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 a Bitesize consultant as a suggestion to the type of questions that may appear in an exam paper.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Here is a woodland food chain.

Tree → Caterpillars → Sparrow → Hawk

Name one carnivore in this food chain. [1 mark]

Sparrow or hawk.

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Peat bogs are wet areas of land where moss grows.

Use the words from the box to complete the sentences. [2 marks]


Peat bogs are a store of carbon. They are called carbon _____________.

They often have very low levels of decomposition because they are _____________.

Peat bogs are a store of carbon. They are called carbon sinks.

They often have very low levels of decomposition because they are anaerobic.

Sample question 3 – Foundation


The human population is increasing at an exponential rate.

Explain why this is occurring. [4 marks]

  1. Better health care so people are living longer
  2. New medicines are being developed so people don't die of previously fatal diseases
  3. Farmers are able to produce more food using new breeds and equipment
  4. Some religions do not permit the use of contraception

Sample question 4 – Higher


Suggest one reason why genetic modification of mammals is an ethical issue. [1 mark]

People disagree with genetic modification of mammals for religious reasons.

Question 5 - Higher


Competition between organisms is an important driver for evolution.

Describe the similarities and difference in the factors that animals and plants complete for. [4 marks]

Animals and plants both compete for space [1]. This is called territory for animals [1]. As well as this, animals compete for food and mates [1]. Whereas, plants compete for light and water and minerals from the soil [1].