Edexcel A Level Physics

Revision Notes

2.15 Moments

Test Yourself

Calculating the Moment of a Force

  • A moment is the turning effect of a force
  • Moments occur when forces cause objects to rotate about some pivot
  • The moment of a force is given by

               Moment (N m) = Force (N) × perpendicular distance from the pivot (m)

  • The SI unit for the moment is Newton metres (N m). This may also be Newton centimetres (N cm) depending on the units given for the distance


The force might not always be perpendicular to the distance

  • An example of moments in everyday life is opening a door
  • The door handle is placed on the other side of the door to the hinge (the pivot) to maximise the distance for a given force and therefore provides a greater moment (turning force)
    • This makes it easier to push or pull

Worked example

A uniform metre rule is pivoted at the 50 cm mark.

A 0.5 kg weight is suspended at the 80 cm mark, causing the rule to rotate about the pivot.

Assuming the weight of the rule is negligible, what is the turning moment about the pivot?

WE - Mass on ruler question image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

WE - Mass on ruler answer image, downloadable AS & A Level Physics revision notes

Exam Tip

If not already given, drawing all the forces on an object in the diagram will help you see which ones are perpendicular to the distance from the pivot. Not all the forces will provide a turning effect and it is not unusual for a question to provide more forces than required to throw you off!

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Lindsay Gilmour

Author: Lindsay Gilmour

Lindsay graduated with First Class Honours from the University of Greenwich and earned her Science Communication MSc at Imperial College London. Now with many years’ experience as a Head of Physics and Examiner for A Level and IGCSE Physics (and Biology!), her love of communicating, educating and Physics has brought her to Save My Exams where she hopes to help as many students as possible on their next steps.