Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner

GCSE Edexcel P1 Physics Exam Calculations

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Only one week to go until the GCSE Edexcel P1 Physics exam! Please read this blog post in addition to my previous post titled GCSE Science Numeracy Questions.

Your students will be revising the content relevant to the foundation or higher tier they are sitting but have they practised enough calculations?

Did you know that (based on previous past papers) around 16 marks are awarded for calculation and data interpretation questions on the P1 foundation and higher tier exams?

  • Grade C Boundary on P1 Foundation Tier June 2015 = 32/60 (50% of the marks required to get a C from the calculation questions)
  • Grade C Boundary on P1 Higher Tier June 2015 = 22/60 (73% of the marks required to get a C from the calculation questions)

Here are my top tips and resources for gaining your students full marks on these questions. Please share them with your students over the next week to build their confidence:

Recall and use 9 scientific units appropriately

In the exam, students will often be given the scientific unit but sometimes they will have to provide it themselves. Get the students to note the sizes of the abbreviations of the units as some are upper or lower case:

  1. Distance or wavelength (m) metres
  2. Speed or wave speed (m/s) metres per second
  3. Time (s) seconds
  4. Frequency (Hz) hertz
  5. Energy (J) joules
  6. Power ( W ) watts
  7. Current (A) amps
  8. Potential difference (V) volts
  9. Power consumption (kWh) kilowatt-hour

Why not set your class a multiple choice quiz on Show My Homework testing them on these units before their exam?

Step by step process to all calculation questions

  • Practise using the equation sheet on page 2 of the exam paper
  • Choose the correct equation by highlighting the quantities given in the question and what they are asking for, such as power, energy used, time taken
  • Copy the shorthand version of the equation, such as P = E / t
  • Rearrange the equation if necessary using an equation triangle (see next section) and rewrite the new equation out as part of your working
  • Show your full working out
  • Write out the full answer first, no matter how many decimal points!
  • Then round (only if you need to, remember 5 and above after the decimal point rounds up!)
  • Give the correct answer in the answer space (so that the examiner does not miss it!)
  • Give the correct unit (only if requested to and if another unit has not already been provided)

Rearranging equations (HIGHER TIER ONLY)

  • If the equation is in the v = f x λ format, then the subject of the equation goes onto the top of the equation triangle and the other two quantities onto the bottom
  • If the equation is in the v = x / t format, then the quantity being divided goes onto the top of the equation triangle and the other two quantities onto the bottom
  • You then cover up the quantity you want to find and carry out the appropriate calculation

Converting units

Students need to remember to convert to SI units, otherwise they risk losing marks:

  • 60 seconds (s) in 1 minute
  • 1000 metres (m) in 1 kilometre (km)
  • 1000 watts ( W ) in 1 kilowatt (kW)

Kilowatt-hour (kWh) can be kept in this format if the question requires the student to calculate the cost of electricity.

Practising general mathematical skills

  • Calculating a percentage
  • Calculating the mean
  • Plot and draw graphs (line graphs, bar charts, pie charts, scatter graphs, histograms) and selecting appropriate scales, labels and units for the axes
  • Interpret information from tables, charts and graphs. If the question asks the student to describe what the data shows, it is important that they give numerical values from the data as well as describing it (just like they would have done for the conclusions based on evidence in their controlled assessment tasks)
  • Use and interpret numbers written in standard form (higher tier)


Students must practise calculations and data interpretation questions. Print off a pack of these questions using Exam Wizard or create your own (see my resources below). Set some challenging multiple choice calculation-style questions using the quiz function on Show My Homework.


I have uploaded some resources that I have used with my students to help prepare them for the calculation questions in the P1 exam:

I wish your students every success in their examinations.


One thought on “GCSE Edexcel P1 Physics Exam Calculations

  1. Pingback: GCSE Edexcel P2 Physics Exam Calculations | Robert Brooks

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