Structured questions and short answer questions

Questions with 1, 2, 3 or 4 marks usually start with command words. If a question starts with the command word 'state', 'give', 'name' or 'write down', it needs a short answer only. This type of question can often be answered with one word or phrase.

It is important to state, give, name or write down the number of things that the question asks for. If you write down fewer, you cannot get all the marks. If you write down more, and one is wrong, you might lose a mark.

Some questions start with the command words 'describe', 'explain' or 'compare'. These are often worth two or more marks:

  • Describe means you should recall facts, events or processes accurately. You might need to give an account of what something looked like, or what happened.
  • Explain means you need to make something clear, or state the reasons for something happening. The points in the answer must be linked together. The answer must not be a list of reasons. All the points must be relevant to the question.
  • Compare means you need to describe similarities and differences between things. If you are asked to compare X and Y, write down something about X and something about Y, and give a comparison. Do not just write about X only or Y only.

More complex structured questions will be worth three or four marks. They include questions with complex descriptions and explanations, and questions in which you need to compare things.

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Three and four-mark questions usually require longer answers than one and two-mark questions.

Some of the answers are shown here as bullet points. This is to show clearly how a mark can be obtained. However, do not use bullet points in your answers - the points must be linked together logically.

These questions have been written by Bitesize consultants as suggestions to the types of questions that may appear in an exam paper.

Sample question 1 - Foundation

Question

A student added copper oxide to sulfuric acid. The reaction made copper sulfate solution. Describe how the student could obtain dry copper sulfate crystals from the solution. [4 marks]

The following are valid points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • Heat the solution over a water bath. [1]
  • Heat until crystals start to form around the edge. [1]
  • Leave for a few days until all the water has evaporated. [1]
  • Dry the crystals with filter paper/in an oven. [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

A student adds small pieces of magnesium and copper to separate test tubes of dilute acid. Compare the observations she would make in the two test tubes. [4 marks]

The following are valid points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • There would be rapid bubbling in the test tube with magnesium. [1]
  • However, there would be no bubbling in the test tube with copper. [1]
  • The magnesium would be smaller/disappear by the end of the reaction. [1]
  • However, the copper would be unchanged. [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

Sulfuric acid is a strong acid. What is meant by a strong acid? [2 marks]

The following are valid points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • The acid is fully ionised/all the molecules are dissociated. [1]
  • This happens in aqueous solution/when dissolved in water. [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher

Question

Aluminium is extracted from aluminium oxide by electrolysis.

In the electrolysis cell, there is a mixture of aluminium oxide and molten cryolite. Explain why. [3 marks]

The following are valid points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • The mixture of aluminium oxide and molten cryolite melts at a lower temperature than aluminium oxide alone. [1]
  • This reduces the amount of energy required by the process. [1]
  • This therefore reduces costs. [1]