to investigate how the speed of a vehicle affects its stopping distance.

Conclusion: as the speed of the vehicle increases the stopping distance increases.

Always use increase and decrease not bigger or smaller to gain the marks.

 

  1. Evaluation

 

Pick a factor that you could change to improve the experiment. E.g. solar cell in blackout room with only one source of light will produce results free from background light but may not be possible in a school classroom.

Know the difference between accurate, precise and reliable.

Reliable – if results have been repeated many times they are more reliable

Precise – the readings are close in value to each other, for example gEARTH = 11.1, 11.0, 11.1, 11.0.  They are precise readings but not accurate.  Also consider that 11.32 is a more precise reading than 11.

Accurate – how close to a known value did you get? 9.7 ms-2 is accurate because it is close to the accepted value for gEARTH.

 

Watch out.

A common mistake is writing accurate when you mean either precise or reliable.

 

Finally, many students are unclear about what they are allowed to take in to the reporting stage with them.  You may have:

  • the instructions for candidates, which must not have been altered
  • the candidate’s raw experimental data
  • comparative data from the internet or literature
  • a record of the source of the comparative data
  • extract(s) from internet/literature source(s) to support the description of the underlying physics
  • the experimental method, if appropriate.

 

Have a practise attempt at home and check against the above suggestions.  Following these tips should lead to a positive outcome when marked.

 

Good luck.