Linking questions

Linking questions span different topics. In linking questions, 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 loose marks, get steps in a process in the wrong order or forget key bits of information. Remember to write your answer in full sentences, not bullet points.

One way to answer linking questions is to follow these steps:

  1. Identify exactly what the question is asking (perhaps by underlining key parts).
  2. Identify what the link between the two parts of the question is.
  3. Make a short plan of these links (which will form the basis of your answer).
  4. Include as much information as you can to obtain full marks (see below).

The number of marks per question part is given in this form '[4 marks]'. It is essential that you give four different answers if a question is worth four marks. Sometimes you can gain an additional mark by giving the units in a calculation or stating specific data points, for example, after twenty-four hours the pH of the milk at room temperature had decreased by 1.2.

Linking 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
  • 'choose' for multiple-choice 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 confused. 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 that the biodiversity is lower on the school field. This is because…

Explain how and why questions often have the word 'because' in their answer. Describe questions don't.

These questions have been written by Bitesize consultants as suggestions to the types of questions that may appear in an exam paper.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Describe the process of diffusion of oxygen in the body. Explain how cells are specialised for this. [4 marks]

Any four from:

  • oxygen diffuses from high concentrations in the alveoli to the blood
  • the alveoli have a large surface area (one mark), are moist (one mark) and have short distances to the blood cells (one mark) to maximise this
  • red blood cells carry oxygen around the body
  • they have a biconcave shape (one mark) and no nucleus (one mark) to maximise the oxygen they can carry
  • oxygen then diffuses from high concentration in the blood to low concentration in the body cells


Sample question 2 - Foundation


Describe how both the enzymes of the digestive system and its adaptations help break down foods. [5 marks]

Answer could include:

  • carbohydrase enzymes break down carbohydrates into sugars
  • they are produced in the mouth, pancreas and small intestine
  • lipase enzymes break down fats and oils into fatty acids and glycerol
  • they are produced in the pancreas and small intestine
  • protease enzymes break down proteins into amino acids
  • they are produced in the stomach, pancreas and small intestine
  • the small intestine is about 4 metres long and has millions of tiny projections called villi which increase the surface area to increase diffusion


Sample question 3 - Higher


Explain how plant roots are adapted for osmosis and active transport and give an example of a substance absorbed by each process. [4 marks]

Any four from:

  • osmosis is the net movement of molecules from an area of high to lower concentration across a partially permeable membrane
  • active transport is the net movement of molecules from an area of low to high concentration and requires energy
  • plants use active transport to absorb nitrates which are in low concentrations in the soil and higher concentrations in the plant
  • plants have root hair cells
  • these increase the surface area of the plant in contact with the soil
  • this allows greater osmosis and active transport