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.

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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.

Sample question 1 - Foundation

Question

Describe how to test for carbon dioxide gas.

Include what you would do and the changes you would see. [3 marks]

This question has been written by a Bitesize consultant as a suggestion to the type of question that may appear in an exam paper.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • Bubble the gas through limewater [1]
  • If the gas is carbon dioxide, the limewater changes from colourless... [1]
  • ...to cloudy [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

Explain what is meant by a pure substance in chemistry, and describe how to find out if a substance is pure. [2 marks]

This question has been written by a Bitesize consultant as a suggestion to the type of question that may appear in an exam paper.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • A pure substance is a single element or compound that is not mixed with any other substance [1]
  • You can find out if a substance is pure by measuring its melting temperature - a pure substance melts at just one temperature/has a sharp melting point [1]

or:

  • Do a flame test... [1]
  • ...and you would see a green flame [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

Children often do not like taking medicine. Suggest a substance that could be added to Aquamed to increase the desire for children to take it. Give a reason for your suggestion. [3 marks]

This question is AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

Sugar/flavouring [1] to make it taste better

Or:

Colouring [1] to make it look more attractive [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher

Question

Explain how paper chromatography separates substances. [3 marks]

This question is AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

Mobile phase/solvent moves through paper [1]

And carries substances different distances [1]

Which depend on their attraction to the solvent and to the paper [1]