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 the 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 8 m/s.'

Sample question 1 - Foundation and Higher


The table shows information about the magnetic field of a solenoid.

Description of magnetic fieldMagnetic field inside coilMagnetic field outside coil

a) Draw lines on the figure below to show the shape of the magnetic field inside the solenoid.

Use information from the table. [1 mark]

A brown coil of wire, called a solenoid.

b) Describe how a student can determine the shape of the magnetic field around the solenoid. [2 marks]

An Edexcel question courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.


A brown coil of wire, called a solenoid. There are 5 horizontal lines through the middle of the coil


b) Sprinkle iron filings on a piece of card placed above the solenoid [1]. Tap the card to allow the filings to align with the field [1].