Errors in Experiments: Science Practicals

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A series of free GCSE/IGCSE Science Notes and Lessons.

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Errors in Science Experiments

In a science experiment, we will often have the following variables:

Independent Variable: what you change.
Dependent Variable: what you observe changing.
Controls: what you keep the same to ensure a fair test.

What are the errors and uncertainties in making measurements?

The following are some of the types of errors that can occur in an experiment.

Resolution: the smallest change that can be measured by a piece of equipment.
The uncertainty in a reading is usually the same as the resolution of the equipment used.

Error: the difference between the measured value (reading) and the true value.
Random Error: an error caused by factors that vary between readings (e.g. reaction time).

Uncertainty in a mean = range/2

Parallax Error: error that can be cause by observing apparatus at an angle.
Systematic Error: an error that causes every reading to be different from their true values by the same amount.
Zero Error: a systematic error caused by equipment not being calibrated or ‘zeroed’ before measuring.

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