Animal coordination and control - Six-mark questions

Six-mark questions are often the questions that people find the most difficult. In all longer answer questions, but especially the six-mark ones, 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.

Six-mark questions will start with command words such as 'describe', 'evaluate' 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 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 the pH of milk decreases. It does this 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 '[6 marks]'. It is essential that you give as many different points in your answer as possible (ideally six).

The examiner looks for a 'level of response' in six-mark questions. If you list some simple statements without a logical structure you will be limited to a maximum of two marks. A better answer for four marks would demonstrate your understanding, but may miss some details. Only answers that have a logical sequence with relevant detail would achieve six marks.

Edexcel questions courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


The table shows the effectiveness of different methods of contraception in the prevention of pregnancy during their first year of use.

It shows percentages for typical use (some mistakes when used) and perfect use (no mistakes when used).

Contraceptive methodType of contraceptiveTypical usePerfect use
Female condomBarrier21%5%
Male condomBarrier15%2%
Intra uterine deviceHormonal8%0.3%
Combined pillHormonal8%0.2%
Mini pillHormonal8%0.3%
Combined patchHormonal8%0.2%

Compare and contrast the data for different contraceptive methods and types, to give advice as to the best method of contraception to avoid pregnancy. [6 marks]

To gain full marks, the following points should be included in the answer:

  • during typical use, the barrier methods are considerably less effective than hormonal methods
  • during perfect use the barrier methods are less effective than hormonal methods
  • perfect use of both barrier and hormonal methods are significantly more effective
  • the use of the combined pill and combined patch are the most effective contraceptive method
  • with perfect use only 0.2% result in pregnancy pregnancies and with typical use 8% result in pregnancy
  • the least effective contraceptive method is the female condom
  • 21% pregnancy with typical use and 16% pregnancy with perfect use
  • the most effective method of contraception is a hormonal method
  • the combined pill or combined patch are the most effective
  • perfect use is more effective than typical use
  • it may be easier to use the combined patch rather than the combined pill as it is less effected by digestive problems


Sample question 2 - Higher


Describe the role of hormones in the maintenance of constant blood glucose levels. [6 marks]

Six from:

  • high levels of blood sugar are detected
  • insulin is released from the pancreas
  • this travels in the blood to the liver and muscles
  • excess glucose is absorbed by the liver and muscles
  • it is stored as insoluble glycogen
  • low levels of blood sugar are detected
  • glucagon is released from the pancreas
  • this travels in the blood to the liver and muscles
  • excess glucose is release from the liver and muscles
  • which was stored as insoluble glycogen