Six-mark questions

Six-mark questions are extended open response questions. These require longer answers than the structured questions. It is wise to plan your answer rather than rushing straight into it, otherwise you may stray away from the key points.

Most questions on exam papers have mark schemes that give key points that are given marks. The six-mark questions are marked differently: they use a levels-based mark scheme. This type of mark scheme is used because these questions are more open-ended. To gain full marks, you need to:

  • support explanations using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • use appropriate scientific words and terms
  • write clearly and link ideas in a logical way
  • maintain a sustained line of reasoning, rather than getting lost or bogged down

Six-mark questions often use these command words:

  • Describe - you need to give an account but no reason
  • Explain - you must give reasons or explanations
  • Devise - you must plan or invent a procedure using your scientific knowledge and understanding
  • Evaluate - you must review information, including identifying strengths and weaknesses, and make a supported conclusion

Six-mark questions may be synoptic questions. These questions bring together ideas from two or more topics. For example, a question about fertilisers could include ideas about covalent substances, acids and alkalis, chemical calculations, and effects on the environment.

The answers shown here give marking points as bullet points. You do not usually need to include all of them to gain six marks, but you do need to write in full sentences, linking them logically and clearly.

Answers are placed in three marking bands:

  • 1-2 marks for answers showing limited content and reasoning and with significant omissions
  • 3-4 marks for answers that give some relevant points, with linking and reasoning and with fewer omissions
  • 5-6 marks for answers that link most of the relevant points, with good links and reasoning. They will have few, if any, omissions.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Chromatography can be used to separate the pigments in ink.

Describe how chromatography can be used to determine whether two inks contain the same pigments.

Your answer should include:

  • a description of how chromatography is carried out
  • a description of what happens during the process
  • how the results would show whether the two inks contain identical or different pigments

[6 marks]

Your answer should include the following:

  • how it is carried out, eg spot of each ink on pencil line and clip end of paper in water, leave for water to rise up paper
  • what happens, eg water dissolves ink and carries the components different distances according to their solubilities, appear as spots/streaks on paper/chromatogram
  • results, eg if inks contain the same pigments the pattern of spots would be identical, different pattern if inks contain different pigments