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 lose 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 24 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:

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

The command words 'describe' and 'explain' can be confused. If you are asked to describe a graph, you will be expected to write about its overall shape, whether it is linear or curved, the slope of gradients etc. If you are asked to explain why a pattern or trend is seen in a graph, you will be expected to use your science knowledge not just say what you see (which is a description), eg 'The graph shows that the biodiversity is lower on the school field. This is because…''

'Explain how' and 'why' questions often have the word 'because' in their answer. 'Describe' questions don't.

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


Describe an experiment to demonstrate the effect of different concentrations of salt on beetroot cells. [6 marks]

This question combines ideas about osmosis and techniques used in microscopy.

While you could write about an experiment on osmosis in beetroot cylinders it's better to write about the examination of the beetroot cells.

Your answer should include the following points:

  • prepare a range of concentrations of salt solution on a microscope slide [1]
  • cut a thin slice of beetroot tissue and place it on the slide [1]
  • place a coverslip on top [1]
  • examine with low power, then high power to observe individual cells [1]
  • observe/draw/record digitally what you see, but look at other areas of the slide to make sure that these observations are consistent [1]
  • repeat with other concentrations of salt solution [1]

Sample question 2 - Higher


Sometimes a baby is born with a hole in the wall that separates the left and right sides of the heart. In the diagram below this hole is shown in the wall separating the right and left ventricles.

Diagram showing a heart with a hole between the left and right ventricle

Use the diagram of the double circulation of blood and your knowledge of blood circulation. Explain the consequences a person may suffer if they have a hole between the right and left ventricles of the heart. [4 marks]

Your answer should include the following points:

  • blood flows between left and right ventricles [1]
  • both sides of heart contain a mixture of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, the left ventricle will contain partially oxygenated blood [1]
  • blood sent to body will be partially oxygenated [1]
  • resulting in not enough oxygen supplied to cells/tissues/organs/muscles [1]