Short answer questions

Some short answer questions will be multiple choice questions. These will appear in both exam papers, and at both tiers. Multiple choice questions are asked as questions, often starting with 'What is …' or 'Which of these …'.

You have four options to choose from in a multiple choice question. You must only choose one of these options, by writing your answer (A, B, C, or D) in a box.

It may help to reject any answers that you feel are obviously wrong, so that you can focus on choosing the right answer.

Other short answer 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 speed of the object decreased by 8 m/s.'

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


Choose the correct word from the bracket in the sentences below. [3 marks]

Each word may be used once, more than once, or not at all.

a) An ammeter measures the [voltage/power/current] through a circuit.

b) When lamps are connected in series they all have the same [voltage/power/current] through them.

c) When lamps are connected in parallel they all have the same [voltage/power/current] across them.

a) Current [1]

b) Current [1]

c) Voltage [1]

Sample question 2 - Higher


An electric iron has a power rating of 750 W and works off the 230 V mains voltage by means of a three cable fused plug.

a) Which cable, live, neutral or earth, is connected to its metal case? [1 mark]

b) Recall an equation to calculate the current that flows into it when working at full power. [2 marks]

c) State which size of fuse, 3 A, 5 A or 13 A, should be placed in the plug. [1 mark]

a) earth [1]

b) P  =  IV

So, I  =  \frac{P}{V} =  \frac{750}{230} [1]

 = 3.26~A [1]

c) 5 A [1]