Short answer questions

Some short answer questions will be multiple choice questions, these will appear in both exam papers, and at both tiers. Multiple choice questions are asked as questions, often starting with 'What is …' or 'Which of these …'.

You have four options to choose from in a multiple choice question. You must only choose one of these options, by writing your answer (A, B, C, or D) in a box.

It may help to reject any answers that you feel are obviously wrong, so that you can focus on choosing the right answer.

Other short answer questions will start with command words such as 'describe' or 'explain'. Some command words are easy to understand such as:

  • 'calculate' or 'determine' for maths questions
  • 'complete' to fill in a gap in a table or graph
  • 'define' to give the meaning of an important word
  • 'suggest' where you use your knowledge in an unfamiliar situation

The command words 'describe' and 'explain' can be confusing. If you are asked to describe a graph, you will be expected to write about its overall shape, whether it is linear or curved, the slope of gradients etc. If you are asked to explain why a pattern or trend is seen in a graph, you will be expected to use your science knowledge, not just say what you see (which is a description), eg 'The graph shows a steep linear increase for the first three hours because…'.

'Explain how' and 'why' questions often have the word 'because' in their answer. 'Describe' questions don't.

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[2 marks]'. It is essential that you give two different answers if a question is worth two marks. Sometimes you can gain a second mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, eg 'The speed of the object decreased by 8 m/s.'

Sample question 1 - Foundation


The following diagram illustrates the magnetic field around a current carrying wire.

Wire runs vertically, current flowing bottom to top. Magnetic field rotates anticlockwise. Second wire runs vertically, current flowing top to bottom. Magnetic field rotates in a clockwise direction.

a) Describe the shape of the magnetic field lines. [1 mark]

b) The strength of the current is then increased. State how the magnetic field changes. [1 mark]

c) State what happens to the magnetic field when the current is turned off. [1 mark]

a) The magnetic field lines have a circular pattern. [1]

b) There will be more field lines and they will be closer together. [1]

c) There will be no magnetic field. [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


The diagram shows a solenoid carrying a current. The solenoid acts like a magnet. [2 marks]

a)Draw the magnetic field around the solenoid. [2 marks]

b) i) State the effect on the magnetic field of increasing the current. [1 mark]

ii) State the effect on the magnetic field of increasing the number of turns on the solenoid. [1 mark]

iii) State the effect on the magnetic field of reversing the current through the solenoid. [1 mark]

WJEC, GCE Physics, Paper 4503/01, 2013 - Foundation.

a) Correct shape (like a bar magnet) with no lines crossing and 2 lines minimum (1 on the top and 1 on the bottom ignore the middle) [1] direction [1][2 marks]

b) i) Stronger/ accept more lines / bigger increases [1 mark]

ii) Stronger/ accept more lines / bigger / increases [1 mark]

iii) Reverses direction/ opposite direction / goes the other way [1 mark]