Six mark questions

Six mark questions are extended open response questions. These require longer answers than the structured questions with fewer marks. It is wise to plan your answer rather than rushing straight into it, otherwise you may stray away from the key points.

Six mark questions are marked using a levels-based mark scheme because they are open ended. To gain full marks, you need to:

  • support explanations using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • use appropriate scientific words and terms
  • write clearly, linking ideas in a logical way
  • maintain a sustained line of reasoning, rather than getting lost or bogged down

You are likely to see command words such as:

  • 'describe' - you need to give an account but no reason
  • 'explain' - you must give reasons or explanations
  • 'devise' - you must plan or invent a procedure using your scientific knowledge and understanding
  • 'evaluate' - you must review information, including identifying strengths and weaknesses, and make a supported conclusion

Six mark questions may be synoptic questions. These questions bring together ideas from two or more topics. For example, a question about atoms could include ideas about atomic structure, isotopes, radiation and nuclear reactions. Remember that the topics covered in the first paper are assumed knowledge for the second paper, so questions in the second paper may need knowledge and understanding of those topics too.

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 full sentences, linking them logically and clearly.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


What forces would a person experience whilst bungee jumping, and how would they affect the motion? [6 marks]

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

The first force that the person would experience is gravity or weight. This force remains constant throughout the jump and is always pulling downward, causing the person to accelerate downwards [1].

During the fall, the person also experiences another force, air resistance. As the speed of the person increases, the air resistance also increases [1]. This force always pushes against the direction of motion [1].

The third force a person would experience whilst jumping is an upward force from the bungee cord. The size of this force depends on how far the cord has been stretched [1]. As the person falls further downwards, the upward force on the bungee cord increases, causing the person to decelerate [1].

When the elastic force pulling up, equals and then exceeds the gravity force pulling down, the person will stop falling, and will be pulled up [1].

Answering tip: Briefly plan the key points you want to include in your answer. For example:

  • start by looking at the first force the person would experience as soon as they jump, then look at all the other forces they would experience as they’re jumping
  • look at what the direction of the forces are
  • then look at how these things affect the motion of the person

Sample question 2 - Higher


Explain in terms of forces, why, after jumping from a plane, a skydiver reaches a terminal speed. [6 marks]

Question courtesy of Eduqas.

  • During free fall, sky diver acted on by 2 forces - weight and air resistance
  • The weight remains constant throughout the fall
  • The air resistance increase with speed
  • Eventually the air resistance becomes equal to the weight
  • The resultant force is zero
  • The skydiver stops accelerating

Answering tip: Briefly plan the key points you want to include in your answer. For example:

  • Consider what the forces are that are acting, name them
  • Consider which stay constant and which change with speed
  • Remember that while speeding up there has to be a resultant force
  • When at constant speed there is no resultant force