Structured questions and short answer questions

Questions with 1, 2, 3 or 4 marks usually start with command words. If a question starts with the command word 'state', 'give', 'name' or 'write down', it needs a short answer only. This type of question can often be answered with one word or phrase.

It is important to state, give, name or write down the number of things that the question asks for. If you write down fewer, you cannot get all the marks. If you write down more, and one is wrong, you might lose a mark.

Some questions start with the command words 'describe', 'explain' or 'compare'. These are often worth two or more marks:

  • Describe means you should recall facts, events or processes accurately. You might need to give an account of what something looked like, or what happened.
  • Explain means you need to make something clear, or state the reasons for something happening. The points in the answer must be linked together. The answer must not be a list of reasons. All the points must be relevant to the question.
  • Compare means you need to describe similarities and differences between things. If you are asked to compare X and Y, write down something about X and something about Y, and give a comparison. Do not just write about X only or Y only.

More complex structured questions will be worth three or four marks. They include questions with complex descriptions and explanations, and questions in which you need to compare things.

curriculum-key-fact
Three and four-mark questions usually require longer answers than one and two-mark questions.

Some of the answers are shown here as bullet points. This is to show clearly how a mark can be obtained. However, do not use bullet points in your answers - the points must be linked together logically.

Sample question 1 - Foundation

Question

The graph shows the effect of fluoride in drinking water on tooth decay in different age groups.

Bar graph of fluoride effect on tooth decay

Describe the patterns of tooth decay for water without fluoride. Use data to justify your answer. [2 marks]

This question is AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • The percentage of teeth showing tooth decay increases with age [1]
  • By 4% for each increasing age group [1]
Question

Describe the effect of adding fluoride to drinking water for the age groups in the graph. [2 marks]

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

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • It reduces tooth decay (for all age groups) [1]
  • There is a greater reduction in older people [1]

Sample question 2 - Higher

Question

A gas which bleaches litmus paper can be added to the water to make it potable. Name this gas and explain why it is added to water. [2 marks]

This question is AQA material which is reproduced by permission of AQA.

The following are vaild points that could be included in your answer. It is important that you do not bullet point your answer but write your sentences in full.

  • Chlorine [1]
  • To kill microbes [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

Compare the processes of phytomining and bioleaching. [3 marks]

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

  • Both techniques extract copper/metals from low-grade ores. [1]
  • Phytomining uses plants to absorb metal compounds but bioleaching uses bacteria to produce solutions that contain metal compounds. [2]