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S276 Geology

Are you ready for S276?

Contents

1

Introduction

1

2

Suggested prior study

2

3

Key concepts introduced in recommended prior courses and further developed in S276

2

4

Concepts that are desirable, but NOT essential, for S276

3

5

Self-assessment test of key concepts

4

5.1

Further reading and revision for key concepts

7

6

Mathematical skills and concepts

8

7

Self-assessment test of mathematical skills and concepts

8

7.1

Further reading/revision for mathematics

10

8

Other skills

11

8.1

Further reading/revision for other skills

11

9

Answers to self-assessment questions

11

1

Introduction

to self-assessment questions 11 1 Introduction If you intend to study Geology (S276) , enjoy the

If you intend to study Geology (S276), enjoy the course fully and give yourself the best possible chance of completing it successfully, you should make sure beforehand that you have the necessary background knowledge and skills to give you a sound platform from which to tackle this work. This is especially important if you haven’t studied any of the recommended courses listed in Section 2.

Even if you have already successfully studied the suggested Open University (OU) courses, please read through this document carefully and work through the self-assessment tests: working through this material will remind you of the knowledge, skills and concepts that it is assumed S276 students will bring with them when they begin the course, and on which they will build.

If you have not studied with The Open University before or if after working through this material you are still not sure whether S276 is the right course for you, then we recommend you contact an advisor to discuss your plans.

In Sections 5, 7 and 8 of this document we have suggested sources of further reading that should help you to fill any gaps, or revise areas of weakness, in your knowledge and skills in readiness for studying this geology course.

Copyright © 2009 The Open University

WEB 01412 2

1.1

2

Suggested prior study

Geology (S276) is one of the core 30-point courses of the Geosciences programme. If you have followed the suggested study route for this programme you will already have completed:

Exploring science (S104) or its predecessor Discovering science (S103).

Both these Level 1 courses give a broad and integrated view of the whole of science, including some core Earth sciences concepts that you will need to understand before you start S276.

If you are not following this route, perhaps because you already have some science background but want to extend your knowledge of Earth sciences, then you should check that you understand the Earth sciences concepts that are introduced in S104 by working through Section 5 of this document. Even if you have studied S104, this would be useful revision.

The following courses also give you some useful background information for S276, but do not cover all the concepts that you need to know before you start

S276:

Science starts here (S154) – this course introduces you to basic scientific concepts and to the skills needed to study successfully with the OU.

Science short courses – these give you an opportunity to try out an area of study before you commit yourself to a longer course. Some that are particularly relevant to Earth sciences are:

Introducing environment (Y161) – this is a suitable course for beginners with little previous scientific knowledge, who may need to develop their general study skills.

Practising science (SXR103) – this course gives you practical experience and is usually taken at the same time as, or following, Exploring science (S104).

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Key concepts introduced in recommended prior courses and further developed in S276

The rock cycle (S104 Book 2: Chapter 10; Book 6: Chapters 4 and 6; SXR103 Study Book:

Section 2.8)

Igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks: identification of these three major groups, processes of formation and characteristics (S104 Book 2: Chapter 5; Book 6: Chapters 4, 5 and 6; SXR103 Study Book)

Weathering and erosion processes: chemical and physical (S104 Book 1: Chapter 7; Book 2: Chapters 5 and 10; Book 6: Chapter 5)

Tectonics: the concept of crustal movements, folding and faulting of the crust (S104 Book 2: Chapters 8, 9 and 10; Book 6: Chapters 4 and 6)

Plate tectonics: processes at constructive, destructive and conservative plate margins (S104 Book 6: Chapter 4)

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Making simple observations of rock samples and interpreting these in terms of geological processes (S104 Book 2; SXR103 Study Book and Activity A)

Geological time; the stratigraphic column and geological timescale (S104 Book 6: Chapter 2)

Relative dating and the difference between relative and absolute ages (S104 Book 6: Chapter 2)

Familiarity with chemical symbols and formulae (S154 Chapter 6; S104 Book 4)

Using graphs, maps and diagrams to show information or illustrate ideas and processes (S104 Book 2: Chapter 3; S154 Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 7; SXR103 Study Book)

Recognising areas of different rocks on a geological map, using the key (S104 Book 6: Chapter 7)

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Concepts that are desirable, but NOT essential, for S276

There are a number of concepts that you may have come across before, especially if you have studied Exploring science (S104). If you are familiar with any of the following you will find it helpful, but you will be able to study the course without any prior knowledge of these concepts as they are explained in the course materials.

