Here I will post a few tips and hints to remember when answering SQA Higher Papers, hopefully they’ll be quick, snappy and memorable. You’ve got the whole of the Scottish Physics Teachers’ Community Wisdom Below!

  1. How to remember Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (spell the whole lot not CMBR, as this isn’t a name) However, the way to remember CuMBRia.
  3. Obviously you know- no secs in Physics, just stick to unit symbols and save all the problems of spelling.
  4. Fundamental Particles: Key point: it is not that they can be used to make bigger ‘things’, but rather that they are not made from smaller things.
  5. Strong force (associated with the gluon) acts over a very short distance.
  6. The gravitational force extends over very large/infinite distances.
  7. Neutrons don’t carry/have (net) charge so cannot be accelerated/guided/ deflected by magnetic fields.
  8. Remember: SIG FIG, your final answer should be rounded up to the same number of significant figures as the LEAST significant measurement.
  9. Don’t forget to revise your uncertainties.
  10. Make sure you see the words “end of question paper”. Don’t assume you’ve got to the end and there are no questions on the very last page!
  11. “Show” questions – means show correct formula, working and numerical answer stated as given in the question.
  12. Don’t leave anything blank! If you really don’t know, give it a go – you never know.
  13. The questions in the exam sections (MC and then extended answers) are in approximately the same order as the equation sheet.
  14. LIST: given numbers with the correct symbols before doing a calculation. Or as we say IESSUU (information, Equation, Substitution, Solution, Units and Underline)
  15. Substitute then rearrange.
  16. Read all of the question, especially that bit you skipped over at the start.
  17. Don’t forget units! It’s now worth at least 33% of a calculation!
  18. This will do for now more to come as they arise……Check out the past paper marking instructions for do’s and  don’ts- its full of them in that second column!

Here are some top tips for Revision from Mr Dawson from Wallace Hall Academy- thanks

H Revision Pupil Questions pdf version

H Revision Pupil Questions word version

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End of the Summer Review

Well here is a little revision test to get you back in to the swing of things on the first lesson back.

Please complete these after the lesson so that we can move on. Remember I will only see you for a maximum of 116 more times before your exam!

End of Summer TEST  word  End of Summer TEST -pdf

I’ve done my homework, I hope you have too! It gets harder folks!

Answers and there is absolutely no point in checking these until after I’ve noted you’ve done them- yourself! If you do, you are not doing yourself any favours, as I can guarantee you will be the one to struggle at Higher as you always run to the answers in your study and you wont have developed the skills to pass your exam under the stressful conditions. It is important you are honest with your teacher and more importantly yourself!


Revision Calendar

It is important that you realise that this year will go really quickly. As a part of your life it seems a long time, but trust me, it will go quicker than you can possibly imagine. That is why it is important to realise how little time you have to cover the whole course and revise it. If you thought N5 went fast just imagine that in half the time- because that is what Higher Physics will feel like!

For people in D&G I’ve made a D&G Calendar. For other Regions you’ll just need to adjust your holiday dates. From the first Monday you return to school there will be only 146 teaching days until Study Leave. Now if you think that you only get 5 periods a week, on 4 days per week that is a maximum of 117 times I’ll see you, you can start ticking them off if you dislike me that much. Take off all those days when you will be having trips, meetings, be at Sporting Events, doing prelims and the time to complete the course begins to look less plausible! We also have to fit in an Assignment.

I would therefore ask any student studying any subject not to waste any time in class and get as organised as possible. That means get into class, get out your stuff, and get going straight away. If there is a distraction then review your work, answer questions etc. Don’t waste a second!

Revision plan

Click on the link above (Revision plan). This takes you to an EXCEL spreadsheet. I can add a pdf file if some of you can’t open this. Revision isn’t just about LEARNING the work. What will take more of your time are the other bits!

The steps to revising are:




You can and should be doing step one throughout the course. The better prepared you are as you go along the less time at the end of the course you will need for revision. Likewise with step 2. If you make sure you’ve fully understood each part of the work, then even if you’ve forgotten it, it should be easier to understand and grasp the second time around. If you pass on it and hope it will go away as you move through the course you’ll begin to have a fear of this section of the course and it will be harder to understand.

