Completing Practical Work

Before you complete your assignment you’ll need to be familiar with how to complete a practical and write up. CLICK ON THE DOWNLOAD button to download a Guide to the Practical Skills Booklet. Hopefully it will be useful to everyone doing HIGHER ASSIGNMENTS.

Many think this has too much on Excel but it can be removed from the word document if you are going to hand plot your graph.

I’d be grateful for feedback on this document and how it can be improved. Thanks.

My thanks to my colleagues at Dumfries High School, Mr Belford and Mr Viola for allowing me to add this flipchart which I have converted into a pdf file (hence the apparent pages of not many changes- it works well on a flipchart) for you to see how to go about an assignment.



Prior to the CfE Higher, the Revised Higher there was the HSDU Higher (running from 2000). There are a few things we can learn for the new Assignment. This is in the public domain, but don’t think that copying any of this will be of any good as markers know about this material, and the marking instructions are different, but it gives you a starter for 10!

Assessing O3


Assignments from 2018

In the next few months I’ll be adding details of the new Higher Physics Assignment with starter sheets.

TopicStarter SheetAdditional Help
'g' AH 'g' a 2018
'g' BH 'g' b 2018
RefractionH Refraction A 2018
Critical AngleH Refraction B 2018
PlanckH h 2018
1/d2H 1over d^2 2018
Half value thickness
A.C. D.C. aH ACDC a 2018
A.C. D.C. bH ACDC b 2018
Internal Resistance & EMF A
Internal Resistance & EMF B
Capacitors A
Capacitors B
Capacitors C
Capacitors D
Wheatstone BridgeH Wheatstone 2018Wheatstone
Op AmpsOp amps

This summary is based on the updated information from the SQA. The first two links are for the candidate guide which is produced by the SQA and contains the information that students can access. This can be taken into the reporting stage of your assignment. It is important to check off what you have done at the end of your assignment with the marking instructions. Prior to this it would be a good idea to have gone through the Practical Skills Booklet.

The link below takes you to the full information document which is produced by the SQA. It is a current document. This cannot be taken into the Reporting stage of your assignment, although the document above can.

SQA Higher Physics Assignment.pdf


This assignment is worth 20 marks, contributing 20% to the overall marks for the course assessment. t applies to the assignment for Higher Physics.

Title and structureAn informative title and a structure that can easily be followed.1
AimA description of the purpose of your investigation.1
Underlying physicsA description of the physics relevant to your aim, which shows your understanding.3
Data collection and handlingA brief description of an approach used to collect experimental data.1
Sufficient raw data from your experiment.1
Data from your experiment, including any mean and/or other derived values, presented in a table with headings and units.1
Numerical or graphical data relevant to your experiment obtained from an internet/literature source, or raw data relevant to your aim obtained from your second experiment.1
A citation for an internet/literature source and the reference listed later in the report.1
Graphical presentationThe axes have suitable scales.1
Suitable labels and units on the axes.1
All data points plotted accurately and, where appropriate, line or curve of best fit drawn.1
UncertaintiesScale reading uncertainties shown for all measurements and random uncertainty in measurements calculated.2
AnalysisAnalysis Discussion of experimental data.1
ConclusionA conclusion relating to your aim based on all the data in your report.1
EvaluationThree evaluative statements supported by justifications.3

Planck’s Constant

Some of you might like to do an assignment on Planck’s Constant or LEDs or both!
Here are some tips….


Check out the Perimeter Institute for detailed explanation etc.

Please be aware of the limits to this experiment- but its all a good information for the evaluation.

Appendix A Potentiometers, LEDs, and Viewing Tubes

Appendix B the Physics Behind LEDs

Measuring Planck’s Constant Lesson

Measuring Planck’s Constant Lesson

Measuring Planck’s Constant Solutions

Measuring Planck’s Constant Student Worksheet

Measuring Planck’s Constant Student Worksheet

Plancks Constant Teachers Guide

Planck’s Demo Supplies and Instructions North America

Inverse Square Law

A point light source  will spreads its energy equally in all directions. Therefore if you wanted to find all of the points in space where the energy was of the same intensity you would have to draw a sphere around the source point. The bigger the radius of the sphere the greater the ‘surface’ over which the energy was spread.

The relationship between radius and sphere surface area is an inverse square relationship. That means that intensity will depend on 1/r2. If you double the distance from the source the intensity will not halve but drop to a quarter of its value, tripling the distance will make the intensity drop to a ninth and so on.