From S104 Book 2

the nature of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions

the structure of the Earth’s interior.

From S104 Book 5

the broad course of biological evolution

the binomial system of naming species and the way in which species can be classified.

From S104 Book 6

development of different magmas through partial melting and fractional crystallisation, and in relation to their tectonic setting

magma crystallisation: processes, temperature/depth relationships and order of mineral crystallisation

distribution of silicate minerals in crustal rocks

radiometric dating

subdivision of igneous rocks according to their grain size and their mineral and chemical compositions

the effects of tensional and compression forces on rocks

the main sedimentary processes operating at the Earth’s surface, i.e. the action of physical and chemical weathering, and the conditions that result in erosion, transportation and deposition of sedimentary material

indications of the environment of formation of sedimentary rocks from grain- size distribution, sedimentary structures and mineral composition

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subdivision of sedimentary rocks according to grain size

fossils: identification of common groups, and fundamental differences in body plans

key events in the history of life, e.g. mass extinctions and evolutionary radiations

the use of fossils and relationships between bodies of rock (i.e. strata, igneous intrusions) and geological structures in establishing a relative geological timescale.

5

Self-assessment test of key concepts

Try to answer the following self-assessment questions (the answers are given in Section 9 of this document). This will help you to judge your level of knowledge of some of the key concepts listed above. We’ve included a score sheet in the answers section where you can note down your own assessment of how well you demonstrated your understanding.

Question 1

What is the rock cycle? Describe the essential processes that link the different stages in the cycle.

Question 2

Which of these terms could you use to describe rock texture?

crystalline

light

sharp

coarse grained

dark

rough

fragmental

scratchy

aligned

thick

banded

heavy

dense

jagged

smooth

random orientation

Question 3

How are igneous rocks formed? Describe their texture and explain the significance of grain size.

Question 4

How are sedimentary rocks formed? Describe their texture and name a few common examples.

Question 5

How are metamorphic rocks formed? Describe their texture.

Question 6

What are subduction zones? Describe the kinds of geological activity that are associated with these zones.

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Question 7

What is the stratigraphic column?

Question 8

Name the three Eras of geological time following the Precambrian.

Question 9

What is meant by weathering and what part does this play in the rock cycle? What are the essential differences between chemical and physical weathering processes?

Question 10

Figures 1 and 2 show two geological cross-sections.

(a)

Which of these geological cross-sections shows an example of a fault produced by compression? What type of tectonic force produced the fault in the other cross-section?

(b)

What type of fault is shown in Figure 1 and what type of fault is shown in Figure 2? In each case, state whether the rock section is shortened or lengthened.

Key
Key

limestone

sandstone

mudstone

conglomerate

Figure 1 Geological cross-section for use with Question 10.

Figure 1 Geological cross-section for use with Question 10. Key limestone sandstone mudstone conglomerate Figure 2
Figure 1 Geological cross-section for use with Question 10. Key limestone sandstone mudstone conglomerate Figure 2

Key

limestone1 Geological cross-section for use with Question 10. Key sandstone mudstone conglomerate Figure 2 Geological

sandstonecross-section for use with Question 10. Key limestone mudstone conglomerate Figure 2 Geological cross-section for

mudstonefor use with Question 10. Key limestone sandstone conglomerate Figure 2 Geological cross-section for use with

conglomeratefor use with Question 10. Key limestone sandstone mudstone Figure 2 Geological cross-section for use with

Figure 2 Geological cross-section for use with Question 10.

Question 11

Question 12

A

specimen of rock is made up of mud and silt with occasional whole fossil shells

of

organisms that lived on the seabed. Explain what you can deduce about the

energy of the environment where this rock formed.

