Linking questions

Linking questions span different topics. In linking questions, 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 loose 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.

One way to answer linking questions is to follow these steps:

  1. identify exactly what the question is asking (perhaps by underlining key parts)
  2. identify what the link between the two parts of the question is
  3. make a short plan of these links (which will form the basis of your answer)
  4. include as much information as you can to obtain full marks (see below)

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[4 marks]'. It is essential that you give four different answers if a question is worth four marks. Sometimes you can gain an additional mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, eg after twenty-four hours the pH of the milk at room temperature had decreased by 1.2.

Linking 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
  • '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 confused. 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 that the biodiversity is lower on the school field. This is because…

Explain how and why questions often have the word 'because' in their answer. Describe questions don't.

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


The figure below shows the graph of human population.

A graph showing the population growth over the last 10,000 years. The y axis is population in billions, it goes from 0 - 6. The x axis is date from 8000 BCE to 2000 CE. Until 2000CD the plotted line rises slowly, but never goes above 0.5 billion.  At this point it rises almost vertically off the top of the graph.

During this time the number of extinctions has increased. Explain why. [6 marks]

Marks will be allocated by implementing the following points:

  • As the human population increases so does demand for food, clothing and housing. In order to provide this more deforestation is occurring. This reduces biodiversity.
  • More land is used in mining and quarrying which increases biodiversity.
  • More people means more waste. Much of this waste goes into landfill which reduces biodiversity. More waste means more pollution.
  • This includes air pollution by carbon dioxide which increases the greenhouse effect and then global warming.
  • This also includes water pollution by toxic chemicals from factories and fertilisers from farm land. This also reduces biodiversity.

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Explain how plants meet the challenges of growing in hot, dry climates. [6 marks]

This question combines ideas about photosynthesis, diffusion, transpiration and surface area to volume ratios.

The following is a list of valid points that could be included in your answer:

  • plants open stomata to let in the carbon dioxide required for photosynthesis
  • water diffuses out, a process called transpiration
  • in hot, dry climates, the rate of transpiration will be higher
  • these plants have adaptations to reduce water loss
  • leaves are reduced in size and may be reduced to spines
  • stomata may be sunken in pits, surrounded by hairs or in furrows in the stem
  • water will be lost over the plants' surface and the shape of the plant, eg globular, reduces the surface area to volume ratio and therefore the amount of water lost

Sample question 3 - Higher


Explain how burning fossil fuels results in the melting of the polar ice caps. [4 marks]

Marks will be awarded from these points:

  • burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
  • this increases the greenhouse effect
  • this causes global warming which is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth
  • this is causing the ice caps to melt

Sample question 4 - Higher


Deforestation is the cutting down of trees. The water cycle shows the different processes water undergoes.

Explain how deforestation can affect the water cycle. [6 marks]

Remember to include as many processes from the water cycle in your answer.

The correct answer should have these points:

  • deforestation does not directly affect the volume of water that evaporates from ponds, lakes and oceans
  • it does however reduce the volume of water that evaporates from plants during transpiration
  • transport of water in clouds is not affected
  • but if water precipitates from clouds as rain or snow onto deforested areas, less will be absorbed by plant roots and more will runoff the surface
  • this can cause floods and landslides
  • at this point no more water can infiltrate the ground

You should also demonstrate that you understand how local deforestation can have a global impact. It is likely to contribute to global warming which in turn will have an impact on climate change. Higher global temperatures could cause an increase in evaporation rates from oceans and lakes, which in turn could lead to, increased rainfall.