Six-mark questions

Six-mark questions are extended open response questions. These require longer answers than the structured questions that have fewer marks. It is wise to plan your answer first by making some notes. This will help you to include all the key points.

To gain full marks, you need to:

  • support explanations using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • use appropriate scientific words
  • write clearly and link ideas in a logical way
  • maintain a sustained line of reasoning

Six-mark questions often use these command words:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Evaluate means you must use information supplied, or your own knowledge, to consider the evidence for and against or to identify strengths and weaknesses. You must then complete your answer with a conclusion, stating which is better and why, for example.

Six-mark questions may be synoptic questions, which bring together ideas from two or more topics. For example, a question about fertilisers could include ideas about covalent substances, acids and alkalis, chemical calculations, and effects on the environment.

The answers shown here give marking points as bullet points. You do not usually need to include all of them to gain six marks, but you do need to write in sentences, linking them logically and clearly.

Sample question 1 - Foundation

Question

A student is provided with a sample of a gas and asked to identify it. He knows that the gas is either chlorine, oxygen, carbon dioxide or hydrogen. Describe how the student should analyse the gas in order to identify it. Describe the tests that he should do, and how he should interpret his observations. [6 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.

  • Split the gas into four samples
  • Test one sample with a burning splint
  • ...a squeaky pop sound would identify hydrogen
  • Test another sample with damp litmus paper
  • ...and if it turns white then the gas is chlorine
  • Test another sample with a glowing splint
  • ...and if the splint relights then the gas is oxygen
  • Test the final sample with limewater
  • ...and if the limewater goes cloudy then the gas is carbon dioxide

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

One brand of glittery lipstick includes carefully measured amounts of each ingredient in the list below.

  • waxes
  • oils
  • coloured pigments
  • tiny pieces of shiny silica

Glittery lipstick is a formulation. State what is meant by a formulation, and explain how the information in the box shows that lipstick is a formulation. In your answer, suggest the purposes of three of the ingredients in the lipstick. [6 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 formulation is a mixture that has been designed as a useful product
  • Lipstick is a formulation because it contains several components/ingredients...
  • ...in carefully measured amount
  • Coloured pigments give lipstick its colour
  • Waxes and oils enable lipstick to spread over the lips
  • Oils help to prevent the lips drying out
  • Tiny pieces of silica make the lipstick glittery

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

A waterproof pen has ink which is insoluble in water. A student wants to investigate which pigments are used to make the ink. Describe how she should use paper chromatography to identify how many pigments are in the ink. [6 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.

  • Draw a horizontal line in pencil near the bottom of the piece of chromatography paper
  • Place a spot of the ink from the pen on the pencil line
  • Place the piece of paper into a beaker so that it doesn’t touch the sides (eg hang it from above)
  • Add a small amount of a suitable solvent (not water)
  • …so that the level of the solvent is below the pencil line/spot
  • Allow the solvent to rise up the paper
  • Count the number of spots/colours on the chromatogram

Sample question 4 - Higher

Question

Read the information in the table carefully.

MaterialWhat is in the material?
AluminiumThe element aluminium only
Aluminium oxide The compound aluminium oxide only
An aluminium alloy used in aeroplanesA mixture containing 93.5% aluminium, 4.4% copper, 1.5% magnesium and 0.6% manganese

Use examples from the table to help you to describe and explain the differences between pure substances and formulations. [6 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
  • Aluminium is an element, so it is pure substance
  • Aluminium oxide is a compound, so it is a pure substance
  • A formulation is a mixture that has been designed as a useful product
  • The aluminium alloy is a formulation...
  • ...because it is made up of several substances
  • ...mixed in carefully measured quantities
  • ...so that it is suitable for a particular purpose/making aeroplanes