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International Baccalaureate Physics 4/PSOW

To Show Errors in Experiments by Measuring the Density of a

Microscope Slide with 2 different Sets of Instruments.
Aim: IB Criteria Assessed
All experiments are done with measuring instruments. No instrument is Data Collection,
perfectly accurate - they all have limits to their accuracy. It is important Data Processing
that you realise that no experiments give perfect, exact answers. To Criteria Aspect Level
illustrate this you are going to measure the density of a slide with: assessed 1 2 3 awarded
Pl (a)
1. a precision electronic balance, and a Vernier gauge.
2. then with a lever arm balance and a metre rule. Pl (b)
From these 2 sets of measurements you will calculate the density of the
slide. One of the experiments is more accurate than the other, but both
are imprecise. From now on, all your experimental results will include CE
the uncertainties associated with the measuring apparatus used. (and
for HL student, a calculation of ± error in the readings and in the final

Vernier, metre rule, microscope slide, electronic scale, lever arm balance.

1. Measure the mass of the slide on both the precise and less precise scale.
2. Measure the length, breadth and thickness of the slide with the vernier and then the metre rule.
3. Write all of your measurements in a suitable table of results with a ± uncertainty at the top of each

Theory: mass
density =
Calculate density using the readings from the metre rule and less precise balance. Repeat this with the
readings from the precise scale and the vernier. Compare the precision of these two results.

SL Students: Calculate the maximum and the minimum possible value for the density of the slide
based upon the precision of the two sets of apparatus.

HL Students: Using the uncertainty in the readings, calculate the largest and smallest possible values
for the density of the slide. In both cases produce an answer for the density of the slide in the form:

Density = ***** g cm-3 ± ** g cm-3

Density = ***** g cm-3 ± ** %

All measuring instruments have limits to their accuracies but you can make them less accurate by not
using them carefully. It is important that :
(a) the balances are at zero before the slide is put on them.
(b) you put the slide on the balance; don’t drop it on them.
(c) the metre rule is not worn away at one end.

In all your future experiments you should always be aware of the importance of using your measuring
instruments as accurately as possible.

© 2006 - Mike Dickinson 8266771.doc

International Baccalaureate Physics 4/PSOW

Internal Assessment Marking Form

Crit. Aspects Level Grade
Research Question: Hypothesis: Variables: ccc 3
c. Identifies a focused c. Relates the hypothesis or c. Selects the ccp 2
problem or research prediction directly to the relevant ccn 2
question. research question and independent cpp 2
p. States the problem or explains it, quantitatively and controlled ppp 1
research question, but it where appropriate. variable(s). cpn 1
is unclear or incomplete. p. States the hypothesis or p. Selects some cnn 1
n. Does not state the prediction but does not relevant ppn 1
problem or research explain it. variables. pnn 0
question or repeats the n. Does not state a n. Does not select nnn 0
general aim provided by hypothesis or prediction. any relevant
the teacher. variables.
Materials / Control of Variables: Collecting Data: ccc 3
Apparatus: c. Describes a method c. Describes a method that ccp 2
c. Selects appropriate that allows for the allows for the collection ccn 2
apparatus or control of the of sufficient relevant cpp 2
materials. variables. data. ppp 1
p. Selects some p. Describes a method p. Describes a method that cpn 1
Pl(b) appropriate that makes some allows for the collection cnn 1
apparatus or attempt to control the of insufficient relevant ppn 1
materials. variables. data. pnn 0
n. Does not select n. Describes a method n. Describes a method that nnn 0
any apparatus or that does not allow for does not allow any
materials. the control of the relevant data to be
variables. collected.
Collecting / Recording Raw Data: Organising / Presenting Raw cc 3
c. Records appropriate raw data (qualitative Data: cp 2
and/or quantitative), including units and c. Presents raw data clearly, cn 1
uncertainties where necessary. allowing for easy pp 1
DC p. Records some appropriate raw data. interpretation. pn 0
n. Does not record any appropriate raw data. p. Presents raw data but does not nn 0
Aspect 1 includes units, uncertainties, allow for easy interpretation.
significant digits n. Does not present raw data or
presents it incomprehensibly.
Processing Raw Data: Presenting Processed Data: cc 3
c. Processes the raw c. Presents processed data appropriately, helping cp 2
data correctly. interpretation and, where relevant, takes into cn 1
p. Some raw data is account errors and uncertainties. pp 1
processed correctly. p. Presents processed data appropriately but with some pn 0
n. No processing of raw errors and/or omissions. nn 0
data is carried out or n. Presents processed data inappropriately or
major errors are made incomprehensibly
in processing. Aspect 2 includes uncertainty bars, max / min slopes
(HL), axes with labels and units, best fit line drawn
Drawing Conclusions: Evaluating procedure(s) Improving the ccc 3
c. Gives a valid and results: investigation: ccp 2
conclusion, based on the c. Evaluates procedure(s) c. Identifies ccn 2
correct interpretation of and results including weaknesses and cpp 2
the results, with an limitations, states realistic ppp 1
explanation and, where weaknesses or errors. suggestions to cpn 1
CE appropriate, compares p. Evaluates procedure(s) improve the cnn 1
results with literature and results but misses investigation. ppn 1
values. some obvious p. Suggests only pnn 0
p. States a conclusion that limitations or errors. simplistic nnn 0
has some validity. n. The evaluation is improvements.
n. Draws a conclusion that superficial or n. Suggests unrealistic
misinterprets the results. irrelevant. improvements.

© 2006 - Mike Dickinson 8266771.doc