How to answer physics O level paper 2

I wrote this guide specifically for Zimsec O level Physics students but the information here can also be useful for other subjects like combined science, chemistry and biology. In fact, with little or no modification, all that is written here can apply to almost all exams that have structured questions.

Lets start by looking at the structure of the O level Physics paper 2 exam. The paper is divided into two sections, Section A and Section B. First I’m going to start by looking at Section B, the section that is deceptively easily to pass.

Section B

In this section, you are given 4 questions and asked to answer any 3 questions. A choice is something that is welcome for many students but it usually leads to many unpleasant pitfalls such as realising halfway through that the question you picked isn’t as easy as it appeared and you could have fared better in the one you left.

Here are the tips for answering section B:

  1. Read all the 4 questions in the section B before making the choice on which 3 to answer. That way you can easily assess which questions you are likely to score the most marks. Don’t just choose a question based on it first part. Each question in this section carries 20 marks, you wouldn’t want to gain 2 marks of the first part and lose the rest 18.
  2. Start by answering the question you think you can answer the best. This boosts your confidence and also you don’t want to run out of time before you answer all that you know. This also applies to section A.
  3. Plan your answers to be brief and relevant. There are no extra marks for long winding irrelevant paragraphs.
  4. Be sure to read all the parts of the question before you attempt to answer it. You wouldn’t want end up in a situation where you write too much in the first part of the question only to realise that you have answered the second and third parts as well but in the wrong place.
  5. Only answer what is asked. Don’t give more information than what is asked. This only wastes your time and earns you no extra marks! For example, if the questions requires 2 examples, don’t give 3. Here is what happens, if the question had 2 marks for those 2 examples and you give three of which one is incorrect, you will only get 1 mark.
  6. The answering space is designed to fit the expected answer. If you answer outruns the provided space you are probably writing too much!
  7. Make sure you know how to draw simple scientific diagrams correctly such as putting the ammeters in series, voltmeters in parallel in an electrical circuit and fuses in the live side of the alternating current supply.
  8. Understand the command of the question. If the question says, ”state and explain you need to state the answer and then give a clear explanation, depending on the number of marks allocated to the question.

Section A

Apply all the tips mentioned above except for tip number one, obviously because in section A you answer all questions.

Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.

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