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
  • ‘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 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.

This page contains AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Each of the three metal bars in the figure below is either a bar magnet or a piece of un-magnetised iron.

The forces that act between the bars when different ends are placed close together are shown by the arrows:

Six metal bars in pairs, two pairs attract and one repels.

Which one of the metal bars is a piece of un-magnetised iron? [2 marks]

Tick one box. Give the reason for your answer.

ABar 1
BBar 2
CBar 3
ABar 1
BBar 2
CBar 3


Any one of:

  • the same end of bar 1 attracts both ends of bar 2
  • only two magnets can repel so bar 1 and bar 3 must be magnetised


This two mark question contains a multiple choice part and a written part. It is important to answer the question fully as sometimes marks are only given for the explanation.

Sample question 2 - Foundation


A teacher used the equipment shown in the image below to demonstrate the motor effect.

Copper rod attached to a circuit containing an open switch, battery and a variable resistor; suspended in the middle of a horseshoe magnet.

Increasing the current can increase the force acting on the copper rod.

Give one other way in which the size of the force acting on the copper rod could be increased. [1 mark]

Any one of:

  • use a stronger magnet
  • increase the magnetic flux density
  • increase the length of the copper rod in the magnetic field
  • coil the copper rod


The motor effect depends on the strength of the magnetic field, the size of current flowing and the amount of current carrying wire within the magnetic field. You must state how the chosen factor is changed, ie use a stronger magnet.

Sample question 3 - Higher


An electromagnet is made up of a solenoid.

The figure below shows a solenoid:

Solenoid coil, with labels showing where current goes in and where current goes out.

Draw the magnetic field of the solenoid on the figure above. [2 marks]

Solenoid coil, with labels showing where current goes in and where current goes out, and a magnetic field lines.

The field lines within the coil should be parallel and not touching [1]. At the ends of the coil the field lines should begin to diverge and may be shown looping from one end of the coil to the other [1].

Sample question 4 - Higher


Electromagnets are often used at recycling centres to separate some types of metals from other materials.

Give two reasons why an electromagnet would be used rather than a permanent magnet. [2 marks]

  • electromagnets can be switched off to release the metals [1]
  • the strength of the electromagnet can be adjusted if necessary [1]