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:

  1. 'calculate' or 'determine' for maths questions
  2. 'choose' for multiple-choice questions
  3. 'complete' to fill in a gap in a table or graph
  4. 'define' to give the meaning of an important word
  5. 'suggest' where you use your knowledge in an unfamiliar situation

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


The antibiotic penicillin is produced in large stainless steel fermenters containing a liquid nutrient culture medium in which Penicillium is grown.

(i) Name a nutrient that should be added to the fermenter. [1 mark]

(ii) Why is air pumped into the fermenter? [1 mark]

(iii)To which group of living organisms does penicillium belong? [1 mark]

(i) glucose / sugar / amino acids [1]

(ii) to provide oxygen for respiration [1]

(iii) fungi [1]

Sample question 2 - Higher

Public health scientists grew bacterial colonies of Salmonella typhi in Petri dishes labelled A, B and C.

The Petri dishes were kept at 25°C for 48 hours, observing the bacteria at intervals.

Petri dishTreatmentAfter 24 hoursAfter 48 hours
AWas subjected to ionising radiation followed immediately by a dose of antibiotic XSmall spots of growth on surfaceLarge spots of growth on surface
BAn equal amount of antibiotic X was addedNo growthNo growth
CWas given neither ionising radiation nor antibiotic XGrowth across whole surfaceGrowth across whole surface

Explain the effect of the ionising radiation on the bacteria. [1 mark]

Made the bacteria resistant to the antibiotic by increasing mutations.


What was the purpose of Petri dish C? [1 mark]

To be a control.


Explain why scientists must continue to develop new antibiotics.[3 marks]

  • Bacteria mutate. [1]
  • Mutations cause resistance. [1]
  • Resistance is passed on via reproduction. [1]