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


Look at the images below.

Two magnets are next to each other with North and South poles facing one another. Two equal arrows between the poles of the magnets point inwards towards each other.Two magnets are side by side with North poles facing each other. Two arrows between the poles of the magnets point outwards away from each other.

What will happen in each case when the poles of two magnets are brought close together? [2 marks]

Opposite poles brought together will attract [1].

Same poles brought together will repel [1].

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Zinc is mixed with copper to make an alloy.

The image shows the particles in the alloy and in pure zinc.

The atom structures of an alloy and pure zinc

Use the image to explain why the alloy is harder than pure zinc. [2 marks]

Only two comments are needed from the following lists to be rewarded full marks.

In alloy:

  • different sized atoms/particles [1]

In pure zinc:

  • no layers/rows [1]
  • so cannot slide [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher


Explain how copper conducts electricity. [2 marks]

Has delocalised electrons [1], which can move through the structure/metal [1].

Sample question 4 - Higher


A ball is thrown high into the air.

After it is released the ball moves up and then back down in a vertical line.

The free body force diagram shows the forces on the ball at one point in its flight.

The force arrows are drawn to scale.

A freebody diagram

Explain what is happening to the ball at this point in its flight. [4 marks]

Ball is moving/falling down [1] at terminal velocity [1].

Air resistance and weight have the same magnitude/size [1], so no acceleration/constant speed [1].