Maths questions

Maths questions often start with the command words 'calculate' or 'determine'. They will then have a blank space for you to show your working. It is important that you show your working, don't just write the answer down. You might earn marks for your working even if you get the answer incorrect.

Some maths questions might ask you to 'show that' something is true. These questions often require you to prove something mathematically. For example, you might have to calculate two values and then compare them.

In some maths questions you will be required to give the units. This may earn you an additional mark. Don't forget to check whether you need to do this.

Maths questions might include graphs and tables as well as calculations. Don't forget to take a ruler and calculator.

If drawing graphs, make sure you:

  1. put the independent variable on the x-axis and the dependent variable on the y-axis
  2. construct regular scales for the axes
  3. label the axes appropriately
  4. plot each point accurately
  5. draw a straight or curved line of best fit (you can use a special best fit line ruler to help with this)

If you are asked to calculate an answer and it has lots of significant figures, you should try to round it to the same number of significant figures you were given in the data in the question. Don't forget to check your rounding.

Edexcel questions courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.

Sample question 1 - Higher


A light wave from a star has a frequency of 6.67 × 1014 Hz and a wavelength of 4.50 × 10−7 m. The star is 4.00 × 1016 m away from Earth.

Calculate the time it takes light from the star to reach the Earth. [3 marks]

Remember to show all your working.

Recall an equation which links frequency and wavelength:

velocity = frequency x wavelength

Calculate: v = 6.67 \times 10^{14} \times 4.50 \times 10^{-7}

= 3.00 \times \frac{10^{8} ~m}{s} [1]

Then recall an equation that links velocity, distance and time:

velocity = distance ÷ time

Rearrange this to give:

time = distance ÷ velocity

t = \frac{4.00 \times 10^{16}}{3.00 \times 10^{8}} [1]

= 1.33 x 108 s [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


An earthquake causes a sea wave. This sea wave travels 26,400 m in two minutes.

Calculate the speed of the wave. [3 marks]

Use the equation: wave~speed = \frac{distance}{time}

wave~speed = \frac{26,400}{2 \times 60} [2]

= 220 m/s [1]

Remember you must convert time into seconds.