Maths questions

Remember that you will need to take a ruler and calculator into the exam.

Questions that test mathematical skills will often start with the command words like 'Calculate...', 'Determine...', 'Estimate...' and 'Measure...'. They will then include blank space for you to show your working.

When an answer to a maths question is marked:

  • full marks are given for the right answer (but it is very important to show your working, so you can check your answer and so that, if you make a small slip, you can still get marks for your working)
  • marks are given for working, including substitution and rearrangement
  • if you make a small mistake, the examiner will give you credit for your 'error carried forward'

An error carried forward means that, in questions with more than one part, your answer to a later question part will be marked according to your answer for the earlier part, even if you got this wrong. So, you could still get full marks in the later answer if your working is correct but you use the incorrect earlier answer.

If your answer has many decimal places or figures, make sure you give it to an appropriate number of decimal places or significant figures. If in doubt, match the number of decimal places or significant figures to the data given in the question.

You may be asked to give units. This may earn you an additional mark, so don’t forget to check whether you need to do this.

Maths questions might ask you to plot or complete a graph or table. When you draw a graph, make sure you:

  • plot each point accurately
  • draw a best fit straight line or curve

You may be given a grid with axes labelled and scales already given. Sometimes you may be given an empty grid for you to supply your own axes. When you do this:

  • put the independent variable (the one that is being changed in the experiment) on the x-axis and the dependent variable (the one that changes as a result) on the y-axis
  • make sensible scales so that the plotted points cover at least half of the area of the graph
  • label the axes with their quantity and unit, eg time (s)

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


The following table shows how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere changed between 1750 and the year 2000.

YearAmount of carbon dioxide in the air/parts per million

Describe the change in the pattern shown in the amount of CO2 in the air before and after 1900. Explain what caused the change. [3 marks]

  • gradual increase in carbon dioxide before 1900 [1]
  • large increase in carbon dioxide after 1900 [1]
  • increased industrialisation/huge increase in amount of fossil fuels burned [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


The following table shows the sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Electricity generation
Residential and commercial11%

Calculate the percentage of emissions from electricity generation. [2 marks]

  • 7 + 11 + 20 + 27 = 65 [1]
  • 100 - 65 = 35% [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher


A small minority of scientists believe that it is changes in solar activity (ie changes in the brightness and warmth of the sun) that causes global warming. The graph below shows the changes in solar activity and atmospheric temperature since 1880.

Chart of solar activity by temperature

Using the information from the graph, state how well the evidence supports the argument that solar activity is the cause of global warming. [2 marks]

  • evidence is initially strong, then not [1]
  • increase in solar activity accompanied by increase in temperature/upward trend in both, followed by breakdown of trend [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher


The graph below shows the total sulfur dioxide emissions in the UK between 1970 and 2012.

Graph of sulfur dioxide emission by year

a) Use the graph to calculate the decrease in sulfur dioxide emissions in tonnes between 1994 and 2004. [1 mark]

b) Suggest and explain a possible reason for the trend shown in the graph. [2 marks]

a) 2 × 106 tonnes [1]

b) [1] for a reason and [1] for linked explanation:

  • sulfur scrubbing/react with lime/with sea water - removes sulfur dioxide/neutralises sulfur dioxide
  • use cleaner fuels - remove sulfur from oil/gas/fuel; use coal/fuel containing less sulfur
  • use less coal - greater use of alternative energy sources which do not produce sulfur dioxide