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 also 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


Chromatography can be used to test if racehorses have been given drugs. Urine samples from four horses, A-D, were tested to find out whether they contained caffeine or paracetamol.

The following diagram shows the results obtained.

Race horse chromatography

The Rf value can be used to identify a substance.

Use the following equation to calculate the Rf value of paracetamol.

\text Rf=\frac{\text{distance moved by paracetamol}}{\text{distance moved by solvent}}[2 marks]

\text Rf=\frac{\text{distance moved by paracetamol}}{\text{distance moved by solvent}}

distance moved by paracetamol = 3

distance moved by solvent = 10 [1]

3 ÷ 10 = 0.3 [1]

Sample question 2 - Higher


Deodorant is a formulation. It includes a perfume and a solvent.

a) Explain what a formulation is. [1 mark]

b) Suggest the purpose of the perfume in deodorant. [1 mark]

c) Suggest the purpose of the solvent in deodorant. [1 mark]

a) A mixture that has been designed as a useful product [1]

b) To make it smell nice [1]

c) So that the ingredients in deodorant can spread out over the skin [1]