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The MCAT CARS Strategy Course begins February 27!

Vectors, components

Written by Jack Westin on Jan 21, 2020

Vector, in physics, a quantity that has both magnitude and direction but are not dependent on position.

Vectors are represented by an arrow that points in a direction with a specific quantifiable length (the length is proportional to the quantity’s magnitude).



Although a vector has magnitude and direction, it does not have position. That is, as long as its length is not changed, a vector is not altered if it is displaced parallel to itself.


In contrast to vectors, ordinary quantities that have a magnitude but not a direction are called scalars. For example, displacement, velocity, and acceleration are vector quantities, while speed (the magnitude of velocity), time, and mass are scalars.


Key Points

  • Vectors have both magnitude and direction
  • Vectors do not have position

Key Terms

  • Vector: has magnitude and direction
  • Scalars: physical quantities without a spatial direction
  • Displacement: change of position
  • Velocity: the rate of change of displacement with respect to time, velocity is a vector with magnitude and direction
  • Speed: the magnitude of velocity


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