Six mark questions

Six mark questions are often the questions that people find the most difficult. In all longer answer questions, but especially the six mark ones, 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.

Six mark questions will start with command words such as 'describe' 'evaluate' 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 confusing. 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 the pH of milk decreases. It does this because…

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

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[6 marks]'. It is essential that you include as many different points in your answer as possible. However, it is not simply the case that listing six different points will always gain six marks in a six mark question as the way that you structure your answer will also be considered.

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

Question

Describe and explain how we can prevent the spread of disease. [6 marks]

Possible content to be included:

  • water can be sterilised by chemicals or UV light to kill pathogens
  • cooking foods thoroughly and preparing them in hygienic conditions kills pathogens
  • washing surfaces with disinfectants kills pathogens
  • vaccinations introduce a small or weakened version of a pathogen into your body so your immune system learns how to defend itself
  • using barrier contraception like condoms stops the transfer of bodily fluids and so sexually transmitted diseases
  • additional marks for correct disease and prevention strategy

1-2 marks - Answers are limited to one or two methods, with limited explanation of how the method prevents the spread. There is some logical structure to the answers.

3-4 marks - Several methods are described with some supported by explanations, demonstrating some understanding. Some inaccuracies are present. Answers are mostly written in a logical order.

5-6 marks - Many methods are both described and explained with examples used to reinforce answers throughout. Clear understanding is shown through explanations given. Answers are written in a clear and logical way.

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

Describe the ways in which pathogens can be transmitted. Give examples in your answer. [6 marks]

Possible content to be included:

  • direct contact which can be sexual or non-sexual
  • dirty water can transmit many diseases such as the cholera bacterium
  • when a person who is infected by the common cold sneezes they can spray thousands of tiny droplets containing virus particles to infect others
  • undercooked or reheated food can cause diseases like Escherichia coli which is a cause of food poisoning
  • via another animal called a vector
  • additional marks for correct pathogens and disease

1-2 marks - Answers are limited to one or two methods with some inaccuracies. There is some logical structure to the answers but statements are mostly discrete with very little linking of ideas.

3-4 marks - Several methods are described with some supported by examples, demonstrating understanding of the way that pathogens transmit diseases. Some inaccuracies are present. Answers are mostly written in a logical order.

5-6 marks - Many methods are described with examples used to reinforce answers throughout. Clear understanding of the way that pathogens transmit diseases is shown through answers given. Answers are written in a clear and logical way.

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

Describe how non-specific human defence systems stop you from falling ill. [6 marks]

  • your skin covers almost all parts of your body to prevent infection from pathogens [1]
  • your nose has hairs within them which act as a physical barrier to infection [1]
  • mucus is produced by goblet cells in your nose, throat and trachea [1]
  • mucus traps dust and pathogens [1]
  • pathogens in mucus are wafted by ciliated cells to your throat and swallowed [1]
  • stomach acid kills pathogens [1]