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, for example, 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


Doctors are now prescribing fewer antibiotics to reduce the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Describe the process of evolution of antibiotic bacteria. [5 marks]

Five from:

  • in every population there is variation, so some bacteria are resistant whilst others aren't
  • the individuals (in this example, the bacteria) with the most advantageous characteristics are more likely to survive and reproduce
  • so those that have the gene for resistance have an advantage
  • this is survival of the fittest
  • because of inheritance, the offspring of those with the advantageous characteristic are more likely to have it
  • this process is repeated over many generations until a new species is produced


Sample question 2 - Foundation


How is natural selection different from selective breeding? [5 marks]

Five from:

  • natural selection occurs when the best adapted organisms in a population are most likely to survive and reproduce
  • the offspring of these organisms are likely these adaptations
  • this will lead to evolution
  • all organisms are evolving - award [1] for any named example
  • selective breeding is artificial selection
  • this occurs when people specifically choose organisms to reproduce because of desirable characteristics
  • the offspring of these organisms are likely to have these characteristics
  • cows, dogs and crop plants have been selectively bred/any named example


Sample question 3 - Higher


Describe how DNA analysis has helped the process of classification. [4 marks]

Four from:

  • classification was originally based on the way different species looked
  • DNA analysis involves mapping the genomes of organisms
  • this is the sequence of DNA base pairs that make up an organism
  • comparisons between genomes of organisms in different species lets scientists see how close they are genetically
  • this is a more accurate way of classifying organisms than the way they look
  • many scientists now believe in three domains not five kingdoms