Magnetism and electromagnetism - 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.

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


A student was asked to perform an experiment on magnetic field patterns. The experiment was completed but the only record produced in the lab book were these two diagrams. Complete the student's report by describing how the experiment was executed. [6 marks]

A bar magnet with magnetic field lines curving round from the north to south pole. Five small plotting compasses sit on the top line on either side.Current flows towards you in the top five wires, away from you in bottom five. Magnetic fields flow anti-clockwise around top five wires, clockwise around bottom. North pole right. South pole left.

In this investigation a permanent bar magnet and a wire in the form of a solenoid were used. In order to map out the field lines a plotting compass was used and this is seen on the first diagram with the bar magnet. A power supply was used to provide the current through the solenoid and again the plotting compass was used to map out the field. The diagram for the solenoid is shown as a cross-sectional view and it is noted that both magnetic field patterns are very similar. The solenoid field disappears with no current and the N and S poles interchange if the direction of current reverses. The strength of the solenoid field can also be changed by varying the current.

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

  • identify the two situations investigated
  • identify any equipment used
  • compare both magnetic fields

Sample question 2 - Higher


The diagram below illustrates a microphone - study it carefully:

A moving coil microphone. Wire extends out the bottom and transmits the electrical signal, which becomes sound.

Describe, with reference to the diagram, how this device converts sound waves into electrical signals. [6 marks]

This type of microphone has a moving coil which is attached to a flexible diaphragm. The sound waves strike the diaphragm and force it to move backwards and forwards at the same frequency as the sound. The vibrating diaphragm moves the coil backwards and forwards in a magnetic field. This field is produced by a permanent magnet. An alternating current is induced in the coil with the same frequency as the sound. This current is quite small and has to be amplified in certain situations.

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

  • use the following terms in your answer: frequency, induce and alternating
  • what can you say about the output current?