One-four mark questions

One to four mark 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
  • '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
  • 'compare' where you describe the similarities and/or differences between things

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 a steep linear increase for the first three hours 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 '[2 marks]'. It is essential that you give two different answers if a question is worth two marks. Sometimes you can gain a second mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, eg during the first two years the number of lions deceased by seven.

You will be expected to write in more depth for three and four mark questions. They might ask you about a process such as the carbon cycle or the method you would use in an experiment.

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


Suggest one advantage and one disadvantage for the use of the drug statins to treat heart disease. [2 marks]

Advantage - Statins control blood cholesterol levels [1]

Disadvantage - May cause side effects [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


What is meant by the term non-communicable disease? [1 mark]

The term non-communicable disease means that the disease cannot be passed from person to person.

Sample question 3 - Foundation


A vaccine against TB has existed since 1921. Explain how a vaccine can protect the body from a disease caused by a bacterium. [4 marks]

  • Vaccine contains the antigen [1]
  • Antigen causes memory cells to be produced [1]
  • Future encounters with the antigen [1]
  • Mean rapid production of large numbers of antibodies [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher


Why has penicillin become less effective at killing bacteria in recent years? [2 marks]

  • Bacteria are becoming resistant to penicillin [1]
  • Because of overuse of the antibiotic [1]

Note - Bacteria should never be described as being immune to antibiotics. They are resistant to the effects of the drug due to genetic differences, they do not have an immune system.