Six-mark questions

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

Most questions on exam papers have mark schemes that give key points that are given marks. The six-mark questions are marked differently: they use a levels-based mark scheme. This type of mark scheme is used because these questions are more open-ended. To gain full marks, you need to:

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

Six-mark questions often use these command words:

  • 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 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 full sentences, linking them logically and clearly.

Answers are placed in three marking bands:

  • 1-2 marks for answers showing limited content and reasoning and with significant omissions
  • 3-4 marks for answers that give some relevant points, with linking and reasoning and with fewer omissions
  • 5-6 marks for answers that link most of the relevant points, with good links and reasoning. They will have few, if any, omissions.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Lithium, sodium and potassium are group 1 metals.

A teacher wanted to demonstrate the similarities and differences in how each metal reacted with water. She added a small piece of each metal separately to a trough of water.

Describe what you would see when each metal is added to water and state how the observations can be used to establish the trend in reactivity within the group. [6 marks]

Your answer should include the following:

  • all three metals float
  • they move about the water surface
  • gas bubbles are produced
  • lithium reacts slowly without melting
  • sodium reacts quickly, and melts into a ball
  • potassium reacts violently, melting into a ball and burning with a lilac flame
  • reactivity increases down the group


Sample question 2 - Higher


Describe how reactions involving chlorine, bromine and iodine can be used to show the trend in reactivity in group 7 elements. [6 marks]

Your answer should include the following:

  • correct order of reactivity, ie chlorine > bromine > iodine
  • observations relating to the reactions of halogens with iron, eg iron glows more brightly in chlorine than bromine
  • displacement reactions, eg chlorine reacts with potassium bromide to give bromine
  • appropriate word/symbol equations