Question 13

Figure 3 shows an exposure of sedimentary rocks. Assuming that they have not been overturned, which of the two rock units is the younger – the upper or lower rock unit? Explain your answer.

– the upper or lower rock unit? Explain your answer. Figure 3 Students examining an exposure

Figure 3 Students examining an exposure of sedimentary rocks. For use with Question 13.

Question 14

Figure 4 shows an exposure of rocks on a seashore. The dark-coloured sedimentary strata have been intruded by a lighter-coloured igneous rock. Which

is older, the sedimentary rock or the igneous rock? Explain your answer.

sedimentary rock or the igneous rock? Explain your answer. Figure 4 An exposure of rocks on

Figure 4 An exposure of rocks on a seashore. For use with Question 14.

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Question 15

What type of dating is being used in Questions 13 and 14? What type of dating could you use to get a more accurate age for the igneous rock in Question 14? Briefly describe the principle underlying this second method of dating.

Question 16

Complete the following table of common chemical elements and their chemical symbols.

Element

Symbol

Al

 

C

 
 

sodium

Si

 
 

calcium

 

oxygen

 

sulfur

Fe

 
 

magnesium

5.1 Further reading and revision for key concepts

Open University courses

Exploring science (S104):

Book 2: Earth and Space Book 6: Exploring Earth’s History

Science short courses:

Volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis (S186) Fossils and the history of life (S193)

Natural History Museum publications (available from their online bookshop)

Van Rose, S. and Mercer, I. (1999) Volcanoes (2nd edn), The Natural History Museum, ISBN 0 565 09138 7.

Edwards, K. and Rosen, B. (2004) From the Beginning (revised reprint), The Natural History Museum, ISBN 0 565 09142 5.

Earthwise publications (available from the British Geological Survey online bookshop

Van Rose, S. (1997) Earthquakes – our trembling planet, ISBN 0852722877.

Rigby, R. (1997) Fossils: the story of life, British Geological Survey, ISBN 0852722842.

Teach yourself books (available from Hodder Education)

Rothery, D. (2008) Teach Yourself Geology (3rd edn), Hodder Education, ISBN 0 340 958790.

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Rothery, D. (2007) Teach Yourself Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis, Hodder Education, ISBN 0 340 94241X.

Other books

Edmonds, E. (1983) The Geological Map: an anatomy of the landscape, HMSO, ISBN 0118807218.

Edwards, D. and King, C. (1999) Geoscience: understanding geological processes (2nd edn), Hodder Education, ISBN 0 340 688432.

6 Mathematical skills and concepts

If you are to study S276 effectively you should possess simple mathematical skills and understand some mathematical concepts. You should be able to:

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carry out calculations using addition, subtraction, division and multiplication

use a scientific calculator

manipulate large and small numbers using powers of ten (S154 Chapter 2 and Chapter 9; S104 Book 2: Chapter 13)

use scientific notation (S104 Book 1: Chapter 3)

carry out simple unit conversions (e.g. mm to m, m to km)

manipulate equations to make an unknown term the subject

plot graphs choosing appropriate scales and axes; interpret graphs correctly. Plot a graph and draw a best-fit line, and use it to interpret the data. Understand the concepts of interpolation and extrapolation.

express quantities as ratios, fractions or percentages and to the correct number of significant figures

calculate areas or volumes using given formulae, e.g. the volume of a

sphere, V =

correctly.

4

3

π

r

2 where r is the radius of the sphere, and use the units

Self-assessment test of mathematical skills and concepts

Try to answer the following questions to check your understanding of the mathematics needed to study S276.

Question 17

Use your calculator to evaluate the following:

(a)

(b)

6998 – 993 (8 + 6) × (5–2)

(c)

a

X 100% , where a = 15 and b = 81. Find X and express its value to

b

three significant figures.

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Question 18

Calculate the volumes of the following rectangular blocks to two significant figures:

(a)

(b)

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2.0 m × 8.0 cm × 9.0 mm (give the answer in cm ).

87 cm × 9.0 cm × 8.0 m (give the answer in m 3 ).

