Six mark questions

Six mark questions are often the questions that people find the most difficult. In all longer answer questions, but especially the six mark ones, it is important that you plan your answer and not just rush into it. After all, you would plan an essay or short story before starting. Without a plan it is easy to stray away from the key point and loose marks, get steps in a process in the wrong order or forget key bits of information. Remember to write your answer in full sentences, not bullet points.

Six mark questions will start with command words such as 'describe' 'evaluate' or 'explain'.

Some command words are easy to understand such as:

  • 'calculate' or 'determine' for maths questions
  • 'choose' for multiple-choice 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 the pH of milk decreases. It does this 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 '[6 marks]'. It is essential that you include as many different points in your answer as possible. However, it is not simply the case that listing six different points will always gain six marks in a six mark question as the way that you structure your answer will also be considered.

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

Complete the Punnett square below to show the cross between a male with genotype BB for brown eyes and a female with genotype bb for blue eyes. Analyse your results in terms of percentages. [6 marks]

In this Punnett square the female alleles should be placed in the top row and the male alleles should be placed in the left-hand column.

Possible content to be included:

bb
BBbBb
BBbBb
  • 100% of the offspring have brown eyes
  • 0% of the offspring have blue eyes
  • 100% of the offspring are heterozygous
  • 0% of the offspring are homozygous recessive
  • 0% of the offspring are homozygous dominant

1-2 marks - Punnett square is used accurately but accompanied by limited analysis of the results, displaying limited understanding of the outcomes. Distinct statements are made with some inaccuracies.

3-4 marks - Punnett square used accurately and some analysis of the results, demonstrating understanding with limited links between outcomes of different genotypes.

5-6 marks - Punnett square used accurately and detailed analysis of the results given. Outcomes for different genotypes are linked and answers are written in a clear, logical way.

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

Describe the process of selective breeding. Give examples in your answer. Analyse your results in terms of percentages. [6 marks]

Possible content to be included:

  • decide which characteristics are important enough to select
  • choose parents that show these characteristics from a mixed population - they are bred together
  • choose the best offspring with the desired characteristics to produce the next generation
  • repeat the process continuously over many generations, until all offspring show the desired characteristics
  • examples of animals: pigs, sheep, cows, dogs or other suitable examples
  • examples of plants: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower

1-2 marks - Descriptions of some stages are given but with some inaccuracies. Limited links are made between the stages, or between stages and their purpose. One or two examples are named.

3-4 marks - Descriptions of several stages are given, and are mostly presented in a logical sequence. Some links are made between the action and its purpose. Several examples are named.

5-6 marks - Detailed descriptions of the stages are given, making links between the action and purpose of many stages. Several examples are named and included. Descriptions are well-developed and are logical and coherent.

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

A heterozygous male for tongue rolling marries a homozygous recessive female. Complete a Punnett square to show their possible offspring. Analyse your results as percentages and proportions. [6 marks]

In this Punnett square female alleles should be shown in the top row and male alleles should be placed in the left-hand column

Possible content to be included:

Two marks for correct Punnett square (other letters allowed):

tt
TTtTt
ttttt
  • 50% (0.5) of the offspring could tongue roll
  • 50% (0.5) of the offspring couldn't tongue roll
  • 50% (0.5) of the offspring are heterozygous
  • 50% (0.5) of the offspring are homozygous recessive
  • 0% (0.0) of the offspring are homozygous dominant

1-2 marks - Punnett square is used accurately displaying understanding of some genetic terms. Limited analysis of the results, with little reference to the supporting evidence and with some inaccuracies.

3-4 marks - Punnett square used accurately and some analysis of the results given, with some reference to the supporting evidence. Analyses are mostly written in a clear way.

5-6 marks - Punnett square used accurately and detailed analysis of the results given, referring to supporting evidence throughout. Outcomes for different genotypes are linked and answers are written in a clear, logical way. Analyses are well developed with a clear and logical structure.