Common GCSE Physics Questions

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Question: Why does a hailstone accelerate as it falls from a cloud?

Answer: The hailstone accelerates due to the force of gravity acting on it.

Explanation: When a hailstone begins to fall, the only significant force acting on it is gravity, pulling it towards the Earth. This force causes the hailstone to accelerate downwards. As it accelerates, its speed increases until other forces, such as air resistance, become significant.

Question: Explain why the hailstone reaches terminal velocity.

Answer: The hailstone reaches terminal velocity when the force of gravity is balanced by the force of air resistance acting on it.

Explanation: As the hailstone accelerates, air resistance against it increases. Eventually, this air resistance force equals the gravitational pull, resulting in no net force on the hailstone. At this point, it stops accelerating and continues to fall at a constant speed, known as terminal velocity.

Question: Calculate the mean power needed for 1 home, given a wind farm's mean power output is 696 MW for 580,000 homes.

Answer: The mean power needed for 1 home is approximately 1200 watts (W).

Explanation: To find the power per home, divide the total power output by the number of homes:


696,000,000W÷580,000=1200W per home. This calculation assumes equal power distribution to each home.

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Question: Suggest two reasons why wind power was not able to meet the demand of 34,000 MW in the UK on one day.

Answer 1: Wind speed variability might not have been sufficient to generate the required power.

Answer 2: The limited number of wind turbines available could not produce enough electricity to meet the high demand.

Explanation: Wind power generation depends on wind speed, which can be unpredictable and vary greatly. On days with low wind speeds, less electricity is generated. Additionally, the capacity of existing wind turbines may not be enough to cover extremely high demands.

Question: Explain how oiling the mechanical parts of a wind turbine affects its efficiency.

Answer: Oiling the mechanical parts reduces friction, thereby increasing the efficiency of the wind turbine.

Explanation: Friction in the moving parts of a wind turbine can waste energy, converting it into heat rather than electricity. By oiling these parts, friction is reduced, which means less energy is lost as heat, increasing the amount of mechanical energy converted to electrical energy and thus improving the turbine’s efficiency.

Question: Explain why people should be encouraged to use energy-efficient electrical devices.

Answer: Using energy-efficient electrical devices reduces electricity consumption, lowers energy bills, and decreases environmental impact.

Explanation: Energy-efficient devices use less electricity to perform the same tasks as less efficient ones, leading to lower energy consumption. This not only saves money on electricity bills but also reduces the demand for electricity, thereby decreasing the need for energy production, which often involves burning fossil fuels. Reducing energy consumption in this way can significantly lower carbon emissions, contributing to environmental conservation and the fight against climate change.


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Question: A student rubbed a plastic rod with a cloth. The rod became negatively charged and the cloth became positively charged. Explain why the cloth became positively charged.

Answer: The cloth became positively charged because electrons were transferred from the cloth to the plastic rod during the rubbing process.

Explanation: When different materials come into close contact, electrons can be transferred from one material to the other. In this case, rubbing the plastic rod with the cloth causes electrons to move from the cloth to the plastic rod, leaving the rod with an excess of electrons (negatively charged) and the cloth with a deficit of electrons (positively charged). This transfer is due to the difference in the ability of the materials to hold onto their electrons, a property known as the triboelectric effect.

Question: A negatively charged rod is held near an earthed conductor. Explain why a spark jumps between the negatively charged rod and the earthed conductor.

Answer: A spark jumps between the negatively charged rod and the earthed conductor because the negative charge on the rod induces a positive charge on the nearest side of the conductor, leading to a discharge.

Explanation: The presence of a negatively charged rod near an earthed conductor causes the free electrons in the conductor to be repelled away from the area closest to the rod, leaving the area nearest the rod positively charged. This creates a strong electric field between the negatively charged rod and the positively charged area of the conductor. If the electric field is strong enough to overcome the air resistance between the rod and the conductor, a spark—a rapid movement of electrons—occurs to neutralize the charge difference. This discharge equalizes the potential difference between the rod and the conductor, momentarily creating a conductive pathway through the air.

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