Six mark questions

Six mark questions will only appear in the Depth paper. There will be two six mark questions in the Depth paper.

Six mark questions are extended free-response questions, requiring the longest answers. It is wise to plan your answer rather than rushing straight into it. Without a plan it is easy to stray away from the key point and lose marks, get steps in a process in the wrong order or forget key bits of information.

To gain six marks, you will need to:

  • use appropriate scientific words and terms
  • write your answer in full sentences, not bullet points
  • write clearly, linking ideas in a logical way
  • maintain a sustained line of reasoning, rather than a random list of statements and sentences
  • support explanations using scientific knowledge and understanding

Six mark questions are marked using a levels-based mark scheme. An answer that is not clear and logically sequenced, and which does not give a coherent argument supported by evidence, will be limited to the lower levels. Similarly, if the question asks you to discuss both sides of an argument, or explain two observations, you will be limited to the lowest level if your answer only considers one of them (no matter how brilliantly written or comprehensively explained that one is).

Sample question 1 - Foundation and Higher


Two people are discussing plans to build a nuclear power station near their town:

Pam:"I think a nuclear power station would be a good thing. It's much better than burning coal or oil, and it will bring work to the area."

Suraiya:"I disagree with you. Renewable ways of providing energy would be better. I'm also worried about the dangerous nuclear waste produced."

Explain the different points of view put forward by these two people, and state, with reasons, which of the two has the better argument. [6 marks]

OCR 21st Century Science, GCE Physics, Paper J259, 2016 - Higher.

When answering a six mark question it is important to plan out your answer. To receive a mark in the five to six marking band, the answer will need to be well structured, clear and logical. In this question, start by comparing renewable and non-renewable resources. Next compare the risk and benefits of nuclear vs renewable options. Finally, provide a judgement as to who provides the better argument, linking back to your points made above.

Coal, oil and nuclear are all non-renewable energy sources so they are not finite. Renewable energy sources such as wind, wave or solar will not run out [1]. Nuclear energy comes with hazards as it produces ionising radiation which could pose a risk to living organisms [1].

Burning fossil fuels produces CO2 which contributes to global warming [1]. Nuclear does not produce CO2 but does produce nuclear waste which is ionising and difficult to dispose of. The risk from nuclear, however, is small but serious [1].

Any new power station will create jobs which will be a benefit to the economy. Using a renewable energy resource will not produce CO2 or radiation so it is the safest option. Renewable energy resources do destroy habitats though and don't always produce as much energy as other sources [1].

I think a renewable source will be better, as it poses less risk and can give just as much benefit [1].

Sample question 2 - Foundation


An island is struggling with the energy demand of its inhabitants and will need to produce more electricity in the future.

Information about the island's electricity production is given below.

Predicted electricity consumption18,880,000 kWh
Current electricity production 16,000,000 kWh
Produced by burning oil and peat100%
Produced by hydroelectricity0%
Produced by nuclear0%
Produced by wind0%
Produced by waves/tides0%
Oil imported248.9 barrels/day
Peat used for fuels13,000 ton/year

The island is keen not to import any more oil. What might the environmental minster advise as a plan for the island's future production of electricity? Use the data in the table in your answer. [6 Marks]

OCR 21st Century Science, GCE Physics, Paper J260, 2016.

The island's energy consumption will increase by 2,880,000 kWh in the future [1]. All oil is imported and the island does not want to import more - this is probably due to expense. Also oil is non-renewable and emits carbon dioxide when burned [1].

A better option for the island would be to use one of its renewable energy resources[1]. There will be an initial cost in setting these up but once running, it will have little cost and will not produce carbon dioxide emissions [1]. Due to it being an island, I could suggest they consider using wave/tidal or perhaps wind as their energy resource. Any one of these will produce the electricity needed without the concerns around pollution [1]. The only concern with these is the destruction of habitats that can occur when these are built [1].

When answering this kind of six mark question, it is important to analyse the data given in the table to make your judgement. You can see from the data that they need to increase the amount of electricity produced. You should consider more than one energy resource and give details of the advantages and disadvantages of each, then draw a conclusion as to which resource you think they should use.