Question 19

In the answer to Question 18, scientific notation is mentioned as being a better and less-ambiguous way of expressing numbers. Check your understanding of this form of notation by completing the following table.

Number

Number in scientific notation

 

3.2 × 10 3

143

 
 

7 × 10 3

10

 

Question 20

Scientists use SI unit prefixes as an alternative way of representing multiplying factors, for example ‘kilo’ as in kilogram (kg) or kilometre (km) means × 1000 or

× 10 3 , i.e. 1 kilogram = 1000 grams (10 3 gm) and 1 kilometre = 1000 metres (10 3 m).

What multiplying factors do the SI unit prefixes in the following table represent? Show these factors in ordinary and scientific notation. What are their symbols?

Prefix

Multiplying factor

Symbol

 

Ordinary notation

Scientific notation

 

giga

     

mega

     

milli

     

micro

     

nano

     

Question 21

Express the volume of the planet Mars (which is 1.64 × 10 11 km 3 ) in scientific notation in m 3 .

Question 22

When you need to use an equation to find an unknown quantity it is useful to be able to manipulate the equation to make the unknown term the subject.

(a) Rearrange the equation ρ =

m

V

so that you could calculate the mass (m) of a

rock if you knew the volume (V) and the density (ρ).

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(b)

Rearrange v =

s

µ ρ
µ
ρ

Question 23

so that µ is the subject.

When you carry out a calculation you also need to be able to give the answer with the correct units.

In the equation

in kg, what are the units of density (ρ)?

m

V

ρ =

3

, if the volume (V) is given in m and the mass (m) is given

Question 24

This question deals with some of the conventions and skills associated with using graphs.

(a)

If the scale on the vertical axis (y-axis) is temperature in degrees Celsius, how would you write this?

(b)

How would you calculate the gradient of a straight-line graph?

(c)

Figure 5 shows the travel time of a seismic wave from its origin to a point on the Earth’s surface, plotted against distance from the earthquake’s epicentre.

(i)

Which of these quantities is the independent variable?

(ii)

How long does it take for the seismic wave to travel 150 km?

(iii)

Why does the line of the graph not go exactly through all three points?

40 30 20 10 0 100 200 travel time after earthquake occurred/s
40
30
20
10
0
100
200
travel time after earthquake occurred/s

distance from epicentre/km

Figure 5 Travel time of a seismic wave. For use with Question 24.

7.1 Further reading/revision for mathematics

Open University courses Science starts here (S154) and Exploring science (S104) should have given you all the grounding that you need to begin S276, but if you have not planned to include these courses in your degree profile, or you would like to brush up your maths skills, you might want to take the Science short

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course Maths for science (S151), especially if you have some time to spare before starting Geology (S276). (Alternatively, you might prefer to study one of the other science short courses.)

8 Other skills

Basic study skills

You should be able to:

organise your time for study, remembering that a 30 point course involves around 300 hours of study

pace your study, in particular making sure that you have done the relevant work in time to attempt assignments and submit them in good time for the cut-off date

read effectively, understanding concepts that are explained to you, summarising what you have read, extracting information from tables and diagrams, and extracting relevant information and data from scientific texts and accounts.

Writing skills

You should be able to:

write clear, concise and coherently structured answers with appropriate diagrams

describe, contrast and compare information and discuss and interpret information on a given topic.

Elementary practical geology

It is desirable for you to have had some practice of observing and describing

simple geological hand specimens and to be aware of how geological information

is presented in maps and cross-sections.

8.1 Further reading/revision for other skills

Northedge, A., Thomas, J., Lane, A. and Peasgood, A (1997) The Sciences Good Study Guide, Open University Worldwide, ISBN 0749234113.

9 Answers to self-assessment questions

A ‘score sheet’ is included at the end of this section so that you can record how

well you did. This should help you to decide if you are ready for Geology (S276).

Question 1

The rock cycle is the process by which rocks are continuously formed and destroyed.

