Science calculations

Maths questions often start with the command words 'calculate' or 'determine'. They will then have a blank space for you to show your working. It is important that you show your working; don't just write the answer down. You might earn marks for your working even if you get the answer incorrect.

In some maths questions you will be required to give the units. This may earn you an additional mark. Don't forget to check whether you need to do this.

Maths questions might include graphs and tables as well as calculations. Don't forget to take a ruler and calculator.

  1. put the independent variable on the x-axis and the dependant variable on the y-axis
  2. construct regular scales for the axes
  3. label the axes appropriate
  4. plot each point accurately
  5. decide whether the origin should be used as a data point
  6. draw a straight or curved line of best fit

If you are asked to calculate an answer and it has lots of decimal places, don't forget to use the same number of significant figures as the data in the question. For example, if two significant figures are used in the question, then usually your answer would also be to two significant figures. Don't forget to check your rounding.

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


The table below shows the results from an ecological experiment.

QuadratNumber of plants

What is the median result? [1 mark]


To calculate this place the set of numbers in increasing order of size. The median is the middle number. In increasing order of size: 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 4. So the answer is 2.

Sample question 2 - Higher


A cutting is taken from a plant and placed in 250cm3 of water for 24 hours. After this only 224 cm3 of water remained.

a. What happened to the rest of the water? [1 mark]

b. What is the percentage decrease in water? [2 marks]

a. It was lost from the leaves during transpiration.

b. 250 - 224 = 26

26 ÷ 250 = 0.1

0.1 × 100 = 10%