So how do you use the Revision Plan?

  • This can be used for just one subject but I think it puts it into perspective when you put all your calendar in one place. There are probably apps that will do the same thing, but I’m not there yet!
  • Mark in the dates and times of Exams (whether prelims or final exams). I’ve put in the Physics Exam Date for you and a counter has been added to the N5 Home Page. I’d check this often just to remind you how far we are through the course.
  • Shade in the dates and times of commitments, such as parties, trips away, days off (birthdays when you’ll have all those presents to open) etc.
  • Make a list of topics to cover for each subject; the Physics one is done for you. But remember revision is about CHECKING, UNDERSTANDING and LEARNING so all three of those have to be allocated time.
  • Calculate how many hours you have available and how much time you will allocate to each subject and each topic within that subject.
  • Decide on the order in which to tackle your subjects. Don’t tackle the easy subjects first as you’ll never get on to the harder ones! It is best to start revising the hard subjects and topics as these will take you more time to understand and learn
  • Draft your revision timetable.
  • Leave one or two revision slots free each week for extra revision or difficult topics.
  • Don’t spend so long producing a beautiful revision timetable so that there is not enough time to revise.


Command words in Higher exam papers!

Here is a table showing some of the command words that are used in the exams. I will give examples later. It is important to answer the correct command word in the right way or you are likely to not be awarded marks.

Do go through past paper questions and get examples of the different command words and then look at the marking instructions and see how they are answered.

response to questions that ask candidates to:
describe, you must provide a statement or structure of characteristics and/or features;
determine or calculate, you must determine a number from given facts, figures or information; You should use numbers given in the question to work out the answer. You should always show your working, as it may be possible for the examiner to award some marks for the method even if the final answer is wrong. Always give the units as the final mark is for the answer and unit.
estimate, you must determine an approximate value for something;
explain, you must relate cause and effect and/or make relationships between things clear. Students should make something clear, or state the reasons for something happening. The answer should not be a simple list of reasons. This means that points in the answer must be linked coherently and logically.All of the stages/steps in an explanation must be included to gain full marks.
identify, name, give, or state, you need only name or present in brief form. Only a short answer is required, not an explanation or a description. Often it can be answered with a single word, phrase or sentence. If the question asks you to state, give, or write down one (or two etc) examples, you should write down only the specified number of answers, or you may not be given the mark for some correct examples given.
justify, you must give reasons to support their suggestions or conclusions, eg this might be by identifying an appropriate relationship and the effect of changing variables;
predict, you must suggest what may happen based on available information;
show that,  you must use physics [and mathematics] to prove something e.g. a given value – All steps, including the stated answer, must be shown;
suggest, you must apply their knowledge and understanding of physics to a new situation. A number of responses are acceptable: marks will be awarded for any suggestions that are supported by knowledge and understanding of physics.
use your knowledge of physics or aspect of physics to comment on, you must apply your skills, knowledge and understanding to respond appropriately to the problem/situation presented (for example by making a statement of principle(s) involved and/or a relationship or equation, and applying these to respond to the problem/situation). you will be rewarded for the breadth and/or depth of their conceptual understanding.
Use the information in the passage/ diagram/ graph/ table to… The answer must be based on the information given in the question. Unless the information given in the question is used, no marks can be given.
compare This requires you to describe the similarities and/or differences between things, not just write about one. If you are asked to ‘compare x with y’, you need to write down something about x compared to y, using comparative words such as ‘better, ‘more than’, ‘less than’, ‘quicker’, ‘more expensive’, ‘on the other hand.’

Below I have taken examples of the command words contained in the 2015 Revised Higher paper, and given the expected response. I will continue to adjust this as I have time, for now just look over what is expected. You might need to refer to the paper to make sense of the question.