Rocks exposed at the Earth’s surface are subjected to the processes of weathering and erosion. The particles formed are transported and deposited as sediments, which may be compacted and subjected to high temperatures and pressures so that metamorphic rocks are formed. Ultimately, partial melting of deeply buried rocks may occur and the resulting magma may then erupt at the surface or be intruded into the crust.

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Weathering and erosion of surface rocks will eventually expose buried sediments, intrusive igneous rocks and metamorphic rocks at the surface, where they will be subjected to weathering and erosion.

Question 2

Rock texture is the fabric of the rock. The terms that can be used to describe rock texture are highlighted:

crystalline light sharp coarse grained dark rough fragmental scratchy aligned thick banded heavy dense jagged
crystalline
light
sharp
coarse grained
dark
rough
fragmental
scratchy
aligned
thick
banded
heavy
dense
jagged
smooth

The other terms do not describe texture: ‘dark’ and ‘light’ refer to colour; ‘dense’, ‘thick’ or ‘heavy’ are linked to the mass or size of a rock specimen; ‘rough’, ‘jagged’, ‘smooth’, ‘sharp’ and ‘scratchy’ are words you could use to describe the feel of a rock specimen – but note this is not what is meant by its texture!

Only the words crystalline, course grained, fragmental, aligned, banded and random orientation describe the rock texture.

Question 3

Igneous rocks are formed by the cooling and crystallisation of magma. They are usually characterised by an interlocking crystalline texture in which the crystals are randomly arranged. Intrusive igneous rocks are usually coarser grained than extrusive igneous rocks. The main reason for this is that molten magma cools and crystallises more slowly at depth, giving crystals time to grow, since it is insulated by surrounding rock. When molten magma is erupted as lava, it cools and crystallises more rapidly because of contact with air or water; this means that crystals have less time to grow and cannot reach a large size.

Question 4

Sedimentary rocks are formed when sediments that have been deposited at the Earth’s surface undergo processes such as burial, compaction and cementation (or lithification). Sedimentary rocks usually (but not always) have a fragmental texture, with individual grains cemented together. Common examples of sedimentary rocks are sandstone, mudstone and limestone.

Question 5

Metamorphic rocks can be derived from sedimentary or igneous rocks, or from pre-existing metamorphic rocks. They are rocks that have had their texture and/or mineralogy changed by the action of heat and/or pressure, whilst their chemical composition stayed the same and the rocks remained in a solid state. They have an interlocking crystalline texture and often display some form of mineral alignment or banding.

Question 6

associated with earthquakes (shallow to deep focus) and also with volcanic activity at an island arc or Andes-type mountain belt.

Question 7

The stratigraphic column is a diagrammatic representation of geological time units that results from stacking them vertically, with the oldest at the base overlain by successively younger units.

Question 8

From oldest to youngest, the three geological Eras after the Precambrian are:

Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic.

Question 9

Weathering describes the action by wind, rain and frost that slowly breaks down rocks at the Earth’s surface, producing grains of sediment and ions in solution. Physical (or mechanical) weathering describes the physical action of wind, rain, ice and extremes in temperature that breaks rocks into small fragments. Chemical weathering processes are caused by the action of chemical elements dissolved in water and present in the atmosphere, and also the chemical action of plant roots, microbes and other living organisms in the soil. These processes act on the rock fragments produced by physical weathering processes.

Question 10

(a)

The fault in Figure 1 has been produced by compression and that in Figure 2 by tension.

(b)

Figure 1 shows a reverse fault and the overall effect is to shorten the section of rock. The normal, extensional fault in Figure 2 has lengthened the section of rock.

Question 11

The transporting medium must have a relatively high energy to transport large grains.

Question 12

Because the sediment is fine grained, it has been deposited in a low-energy environment. This is supported by the fact that fossil shells have stayed whole: in a higher-energy environment they would usually have been broken into fragments.

Question 13

According to the principle of superposition, the older beds will be those that are lower down.

Question 14

Question 15

The type of dating used in Questions 13 and 14 is known as relative dating because it considers the relative ages of the rocks concerned rather than their actual dates of formation.

