Structured questions and short answer questions

Questions with 1, 2, 3 or 4 marks usually start with command words. If a question starts with the command word 'state', 'give', 'name' or 'write down', it needs a short answer only. This type of question can often be answered with one word or phrase.

It is important to state, give, name or write down the number of things that the question asks for. If you write down fewer, you cannot get all the marks. If you write down more, and one is wrong, you might lose a mark.

Some questions start with the command words 'describe', 'explain' or 'compare'. These are often worth two or more marks:

  • Describe means you should recall facts, events or processes accurately. You might need to give an account of what something looked like, or what happened.
  • Explain means you need to make something clear, or state the reasons for something happening. The points in the answer must be linked together. The answer must not be a list of reasons. All the points must be relevant to the question.
  • Compare means you need to describe similarities and differences between things. If you are asked to compare X and Y, write down something about X and something about Y and give a comparison. Do not just write about X only or Y only.

More complex structured questions will be worth three or four marks. They include questions with complex descriptions and explanations and questions in which you need to compare things.

Three and four mark questions usually require longer answers than one and two mark questions.

Some of the answers are shown here as bullet points. This is to show clearly how a mark can be obtained. However, do not use bullet points in your answers - the points must be linked together logically.

This page contains AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Bacteria can cause disease.

One disease-causing bacterium is Salmonella.

Salmonella is spread between people in contaminated food.

Give two ways you could stop Salmonella from spreading. [2 marks]

Any two from:

  • cook food (thoroughly) [1]
  • pasteurise food [1]
  • wash hands properly [1]
  • disinfect work surfaces [1]
  • keep raw and cooked foods separate [1]
  • only drink clean water [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Doctors gave a percentage rating to the health of 16-year-olds.

100% is perfect health.

This table shows the amount of exercise 16-year-olds do and their health rating.

Amount of exercise done in minutes every weekHealth rating as %
Less than 3072

What conclusion can be made about the effect of exercise on health?

Use information from the table. [1 mark]

The more exercise done the healthier the person is [1].

Sample question 3 - Higher

Statins are drugs used to treat coronary heart disease (CHD).

New drugs must be trialled before they can be licensed for use.

Scientists trialled two different types of statin.

The scientists:

  • conducted the trial on 325 patients with a history of CHD in their family
  • used a double-blind trial method
  • measured the change in blood cholesterol levels over two years
  • measured the change in thickness of an artery wall over two years

a) During the trials the statins are tested for side effects.

Give two other reasons why the statins are trialled before use. [2 marks]

b) Describe how the double-blind method is used in this trial. [2 marks]

a) Any two from:

  • to work out the correct dose to be given [1]
  • to check that the drug is working correctly [1]
  • to check for toxic effects [1]

b) Patients are randomly allocated to receive statin or placebo [1] so neither patient nor doctor knows who has received which [1].

Sample question 4 - Higher


Explain how the build-up of fatty material can damage the heart. [4 marks]

It builds up inside the coronary arteries [1] causing them to narrow [1]. This reduces blood flow [1] so less oxygen gets to the heart muscle [1].