Point sources of other quantities also obey the inverse square law.

  • gravitational force,
  • electric field,
  • light,
  • sound
  • electromagnetic radiation
  •  nuclear radiation

The key is “Are your sources point sources?”

An investigation can be completed into this.


Measurement of acceleration due to gravity

Below are some links and documents for the Researching Physics dealing with measurement of the acceleration due to gravity.







The information below is based on the material found from the website above. TBC!


A field is a region of space where forces are exerted on objects with certain properties. Three types of field are considered:

  • gravitational fields affect anything that has mass
  • electric fields affect anything that has charge
  • magnetic fields affect permanent magnets and electric currents.

These three types of field have many similar properties and some important differences. There are key definitions and concepts that are common to all three types of field.

Gravitational fields

Newton realised that all objects with mass attract each other. This seems surprising, since any two objects placed close together on a desktop do not immediately move together according to Newton’s second law F=ma. The attractive force between them is tiny, and very much smaller than the frictional forces that oppose their motion.

Gravitational attractive forces between two objects only affect their motion when at least one of the objects is very massive. This explains why we are aware of the force that attracts us and other objects towards the Earth – the Earth is very massive. The mass of the Earth is about 6 × 1024 kg.

The diagram represents the Earth’s gravitational field.

The lines show the direction of the force that acts on a mass that is within the field.

This diagram shows that:

  • gravitational forces are always attractive – the Earth cannot repel any objects
  • the Earth’s gravitational pull acts towards the centre of the Earth
  • the Earth’s gravitational field is radial; the field lines become less concentrated with increasing distance from the Earth.

The force exerted on an object in a gravitational field depends on its position. The less concentrated the field lines, the smaller the force. If the gravitational field strength at any point is known, then the size of the force can be calculated.

The gravitational field strength, g, at any point in a gravitational field is the force per unit mass at that point


Close to the Earth g has the value of 9.8 Nkg-1

Gravitational field strength is a vector quantity, its direction is towards the object that causes the field.

Universal gravitation

Newton concluded, during his work, that the gravitational attractive force that exists between any two masses:

  • is proportional to each of the masses
  • is inversely proportional to the square of their distances apart.

Newton’s law of gravitation describes the gravitational force between two points. It can be written as



G is the universal gravitational constant and is equal to 6.67 × 10-11 N m2 kg-2  .   M and m are the magnitude of the masses and r is the separation between  the centre of the masses.

A point mass is one that has a radial field, like the Earth as shown in the diagram above.

Although the Earth is a large object, on the scale of the Universe it can be considered to be a point mass. The gravitational field strength at its centre is zero, since attractive forces pull equally in all directions. Beyond the surface of the Earth, the gravitational force on an object decreases with increasing distance. When the distance is measured from the centre of the Earth, the size of the force follows an inverse square law; doubling the distance from the centre of the Earth decreases the force to one quarter of the original value.  The two objects attract each other with equal sized forces and act in opposite directions. The variation of g with distance from the surface of the Earth is shown in the diagram.

g and G 

Newton’s law of gravitation can be used to work out the value of the force between any two objects. It can also be used to calculate the strength of the gravitational field due to a spherical mass such as the Earth or the Sun.


As the value of F is also the weight then we can equate these two quantities, so that g not only equals W/m but also g=(GM)/r2 as below

Gravitational field strength is a property of any point in a field. It can be given a value whether or not a mass is placed at that point. Like gravitational force, beyond the surface of the Earth the value of g follows an inverse square law.

Because the inverse square law applies to values of g when the distance is measured from the centre of the Earth, there is little change in its value close to the Earth’s surface. Even when flying in an aircraft at a height of 10 000 m, the change in distance from the centre of the Earth is minimal, so there is no noticeable change in g. The radius of the Earth is about 6.4 × 106 m, so you would have to go much higher than aircraft-flying height for g to change by 1%.

The same symbol g is used to represent:

  • gravitational field strength
  • free-fall acceleration.

These are not two separate quantities, but two different names for the same quantity. Gravitational field strength, g, is defined as the force per unit mass, g = F/m.

From Newton’s second law and the definition of the newton, free-fall acceleration, g, is also equal to the gravitational force per unit mass. The units of gravitational field strength, N kg–1, and free-fall acceleration, m s–2, are also equivalent.