obviously I need a little practice at learning how to format tables, I'll work on that, but I've not been doing this a year yet!
Use a highlighter to underline the command words
Response examples based on the 2015 Revised Higher Paper
(2·2 × 10−25 /1·673 × 10−27 =) 134 (½) (Higgs boson is) 2 orders of magnitude bigger (½) If mass of neutron (1·675 × 10−27) is used, treat as wrong physics – award zero marks. 134 times bigger, (½) only Compare the mass of the Higgs boson with the mass of a proton in terms of orders of magnitude.
(when a) current (½) passes through a p-n junction (½) photons are emitted (1) Describe how an LED operates.
vh = 11·6 cos 40 = 8·9 m s−1 (1) (accept 8·886, 8·89, 9 not 9·0) Calculate the horizontal component of the initial velocity of the shot.
· (total energy remains the same) · the greater the angle the more energy used to lift the put to a greater height before release · less energy available to convert to Ek (½) · Kinetic energy is less (½) This statement is required before ANY marks can be awarded. Using information from the graph, explain the effect of increasing the angle of projection on the kinetic energy of the shot at release.
v = 11·6 m s−1


State the release speed of the shot at this angle.

Name the boson associated with the electromagnetic force.

(an extra particle) the (anti)neutrino (1) would have (some kinetic) energy (1) From this evidence, what conclusion have particle physicists drawn about what happens in beta decay? Justify your answer.
(Constant speed  Þ ) upward force = weight (½) 3 Tcos20 = 1380 (1½) T = 490 (N) If 490N not stated then (1½ max) Show that the tension in each cord is 490 N at this instant.
A physics student notices that the digital clock in the family car loses one minute every six months. The student states “This must be due to time dilation as the car is driven at motorway speeds for much of the time.” Use your knowledge of physics to comment on the student’s statement.


On a similar matter, it is important that you don’t use the wrong adverb for a quantity.

Don’t use the terms quicker, slower, faster, for words such as time, acceleration, velocity.

Use terms longer, shorter for time greater than or less than for acceleration and velocity.

To say quicker time, you are talking about relativity! You want to say that the time will be less to do the same action.

…And here are my command words. Do your best, revise as hard as you can. This will be with you for the rest of your life.





WORKSHOP for HIGHER 2018- Date to be confirmed

Create your own SQA timetable when you click on the link below

Here are a few little gems that we will discuss at the workshop. If you can’t make it then you ought to be able to work through the material yourself. I hope you find this material useful. I will stick up the agenda as soon as. I will also publish a sheet on the question grid against past papers. Best wishes for your revision

HIGHER WORKSHOP CfE 2018  as a smaller pdf

HIGHER WORKSHOP CfE 2 The word document. Lots to digest here, so you might want to look over it prior to the workshop. Don’t do it all as I’ll have nothing to go through with you for the workshop.

Please note the workshop is not a place for you to learn, but a place for you to get practice and a few exam techniques!

Sketch Graphs ppp for sketching graphs Sketch Graphs worksheet

Higher Revision Cards A4

Higher Revision Cards

Must Justify

H Multiple Choice

Past Paper Q revision ODU

Past Paper Q revision P&W



Revision Materials for the CfE Higher Physics Course

Get organised! The most important advice I can give you for this year.

Monthly Calendar Here is a  monthly calendar to help you plan your study and life during this year. Most people find their Higher year the hardest they’ll ever do. It will pass quicker than you imagine, so don’t leave things until the last minute.

Weekly Planner Here is a weekly planner if you prefer this layout to your homework planner.

higher revision cards

Revision Techniques[1]  Ideas about revision techniques

What type of Learner are you? I would expect by this stage you have a fair idea, but just in case it has passed you by go through some of the documents below. You might need a friend to work through this with you.


Inventory of Learning styles

learning style Learning_style_questionnaire


VAK_assessment_sheet_for_students VAK_Powerpoint

Below are a few pointers on how to answer exam questions.

Sketch Graphs

Here is a document for you to mark to see what you would consider the marking scheme for each diagram. NB This is the marking scheme for the unrevised Higher, so although the ideas are the same the mark scheme will be slightly different.

Sketch Graphs pptx

The power point that explains the graph marking scheme above.

Must Justify

Work on how to answer questions that include justify statement.


Updated for the 2017 exam on 17th May 2017

CfE Higher Physics – Unit by Unit – Past Paper Questions

Some hints to CfE type questions

Hope the revision goes well, don’t forget to take some regular breaks and get some exercise, including fresh air and a walk or a run. You better remind me too. I only make about 5k steps a day! All the best, it was lovely sharing this journey with you.