AQA A Level Physics

Revision Notes

4.3.3 SUVAT Equations

SUVAT Equations

  • The SUVAT equations are the equations of motion used for objects in constant acceleration
  • They contain the following variables:
    • s  = displacement (m)
    • u = initial velocity (m s-1)
    • v = final velocity (m s-1)
    • a = acceleration (m s-2)
    • t = time (s)
  • The 4 SUVAT equations are:

SUVAT Equations, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

  • These are all given on the data sheet
  • All the variables, apart from time t, are vector quantities
    • This means they can either be positive or negative depending on their direction

How to Use the SUVAT Equations

  • Step 1: Write out the variables that are given in the question, both known and unknown, and use the context of the question to deduce any quantities that aren’t explicitly given
    • e.g. for vertical motion a = ± 9.81 m s–2, an object which starts or finishes at rest will have u = 0 or v = 0
  • Step 2: Choose the equation which contains the quantities you have listed
    • e.g. the equation that links s, u, a and t is s = ut + ½at2
  • Step 3: Convert any units to SI units and then insert the quantities into the equation and rearrange algebraically to determine the answer

Worked Example

The diagram shows an arrangement to stop trains that are travelling too fast.

SUVAT Problems Worked Example (1), downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

At marker 1, the driver must apply the brakes so that the train decelerates uniformly in order to pass marker 2 at no more than 10 m s–1.

The train carries a detector that notes the times when the train passes each marker and will apply an emergency brake if the time between passing marker 1 and marker 2 is less than
20 s.

Trains coming from the left travel at a speed of 50 m s–1.

Determine how far marker 1 should be placed from marker 2.

SUVAT Problems Worked Example (2), downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Exam Tip

  • This is arguably the most important section of this topic, you can always be sure there will be one, or more, questions in the exam about solving problems with SUVAT equations
  • The best way to master this section is to practice as many questions as possible

Some top tips for these type of questions:

  • Look out for key terms such as:
    • ‘Starts from rest’, or if the initial velocity is not mentioned, this means u = 0
    • If an object is only ‘falling due to gravity’ then a = g = 9.81 m s-2
  • It doesn’t matter which way is positive or negative for the scenario, as long as it is consistent for all the vector quantities
    • For example, if downwards is negative then for a ball travelling upwards, s must be positive and a must be negative

Author: Ashika

Ashika graduated with a first-class Physics degree from Manchester University and, having worked as a software engineer, focused on Physics education, creating engaging content to help students across all levels. Now an experienced GCSE and A Level Physics and Maths tutor, Ashika helps to grow and improve our Physics resources.
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