Structured questions

This is the most common question on exam papers, although the number of marks for each question may vary.

At its simplest, this type of question will ask you to remember a simple fact that you have been taught. This type of question is likely to be worth one mark, and will often start with 'Give...', 'State...' or 'Name..'. In some cases, a question may ask you to state two things, rather than just one, and will be worth two marks.

Other structured questions may be worth two or more marks. These will often start with a command word such as 'Describe...' or 'Explain...', and will require a more detailed answer:

  • if you are asked to describe something, you need to give an account but no reason
  • if you are asked to explain something, you must give reasons or explanations

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

The mark schemes given here may show answers as bullet points. This is to show clearly how a mark can be obtained. However, it is important that your answer is written in a logical, linked way. Examiners will not credit a key word if it is used out of context, or if your answer contradicts itself.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


The diagrams show an atom of hydrogen and an atom of helium. Use the diagrams to help you complete the sentences below.

Structures of hydrogen and helium

The blue circle represents a ______. [1 mark]

The blue circle represents a neutron [1].

Sample question 2 - Foundation


Neon is directly below helium in the periodic table. It has three stable isotopes - neon-20, neon-21 and neon-22.

Describe how the nuclei of neon-20, neon-21 and neon-22 are similar and how they are different. [2 marks]

  • all three have 10 protons [1]
  • neon-20 has 10 neutrons, neon-21 has 11 and neon-22 has 12 [1]

Sample question 3 - Higher


The following diagram shows the electronic structure of an element, A.

Element A and its electronic structure.

Explain how the electronic structure of element A can be used to determine the number of protons in its nucleus. [2 marks]

  • electronic structure is 2,8,7 therefore 17 electrons/atomic structure is 17 [1]
  • number of electrons is equal to the number of protons [1]

Sample question 4 - Higher


Boron has two isotopes, _{5}^{11}\textrm{B} and _{5}^{10}\textrm{B}.

Give one similarity and one difference between the nuclei of these two boron atoms. [2 marks]

  • similarity - same number of protons/same atomic number [1]
  • difference - different number of neutron/different mass number [1]