One and two mark questions

One to two 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
  • 'state what is meant by' to give the meaning of an important term
  • 'comment on' 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 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 'The speed of the object decreased by 8m/s.'

Edexcel questions courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.

Sample question 1 - Foundation and Higher


A roller coaster car travelling at 5 m/s enters a pool of water. It slows down and stops. Describe how the total energy of the system is conserved. [2 marks]

Work is done against friction [1], leading to an increase in the thermal energy store of the water [1].

Sample question 2 - Foundation and Higher


A man runs up a set of stairs carrying his suitcase. Explain whether he does more total work if he walks up the same stairs instead of running. [2 marks]

The work done is the same for walking and running [1] because work done depends on force and distance only, not time [1].