Linking questions

Linking questions span different topics. In linking questions, 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.

One way to answer linking questions is to follow these steps:

  1. Identify exactly what the question is asking (perhaps by underlining key parts).
  2. Identify what the link between the two parts of the question is.
  3. Make a short plan of these links (which will form the basis of your answer).
  4. Include as much information as you can to obtain full marks (see below).

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[4 marks]'. It is essential that you give four different answers if a question is worth four marks. Sometimes you can gain an additional mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, eg after twenty-four hours the pH of the milk at room temperature had decreased by 1.2.

Linking 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
  • '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 confused. 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 that the biodiversity is lower on the school field. This is because…

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

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


Blood vessels and sweat glands are important in lowering the body temperature if it becomes too high. If the body temperature reaches 40°C 'Heat Stroke' can occur, which can be fatal.

(i) State how the blood vessels help in cooling the body in hot conditions, such as on a sunny beach. [2 marks]

(ii) In hot, humid conditions the air may contain a very high level of water vapour. Explain why it is possible for heat stroke to occur in these conditions, even if sweat glands are functioning normally. [2 marks]


  • Vessels widen so more blood flow near skin surface.
  • More heat is lost from the surface of the skin.


  • Less evaporation of sweat possible as a lower concentration gradient in humid conditions.
  • So less heat loss from skin occurs.

Sample question 2 - Higher


Explain how a mutation in the sequence of bases which codes for adrenaline may prevent it from functioning. [3 marks]

  • The code for one or more amino acid is/are changed.
  • Transfer RNA molecules may bring the incorrect amino acids to the ribosome.
  • The sequence of amino acids (polypeptide) is changed.
  • The proteins adrenaline may not be correctly produced.

This question links the protein structure of the hormone Adrenaline from the co-ordination topic to the formation of proteins from the genome and gene expression topic.