Structured questions

This is the most common question on exam papers, although the number of marks for each question may vary.

At its simplest, this type of question will ask you to remember a simple fact that you have been taught. This type of question is likely to be worth one mark, and will often start with 'Give', 'State' or 'Name'. In some cases, a question may ask you to state two things, rather than just one, and will be worth two marks.

Other structured questions may be worth two or more marks. These will often start with a command word such as 'Describe' or 'Explain', and will require a more detailed answer:

  • 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 or four 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. Examiners will not credit a key word if it is used out of context, or if your answer contradicts itself.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


When a mixture of iron(III) oxide and aluminium powder (thermite) is heated, there is a violent reaction. There is a bright flame, sparks are produced and molten iron is formed.

a) Write a word equation for the reaction taking place. [2 marks]

b) Explain this reaction in terms of reactivity. [2 marks]

a) iron(III) oxide + aluminium [1] → iron + aluminium oxide [1]

b) Aluminium is more reactive than iron [1] and takes oxygen from iron/reduces iron(III) oxide. [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Iron is extracted from its ore in a blast furnace.

a) The following equation shows the reaction taking place. Balance the equation.

Fe2O3 + _____CO → _____Fe + _____CO2 [1 mark]

b) Iron(III) oxide is reduced during the reaction. Give the meaning of reduction. [1 mark]

a) Fe2O3 + 3CO → 2Fe + 3CO2 [1]

b) Reduction is the loss of oxygen/gain of electrons. [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher


The flow diagram below shows the steps taken in obtaining copper by the process of phytomining.

How copper metal forms

a) Describe the role of the plant in stage 1. [1 mark]

b) Give the chemical name for the compound A. [1 mark]

c) Describe three disadvantages of obtaining copper using phytomining compared with traditional mining. [3 marks]

a) Plants absorb copper compounds through their roots. [1]

b) Copper(II) oxide [1]

c) Any three from:

  • large scale harvesting of plants required
  • only small amounts of copper are obtained from plants
  • huge areas needed for plant growth
  • supply limited by plant growth cycle/slow process


Sample question 4 - Higher


Aluminium is extracted from molten aluminium oxide by electrolysis.

State and explain how the production costs of aluminium are reduced. [4 marks]

  • cryolite added to lower melting point of aluminium oxide [1] so the process can operate at a lower temperature [1]
  • cheaper source of electricity [1] so located in countries with plentiful energy/fossil fuel reserves or nuclear power [1]