Every Van Must Run Smoothly

One of the great things about being a private tutor is that I get to see very mixed ability children from a range of schools. These children all bring with them different experience together with tips and tricks from their teachers. I am then able to pass on these tips and tricks to other children.

So, what does Every Van Must Run Smoothly actually mean, and why do I want my science students to remember it? It is a failsafe way to remember how to write up the big six mark questions when you are asked to design an experiment for yourself, or to write up a practical that you have carried out in class.

Every Van Must Run Smoothly is a way to remember EVMRS. This translates to equipment, variables, method, results and safety. Let’s examine these in turn.

Equipment – clearly list out everything you need to use. It’s not enough to say you need to heat something, you must clarify what with. A water bath or a Bunsen burner? Do you need test tubes or boiling tubes? Calculating a density? You will measure the mass but what with?

Variables – clearly state the three types of variables. Independent – the one you set. Dependent – the one you measure. Control – the ones you keep the same.

Method – say what you are going to do. Write it out in a way that someone else could pick up your method and do it for themselves. For example, to measure the volume of the pebble, fill the 100cm3 measuring cylinder to 50cm3 with water, drop in the pebble and measure the increase in volume.

Results – write down what it is you need to record and how you display the results. For example, every time the current is changed using the variable resistor, record the current displayed on the ammeter and the potential difference displayed on the voltmeter. Draw a graph with the current on the y axis and the voltage on the x axis.

Safety – always mention a point of health and safety, and if you simply can’t think of anything to say, at least write something basic like wear a labcoat and safety goggles.

Following these five specific points is enough to get 6/6 on the big experimental questions, providing you write out your answer in beautiful English prose, of course. Remembering Every Van Must Run Smoothly should lead to your exam paper running smoothly as well.