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How do I study for A Level physics ‘Explain’ questions?

Hi, I’m an a level physics student. I like the calculation questions but when it comes to explain questions (e.g explain and state how this affects that), I really struggle. I don’t know how to link the scenario in the question to the knowledge I have, so what can I do to get better at these kinds of questions?
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 1
Original post by Amr F
Hi, I’m an a level physics student. I like the calculation questions but when it comes to explain questions (e.g explain and state how this affects that), I really struggle. I don’t know how to link the scenario in the question to the knowledge I have, so what can I do to get better at these kinds of questions?

Hi, which exam board are you doing?
Reply 2
Original post by Scyclonex
Hi, which exam board are you doing?

AQA
Reply 3
Original post by Amr F
AQA

I'm doing OCR A but when I'm doing AQA questions writing down everything no matter how common sense it is (e.g. If they ask you to define magnetic field, write down “magnetic field” instead of just “field” when explaining, which is a bit annoying because it's obvious). This seems to be what they want, so think about everything that the question can link to, then think about how to articulate it and write it down chronologically, think about how one thing leads on to the next, for example instead of saying “the ball travels less distance because of air resistance” say “the ball slows down due to air resistance, this is because there is a resultant force opposing the balls motion causing it to decelerate” so elaborating more does help. The mark schemes are standard sometimes too when you do a past paper even if you got the question right see what key words they use and underline because chances are they'll crop up in a similar style of question, and at least for my exam board they say any explanation that is physically correct although not explicity in the mark scheme will gain full credit, and to allow unexpected approaches, I'm sure it's the same for AQA, but just try e-mail them to double check. Hope this wasn't too wordy and I can help explain some parts better if you need.
Reply 4
Original post by Scyclonex
I'm doing OCR A but when I'm doing AQA questions writing down everything no matter how common sense it is (e.g. If they ask you to define magnetic field, write down “magnetic field” instead of just “field” when explaining, which is a bit annoying because it's obvious). This seems to be what they want, so think about everything that the question can link to, then think about how to articulate it and write it down chronologically, think about how one thing leads on to the next, for example instead of saying “the ball travels less distance because of air resistance” say “the ball slows down due to air resistance, this is because there is a resultant force opposing the balls motion causing it to decelerate” so elaborating more does help. The mark schemes are standard sometimes too when you do a past paper even if you got the question right see what key words they use and underline because chances are they'll crop up in a similar style of question, and at least for my exam board they say any explanation that is physically correct although not explicity in the mark scheme will gain full credit, and to allow unexpected approaches, I'm sure it's the same for AQA, but just try e-mail them to double check. Hope this wasn't too wordy and I can help explain some parts better if you need.

thank you so much!!
But how do you gain the knowledge needed to answer these questions and be able to apply it to different situations, is by reading a textbook from you exam board or something else?
Reply 5
Original post by Amr F
thank you so much!!
But how do you gain the knowledge needed to answer these questions and be able to apply it to different situations, is by reading a textbook from you exam board or something else?

Just practice, on PMT instead of clicking on AQA, click on OCR and Edexcel and do their new spec questions (still do AQA questions alongside them) the weirder the questions the better, the textbook helps little for me personally as I learn most things watching videos like zphysics and alevelphysics online, just learning the content will give you limited help in unexpected scenarios. Also use Isaac physics, they're more mathsy but they still require you to think about the physics and explain it beforehand.
Reply 6
Original post by Scyclonex
Just practice, on PMT instead of clicking on AQA, click on OCR and Edexcel and do their new spec questions (still do AQA questions alongside them) the weirder the questions the better, the textbook helps little for me personally as I learn most things watching videos like zphysics and alevelphysics online, just learning the content will give you limited help in unexpected scenarios. Also use Isaac physics, they're more mathsy but they still require you to think about the physics and explain it beforehand.

Ok, that sounds really useful. Thanks a lot!!
Reply 7
Original post by Amr F
Ok, that sounds really useful. Thanks a lot!!

No problem ask if you need anything else!
Reply 8
Original post by Amr F

AQA


I'm doing AQA and it's really frustrating how the same 'explain' question have varying mark schemes from past papers and the fact that we don't know which ones likely to come up. Best thing to do is generate an 'explain' question using a flashcard or however you revise for recalling knowledge and writing down all possible points that would give you the mark - cause you know usually the mark scheme says 'any 3' or something similar. You can use PMT to do past papers Q's per topic so you can see which questions usually come up on the exams. You can also use UMUTECH (also a website) which compiles all past paper questions and topic even from 2001 up to present.
Reply 9
Original post by Abaxta
I'm doing AQA and it's really frustrating how the same 'explain' question have varying mark schemes from past papers and the fact that we don't know which ones likely to come up. Best thing to do is generate an 'explain' question using a flashcard or however you revise for recalling knowledge and writing down all possible points that would give you the mark - cause you know usually the mark scheme says 'any 3' or something similar. You can use PMT to do past papers Q's per topic so you can see which questions usually come up on the exams. You can also use UMUTECH (also a website) which compiles all past paper questions and topic even from 2001 up to present.

I know what you mean, in physics they should just give us high level more thinking maths questions rather than explain questions, but then people who do physics without maths would be at a disadvantage. University level physics is mostly just pure maths so they need to change their spec or make the markschemes more consistent somehow. OCR doesn't have that much of a
Problem with consistency.
Reply 10
Original post by Scyclonex

I know what you mean, in physics they should just give us high level more thinking maths questions rather than explain questions, but then people who do physics without maths would be at a disadvantage. University level physics is mostly just pure maths so they need to change their spec or make the markschemes more consistent somehow. OCR doesn't have that much of a
Problem with consistency.


I agree with what you just said but I think that the purpose of the worded questions are to test how strong our knowledge is about the concepts so any calculations given would make sense afterwards, no? But I do agree with what you're saying.

Unfortunately AQA isn't as consistent so you're lucky you're doing OCR haha.

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