Revision Notes

1.1.1 Measurement

Distance & Volume

  • Rulers can be used to measure small distances of a few cm. They are able to measure to the nearest mm


Distance & Volume ruler, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

A ruler can measure small distances to the nearest mm

  • When measuring larger distances (of a few metres) a tape measure is more appropriate or, when measuring even larger distances, a trundle wheel


trundle-wheel, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

Trundle wheels can be used to measure large distances

  • Measuring cylinders can be used to measure the volume of liquids or, by measuring the change in volume, the volume of an irregular shape


Distance & Volume worked example, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

Measuring cylinders can be used to determine the volume of a liquid or an irregular shaped solid

Extended Only

Micrometer Screw Gauge

  • When measuring very small distances (less than a centimetre) a micrometer is the most appropriate instrument

Micrometer, IGCSE & GCSE Physics revision notes

Micrometers can be used to measure very small distances


  • Micrometers can measure distances to the nearest 1/100th of a mm


  • Stop-clocks and stopwatches can be used to measure time intervals
  • An important factor when measuring time intervals is human reaction time. This can have a significant impact upon measurements when the measurements involved are very short (less than a second)


Multiple Readings

  • Suppose you have to measure the thickness of a sheet of paper. The thing that you are trying to measure is so small that it would be very difficult to get an accurate answer
  • If, however, you measure the thickness of 100 sheets of paper you can do so much more accurately. Dividing your answer by 100 will then give an accurate figure for the thickness of one sheet
  • This process of taking a reading of a large number of values and then dividing by the number, is a good way of getting accurate values for small figures, including (for example) the time period of a pendulum – measure the time taken for 10 swings and then divide that time by 10

Author: Jenna

Jenna studied at Cardiff University before training to become a science teacher at the University of Bath specialising in Biology (although she loves teaching all three sciences at GCSE level!). Teaching is her passion, and with 10 years experience teaching across a wide range of specifications – from GCSE and A Level Biology in the UK to IGCSE and IB Biology internationally – she knows what is required to pass those Biology exams.

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