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.
Six-mark questions will start with command words such as 'describe' or 'explain'. 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 number of radioactive nuclei decreases as time increases. 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 the form '[6 marks]'. It is essential that you give as many different points in your answer as possible, linking these together. Often, you will be asked to compare two things: make sure that you include both in your answer otherwise, you are likely to limit your score to two marks out of six marks.
Edexcel questions courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.
The graph below shows the thinking, braking and stopping distances for an average car and driver stopping from 50 miles per hour as shown in the Highway Code. It also shows the thinking, braking and stopping distances for drivers of cars A and B, both stopping from 50 miles per hour:
A and B are different cars on different roads.
Use the factors that can affect thinking and braking distances to explain the differences in stopping distances for cars A and B. [6 marks]
Plan the key points that you should include in your answer. Begin by explaining what is meant by stopping distance. Then consider factors that affect the thinking distance and braking distance. You should try to use data from the chart in your suggestion of why the stopping distances are different.
A model rocket contains 50 g of fuel when it takes off. The fuel burns and the model rocket rises vertically. After a while, there is no fuel left. Eventually the empty model rocket falls back to the ground.
The graph is a velocity-time graph for the model rocket. Four stages are labelled on the graph.
Explain why the velocity of the model rocket changes as shown in the graph. [6 marks]
Plan the key points that you should include in your answer. For each stage of the graph you should describe the shape, explain the reason for the shape and finally link this to an explanation for the change in velocity.