Exam Technique

Links from GCSE 

Advanced Subsidiary Physics builds from grade CC in GCSE Science: Double Award, or equivalent in Science: Physics. This Study Guide has been written so that you will be able to tackle AS Physics from a GCSE Science background.

You should not need to search for important Physics from GCSE Science because this has been included where needed in each chapter. If you have not studied Science for some time, you should still be able to learn AS Physics using this text alone.

What are examiners looking for? 

Examiners use instructions to help you to decide the length and depth of your answer.

If a question does not seem to make sense, you may have misread it – read it again! State, define or list

This requires a short, concise answer, often recall of material that can be learnt by rote.

Explain, describe or discuss
Some reasoning or some reference to theory is required, depending on the context.

This implies a short response, almost a list of sentences or bullet points.

Predict or deduce
You are not expected to answer by recall but by making a connection between pieces of information.

You are expected to apply your general knowledge to a 'novel' situation, one which you have not directly studied during the AS Physics course.

This is used when a numerical answer is required. You should always use units in quantities and significant figures should be used with care.

Look to see how many significant figures have been used for quantities in the
question and give your answer to this degree of accuracy. If the question uses 3 (sig figs), then give your answer to 3 ( sig figs) also.

Some Dos and Don'ts


  • Do answer the question - No credit can be given for good Physics that is irrelevant to the question.
  • Do use the mark allocation to guide how much you write - Two marks are awarded for two valid points - writing more will rarely gain more credit and could mean wasted time or even contradicting earlier valid points.
  • Do use diagrams, equations and tables in your responses - Even in ‘essay-type’ questions, these offer an excellent way of communicating physics.
  • Do write legibly - An examiner cannot give marks if the answer cannot be read.
  • Do write using correct spelling and grammar. Structure longer essays carefully - Marks are now awarded for the quality of your language in exams.


  • Don’t fill up any blank space on a paper - In structured questions, the number of dotted lines should guide the length of your answer. If you write too much, you waste time and may not finish the exam paper. You also risk contradicting yourself.
  • Don’t write out the question again - This wastes time. The marks are for the answer!
  • Don’t contradict yourself - The examiner cannot be expected to choose which answer is intended. You could lose a hard-earned mark.
  • Don’t spend too much time on a part that you find difficult - You may not have enough time to complete the exam. You can always return to a difficult calculation if you have time at the end of the exam.