Six mark questions

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.

Sample question 1 - Higher


Explain how the force on a conductor in a magnetic field can be used to cause the rotation of a motor. Refer to the diagram in your answer. [6 marks]

A split ring motor connected to a battery and a wire. It is also connected to a coil with an electric current. Two magnets are on either side of this coil. North on one side, south on the other.

This question has been written by a Bitesize consultant as a suggestion to the type of questions that may appear in an exam paper.

Using Fleming's left-hand rule [1], the direction of the force on the left hand side of the coil is downwards [1]. The force on the right hand side of the coil is upwards [1]. This causes the motor to begin to rotate [1]. After half a turn, the split ring commutator reverses the direction of the current through the coil [1] so that the motor continues to rotate [1].

Answering tip

Briefly plan the key points you want to include in your answer. For example:

  • consider the direction of the force on the left and right hand side of the coil
  • explain how you worked out the direction
  • explain how this leads to continuous rotation using the slip ring commutator