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, eg 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


Describe the effects of tobacco mosaic virus and HIV/AIDS. [6 marks]

Three from:

  • the tobacco mosaic virus infects tobacco and other closely related species
  • it infects the chloroplasts of plant leaves
  • it changes their colour from green to yellow or white in a mosaic pattern
  • it can also make leaves crinkled or curled up - this reduces the plant’s ability to photosynthesise, which reduces the crop yield of farmers


Three from

  • HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus
  • it is transmitted by body fluids, often during unprotected sex but also through cuts and injecting drugs using dirty needles
  • immediately after infection, infected people often suffer mild flu-like symptoms
  • AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  • months or years after infection the HIV virus becomes active and HIV turns into AIDS
  • it starts to attack the patient’s immune system


Sample question 3 - Higher


Describe how the classification of viruses, bacteria and fungi is different. [4 marks]

Four from:

  • viruses are not alive because they do not complete all the seven life processes
  • viruses are not classified as living species, but strains that replicate rather than reproduce
  • bacteria and fungi do complete the seven life processes are so are alive
  • bacteria do not have a nucleus as so are prokaryotes
  • fungi do have a nucleus so are eukaryotes