Structured questions

Simple recall questions are usually worth 1 mark. They are often have command words like 'give', 'state', 'name' or 'identify'. Some questions may ask you to state two things, rather than just one, and will be worth 2 marks.

Structured questions, with command words such as 'describe' or 'explain', will be worth 2 or more marks:

  • if you are asked to describe something, you need to give an account but no reason
  • if you are asked to explain something, you must give reasons or explanations

More complex structured questions will be worth three to five marks. They include questions with complex descriptions and explanations, questions in which you need to compare and contrast two different things, or calculations with several stages.

The mark schemes given here may show answers as bullet points. This is to show clearly how a mark can be obtained. However, it is important that your answer is written in a logical, linked way.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


The following equation shows a nuclear reaction.

_{1}^{2}H~+~_{1}^{3}H \rightarrow~ _{2}^{4}He~ +~_{0}^{1}n

a) The hydrogen isotopes have to move very quickly for this reaction to take place and controlling this reaction on Earth is difficult. Complete the following sentences. [2 marks]

i) The hydrogen isotopes are made to collide with high energies by making the gas ______ .

ii) The problem this causes is ______ .

b) Choose the correct word from the brackets in each sentence below. [3 marks]

i) The reactants are isotopes of [ hydrogen / helium / neutrons ].

ii) The reactants have the same numbers of [ neutrons / protons / nucleons ].

iii) This reaction is an example of a [ fusion / fission / chain ] reaction.

c) Give two reasons why this reaction is likely to be important in the future. [2 marks]

a) i) very hot/at a high temperature [1]

ii) the container is in danger of melting/difficult to achieve such high temperatures/requires high energy [1]

b) i) hydrogen [1]

ii) protons [1]

iii) fusion [1]

c) Any two from:

  • reactants are readily available from [water in] the oceans
  • fossil fuels are likely to run out/are finite/it is a sustainable source of energy
  • does not increase global warming/add to acid rain
  • releases a large amount of energy
  • doesn't produce radioactive waste


Sample question 2 - Higher


Nuclear medicine uses radioisotopes which emit radiation from within the body. One tracer uses iodine, which is injected into the body to treat the thyroid gland. The table shows four isotopes of iodine.

Form of iodineRadiation emittedHalf-life
iodine-125gamma59.4 days
iodine-128beta25 minutes
iodine-129beta and gamma15,000,000 years
iodine-131beta and gamma8.4 days

a) Iodine-129 emits both beta and gamma radiation. Describe the nature of these types of radiation. [2 marks]

b) The table shows that the half-life of iodine-125 is 59.4 days. State what this means. [2 marks]

c) Use the data to explain why iodine-131 is the most suitable form of iodine for treating thyroid cancer. [2 marks]

a) Beta - high energy/fast moving electron [1]

Gamma - electromagnetic wave [1]

b) The activity/mass/number of unstable nuclei [1] halves in 59.4 days [1].

c) It has a suitable half-life/not too long a half-life/not too short a half-life [1] so it doesn't decay too quickly [1].