Rearranging Equations

Here is everything you need to know about rearranging equations for GCSE maths (Edexcel, AQA and OCR). You’ll learn what rearranging equations means and how to change the subject of the formula.

Look out for the rearranging equations worksheets and exam questions at the end.

What do we mean by rearranging equations?

When we rearrange an equation we change the form of the equation to display it in a different way.

For example, the below three equations are rearranged forms of exactly the same equation.

\[\begin{aligned} a-b &=2 \\ a &=b+2 \\ a-2 &=b \end{aligned}\]

Typically we rearrange equations and formulas by using inverse operations to make one variable the subject of the formula. The subject of the formula is the single variable that is equal to everything else. i.e. the term by itself on one side of the equal sign.


Here are some example where s is the subject of the formula

\[s=4+a \qquad\qquad s=5 f-6 c+8 \qquad s=\frac{5+t}{y-8}\]

To do this we move variables and constants (numbers) to the other side of the equation from the variable we are trying to make the subject of the formula.

Check out our main algebraic expressions lesson for a complete summary of algebraic expressions, and then explore our other lessons for detailed step-by-step guides and worksheets on each type.

How to rearrange formula to change the subject of the formula

In order to do rearrange formula to change the subject of the formula, I need to follow the steps:

  1. Identify the variable you need to make the subject of the formula.
  2. Isolate the variable - this step may look slightly different depending on the format of the question.
    - Remove any fractions by multiplying by the denominator/s
    - Divide by the coefficient of the variable
    - Square root or square both sides of the equation
    *not always required*
  3. Rearrange the equation so each term containing the term you want to be the subject is on one side of the equation - normally the left-hand side.
  4. Factorisation may be needed if you have multiple different terms containing your subject e.g. factorise 2x + 3xy to x(2 + 3y)
    *not always required*
  5. Perform an operation to ensure only the single variable is left as the subject.

Rearranging equations examples

Example 1: multiple step but with single variable

p = 2(x − 3)

  1. Identify the variable to be made the subject.

\[p = 2(x − 3)\]

In this question it is x.

2 Divide each side of the equation by 2

Rearranging equations step 1

3 Add 3 to each side of the equation

Rearranging equations examples

Answer:

\[\frac{p}{2}+3= x\]

Fully worked out answer:

Rearranging equations worked out example

Example 2: questions involving x2

\[y=x^{2}-4\]

\[y=x^{2}-4\]

In this question it is x

Answer:

\[\pm\sqrt{y+4}=x\]

Fully worked out answer:

Rearranging equations gcse maths help

Example 3: questions involving √x

\[y=\sqrt{3 x}+n\]

\[y=\sqrt{3 x}+n\]

In this question it is x.

Rearranging equations 1

Rearranging equations 1

Rearranging equations examples

Answer:

\[\frac{(y-n)^{2}}{3}=x\]

Fully worked out answer:

Rearranging equations gcse

Example 4: factorisation of the variable is required

\[y=\frac{2 x z}{z-x}\]

\[y=\frac{2 x z}{z-x}\]

In this question it is x.

Answer:

\[x =\frac{5 y}{y-2 z}\]

Fully worked out answer:

Example 5: factorisation of the variable is required

\[\frac{a}{3}=\frac{2-7 x}{x-5}\]

\[\frac{a}{3}=\frac{2-7 x}{x-5}\]

In this question it is x.

rearranging equations examples gcse

rearranging equations examples gcse

rearranging equations examples gcse

rearranging equations examples gcse

Answer:

\[x =\frac{6+5 a}{a+21}\]

Fully worked out answer:

Rearranging equations worked out examples

Common misconceptions

  • When we perform an operation to one side of the equation we have to do to the other.
  • Incorrect use of the inverse operation.
  • Incorrectly following the order of operations.
  • All variables of the subject need to be on one side of the equal sign.
\[E.g. x = 2x+2\]

  • When we square root a number/variable the answer can be positive or negative.
\[E.g. \sqrt{4}=\pm{2}\]
√x should be written as ± √x

  • Not factorising when we have the subject in more than one term.
E.g. Make x the subject
\[\begin{aligned} 2x+3xy&=3y\\ x(2+3y)&=3y\\ x&=\frac{3y}{2+3y} \end{aligned}\]

Practice rearranging equations questions

1. Make a the subject of the formula

\[h=3(a+7)\]

Show answer

\[\frac{h}{3} -7=a\]

2. Make b the subject of the formula

\[p=b^{2}-9 k\]

Show answer

\[\pm \sqrt{p+9 k}=b\]

3. Make c the subject of the formula

\[g=\sqrt{5 c-r}\]

Show answer

\[\frac{g^{2}+r}{5}=c\]

4. Make d the subject of the formula

\[y=\frac{3d+1}{4d}\]

Show answer

\[d=\frac{1}{4y-3}\]

5. Make e the subject of the formula

\[\frac{q}{3} = \frac{6-2e}{e+1}\]

Show answer

\[e=\frac{18-q}{q+6}\]

6. Make f the subject of the formula

\[\frac{l^{3}}{5} = \frac{4l-3f}{2f+9}\]

Show answer

\[f=\frac{20 l-9 l^{3}}{2 l^{3}+15} \text { or } \quad f=\frac{l\left(20-9 l^{2}\right)}{2 l^{3}+15}\]

Rearranging equations GCSE questions

1. Make x the subject of the formula

\[y=2x+4\]

Show answer

\[y-4=2x\]

(− 4) to make 2x the subject (1)

\[\frac{y-4}{2}=x\]

(÷ 2) to make x the subject (1)

(2 marks)

2. Make s the subject of

\[v^{2}=u^{2}+2as\]

Show answer

\[v^{2}-u^{2}=2as\]

(− u2) to make 2as the subject (1)

\[\frac{v^{2}-u^{2}}{2a}=s\]

(÷ 2a) to make s the subject (1)

(2 marks)

3. Make g the subject of the formula

\[y=\sqrt{\frac{g+6}{5}}\]

Show answer

\[y^{2}=\frac{g+6}{5}\]

Square each side or 'y2' seen (1)

\[5y^{2}=g+6\]

Multiply by denominator, 'x5' (1)

\[5y^{2}-6=g\]

Subtract 6 from both sides (1)

(3 marks)

Rearranging Equations worksheets

Get your free rearranging equations worksheet of 20+ questions and answers. Includes reasoning and applied questions.

Learning checklist

  • Understand and use standard mathematical formulae
  • Rearrange formulae to change the subject

The next lessons are

  • Make x the subject
  • Quadratic formula

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