The type of dating that could be used to get a more ACCURATE date for the igneous rock in Question 14 is known as absolute dating and uses radiometric dates calculated from a knowledge of radioactive decay half-lives and the ratio of measured abundances of radioactive isotopes to their decay products.

Question 16

This is the complete table:

Element

Symbol

Al

aluminium

C

carbon

Na

sodium

Si

silicon

Ca

calcium

O

oxygen

S

sulfur

Fe

iron

Mg

magnesium

Your score

How do you think you did? It pays to be honest with yourself! Remember that the questions were testing concepts and knowledge that you should already have before starting S276 if you are to enjoy the course and have a good chance of completing it successfully.

Question

I answered this well

I need to revise this

I didn’t do well on this

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2

     

3

     

4

     

5

     

6

     

7

     

8

     

9

     

10

     

11

     

12

     

13

     

14

     

15

     

16

     

14

Question 17

(a)

(b)

6005

42

since 8 + 6 = 14, 5 – 2 = 3 and 14 × 3 = 42.

(c) X = 18.5%

since X =

15

× 100% = 0.1852 × 100%

81

= 18.52% = 18.5% (to three significant figures).

Question 18

(a)

1400 cm 3

since (200 cm × 8.0 cm × 0.90 cm) = 1440 cm 3 , which is 1400 cm 3 to two significant figures.

Note: this is an ambiguous way of writing this quantity because it doesn’t indicate whether or not the final zeros are significant. It is better to write it in

scientific notation as 1.4

×

10

3

cm

3

.

(b) 0.63 m 3

since (0.87 m × 0.09 m × 8.0 m) = 0.6264 m 3 which is 0.63 m 3 when rounded up to two significant figures.

Note: the zero before the decimal point is not regarded as a significant figure. This could alternatively be written in scientific notation as 6.3 × 10 1 m .

3

Question 19

Number

Number in scientific notation

3200

3.2 × 10 3

143

1.43 × 10 2

0.007

7 × 10 3

10

1 × 10 1

Question 20

Prefix

 

Multiplying factor

 

Symbol

 

Ordinary notation

Scientific notation

 

giga

10

9

1000 000 000

G

mega

10

6

1000 000

M

milli

10

3

0.001

m

micro

10

6

0.000

001

µ

nano

10

9

0.000

000 001

n

15

Question 21

1 km = 10 3 m, so 1 km 3 = (10 3 ) 3 m 3 = 10 9 m 3 .

Volume of Mars = 1.64

×

10

11

km

3

= 1.64 × 10 11 × 10 9 m

Question 22

= 1.64 × 10 20 m .

3

3

(a)

(b)

The first step is to multiply both sides by V. This gives

mV

ρ

V

ρV = m

µ

=

2

v s

V =

Cancelling V on the right-hand side gives

µ ρ
µ
ρ

= v s

The equation can be written as

Start by squaring both sides, which gives:

ρ

Now multiply both sides by ρ to give µ = v

2

s

ρ.

Question 23

You can carry out a calculation with units in exactly the same way as with numbers and this can often be a useful check that you’ve used the right equation, or rearranged it correctly.

Start by substituting the units into the equation ρ =

This gives ρ =

m

kg

.

V

m 2

which is conventionally written as kg m 3 .

So the units of density are kg m 3 .

Question 24

(a)

Conventionally this is written as temperature/°C

(b)

The gradient of a straight-line graph is calculated by dividing the ‘rise’ by the ‘run’:

y 2 y 1

x 2 x 1

Where y relates to the y-axis and x relates to the x-axis.

(c)

(i)

Distance from the epicentre is the independent variable.

(ii)

28.5 s

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(iii) The line is the straight line that best fits all of the data plotted. The points plotted show that although the wave has travelled at a fairly constant speed (hence an almost straight-line graph), at certain times the seismic wave has travelled slightly faster or slightly slower than the mean, i.e. at

25

seconds it has travelled slightly further than expected and at

35

seconds it has travelled slightly less far than expected.

Your score

How do you think you did? Again, remember that it pays to be honest with yourself and if you want more advice you should contact an advisor at your Regional Centre.

Question

I answered this well

I need to revise this

I didn’t do well on this

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