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 lose 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, eg after 24 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

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

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Suggest how stem cells might be used to treat a patient with type 1 diabetes. [3 marks]

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

Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person cannot produce any, or enough insulin [1]. Hopefully in the future stem cells from a donor or family member can be transplanted [1] so that the patient can produce insulin [1].

This question combines ideas about diabetes with stem cells and potential stem cell therapies.

When answering questions on stem cells, be careful, as therapies are being developed, rather than being used.

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Suggest why some people support embryonic stem cell research, whereas others do not. [2 marks]

Question courtesy of Eduqas.

Some people believe that embryonic stem cell research will lead to the treatment or cure of many diseases, or have the potential to treat damaged tissue. [1]

Those against the research reference the ethical issues involved, such as destruction of the embryos/foetuses. They question at what stage of its development is an embryo to be regarded and treated as a person. [1]

It is important to address both parts of the question describing both points of view, so that you can get the two marks available.

Sample question 3 - Higher


There are two types of cell division in eukaryotes.

Explain the importance of mitosis in the growth and repair of an organism but meiosis in the production of gametes. [6 marks]

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

The following is a list of valid points that could be included in your answer:

  • Mitosis takes place where it is essential that the daughter cells produced are identical to the parent cells.
  • Daughter cells must have the same alleles so that genes can be expressed appropriately.
  • The production of identical daughter cells is important in growth, from the embryo, to the foetus, to the mature organism - and in the repair and replacement of damaged and worn out cells.
  • Meiosis is a reduction division that produces daughter cells with half the number of chromosomes as the parent cells.
  • This is necessary because otherwise a gamete would contain the same number of chromosomes as a parent (if they were produced by mitosis) and an organism's chromosome number would double every generation.
  • During meiosis there is also an exchange of genetic material between chromosomes as they pair up. This leads to genetic variation in the offspring.
  • The genetic variation from sexual reproduction contributes to the survival of a species.
  • When DNA is copied, in both types of cell division, mistakes are made - mutations occur. In the case of meiosis, this is the driving force of evolution.


This question combines ideas about mitosis, meiosis, genetic variation and evolution. Note that it is not just an example of a 'compare the difference' between mitosis and meiosis style question. It has a particular focus.