One and two mark questions

One and 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 mass of the plant tissue decreased by 2 g

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


Pollen grains grow down into female flowers on their way to fertilising an egg. In the flower tissue, oxygen concentrations are low.

Suggest which molecules are produced as a pollen grain respires. [2 marks]

Ethanol and carbon dioxide.

Pollen grains can respire anaerobically as the pollen tube moves towards an egg.

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Describe how anaerobic respiration is important in bread making. [2 marks]

  • (the anaerobic respiration of) yeast is involved [1]
  • bubbles of carbon dioxide make the bread rise [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher


Define the inverse square law. [2 marks]

  • For a type of electromagnetic radiation such as light [1 mark]
  • As the distance from the light source increases, light intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance [1 mark]

It is important that you use the words 'inversely proportional' and not 'equals' - light intensity and distance are different parameters.

The command word in the question is 'define', so you do not have to give reasons for this, ie 'explaining' the way photons spread out.

Sample question 4 - Higher


Explain how some plants are adapted to growing in the shade. [2 marks]

  • Shade-adapted plants produce more chlorophyll (so that they are more efficient at absorbing light) [1]
  • So can photosynthesise at lower light intensities/have a lower compensation point than plants that grow in brighter conditions [1]