How to Calculate the Mechanical Advantage of an Inclined Plane


An inclined plane is a type of simple machine that consists of a slope between two points, for example a ramp. Since work equals force times distance, changing the distance over which a force is applied creates a proportional change in the force while the amount of work remains constant (ignoring friction). The inclined plane allows a smaller force to be applied over a greater horizontal distance to produce the same change in vertical distance as without the inclined plane. This change in force and distance is known as the mechanical advantage. In an inclined plane, the formula for mechanical advantage is the length of the slope divided by the height of the inclined plane (mechanical advantage = slope length/height).

Things You'll Need

  • Inclined plane
  • Ruler
  • Paper
  • Pen or pencil
  • Measure the length of the slope of the inclined plane. The slope of the inclined plane is the hypotenuse of the triangle formed by the horizontal side and vertical side of the inclined plane when viewed from the side.

  • Measure the end height of the inclined plane. Be sure to use the same unit of measure for both the length of the slope and the height.

  • Divide the length of the slope by the height of the inclined plane to determine the mechanical advantage (MA = slope/height). For example, an inclined plane with a slope of 10 meters and a height of 2 meters would produce a mechanical advantage of 5 (10/2 = 5).


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
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