One to four mark questions

One to four mark 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
  • '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
  • 'compare' where you describe the similarities and/or differences between things.

The command words 'describe' and 'explain' can be confusing. 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 a steep linear increase for the first three hours because…

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

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[2 marks]'. It is essential that you give two different answers if a question is worth two marks. Sometimes you can gain a second mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, eg during the first two years the number of lions deceased by seven.

You will be expected to write in more depth for three and four mark questions. They might ask you about a process such as the carbon cycle or the method you would use in an experiment.

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


Explain the difference between sensory, relay and motor neurones in terms of the direction that their electrical signals travel. [3 marks]

  • sensory neurones carry electrical signals from receptors to the central nervous system [1]
  • relay neurones carry electrical signals within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) [1]
  • motor neurones carry electrical signals away from the central nervous system to effectors (muscles and glands) [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Explain why reflex arc signals do not immediately go to the brain. [2 marks]

  • because it would take longer to react if they did [1]
  • this might increase any damage to the body [1]

Sample question 3 - Foundation


Describe how are embryonic and adult stem cells different? [2 marks]

  • adult stem cells are only found in specific locations like the nose and bone marrow
  • embryonic stem cells make up all of an embryo
  • adult stem cells can only differentiate into a small number of cell types
  • embryonic stem cells can differentiate into all cell types


Sample question 4 - Higher


State what types of human cells are not produced by mitosis? [1 mark]

Gametes (sperm and ova) [1]

Sample question 5 - Higher


Name the type of cell in plants that can differentiate into different types of cell. [1 mark]

Meristem cell or meristematic cell. [1]

Note that you must be specific. It isn't sufficient to call it a 'stem cell', as stem cells occur in animals.

Sample question 6 - Higher


Why is the use of unused embryos left over from in vitro fertilisation an ethical issue? [1 mark]

Some people disagree with it for religious or moral reasons. [1]