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.

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

Question

What is meant by the term 'activation energy'? [2 marks]

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 minimum energy (needed by particles)... [1]
  • ...for a reaction to occur [1]

Sample question 2 - Foundation

Question

A student pours water into four polystyrene cups, and measures the temperature of the water.

She adds a different substance to each cup.

She stirs and measures the temperatures again.

Her results are in table 1.

Table 1

SubstanceTemperature of water at the start (°C)Temperature of solution wen reaction finishes (°C)Temperature change (°C)
copper sulfate2026+6
ammonium chloride2015-5
potassium nitrate2011
calcium oxide2031

a) Complete the table by writing in the missing values. [2 marks]

b) Write down the names of the two substances that dissolve in water exothermically. [1 mark]

a)

SubstanceTemperature of water at the start (°C)Temperature of solution wen reaction finishes (°C)Temperature change (°C)
copper sulfate2026+6
ammonium chloride2015-5
potassium nitrate2011-9 [1 mark]
calcium oxide2031+11 [1 mark]

b) Copper sulphate and calcium oxide. [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher

Question

Draw a reaction profile for an exothermic reaction using the axes provided below.

Show the:

  • Relative energies of the reactants and products
  • Activation energy and overall energy change
Blank bar graph

[2 marks]

Reaction profile graph

Diagram should include:

  • The correct relative energies of the reactants, products and the overall energy change labelled [1]
  • The activation energy labelled [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher

Question

A teacher uses a teat pipette to place 1 cm3 of water on a block of wood.

She places a beaker on top of the water.

Then she mixes citric acid and sodium hydrogencarbonate in the beaker. When she stirs the mixture, there is a chemical reaction.

Suggest why the water under the beaker gets cold enough to freeze. Use the word exothermic or endothermic in your answer. [2 marks]

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 chemical reaction must be endothermic. [1]
  • The reacting mixture takes in energy from the surroundings, including the water. [1]