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.

If drawing graphs, make sure you:

  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


Calculate the mean distance with and without caffeine. [2 marks]

AttemptDistance on ruler without caffeine (cm)Distance on ruler with caffeine (cm)

Without caffeine: 32.5 cm

With caffeine: 19.75 cm

Sample question 2 - Higher


Describe the relationship between mean body weight and diabetes over time. [4 marks]

The correlation between obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • In 1990 the mean body weight was about 72.5 kg and the prevalence of diabetes was under 5%.
  • The mean body weight has increased steadily every year from 1990 to 2000 reaching a maximum of just over 77kg.
  • Initially the prevalence of diabetes fell by 1% in 1993.
  • It then increases in line with the mean increase in body mass from 1997 to 2000.