Maths questions

Remember that you will need to take a ruler and calculator into the exam.

Questions that test mathematical skills will often start with the command words like 'Calculate...' 'Determine...', 'Estimate...' and 'Measure...'. They will then include blank space for you to show your working.

When an answer to a maths question is marked:

  • full marks are given for the right answer (but it is very important to show your working, so you can check your answer and so that, if you make a small slip, you can still get marks for your working)
  • marks are given for working, including substitution and rearrangement
  • if you make a small mistake, the examiner will give you credit for your 'error carried forward'

An "error carried forward" means that, in questions with more than one part, your answer to a later question part will be marked according to your answer for the earlier part, even if you got this wrong. So, you could still get full marks in the later answer if your working is correct but you use the incorrect earlier answer.

If your answer has many decimal places or figures, make sure you give it to an appropriate number of decimal places or significant figures. If in doubt, match the number of decimal places or significant figures to the data given in the question.

You may be asked to give units. This may earn you an additional mark, so don’t forget to check whether you need to do this.

Maths questions might ask you to plot or complete a graph or table. When you draw a graph, make sure you:

  • plot each point accurately
  • draw a best fit straight line or curve

You may be given a grid with axes labelled and scales already given. Sometimes you may be given an empty grid for you to supply your own axes. When you do this:

  • put the independent variable (the one that is being changed in the experiment) on the x-axis and the dependent variable (the one that changes as a result) on the y-axis
  • make sensible scales so that the plotted points cover at least half of the area of the graph
  • label the axes with their quantity and unit, eg time (s)

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Complete the following table that shows information about atoms of some elements. [2 marks]

ElementSymbolNumber of protonsNumber of neutronsNumber of electrons
Fluorine _{9}^{19}\textrm{F}9____________
ElementSymbolNumber of protonsNumber of neutronsNumber of electrons
Fluorine _{9}^{19}\textrm{F}910 [1]9 [1]

Sample question 2 - 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 mass number of this helium atom is ______. [1 mark]

The mass number of this helium atom is 3 [1].

Sample question 3 - Higher


Chlorine has two naturally occurring isotopes, ^{35}\textrm{Cl} and ^{37}\textrm{Cl}

The isotope containing 18 neutrons makes up 75% of all chlorine atoms.

Calculate the relative atomic mass (Ar) of chlorine. [3 marks]

  • an indication that ^{37}\textrm{Cl} is the isotope making up 25% of all atoms [1]
  • (35 × 75) and (37 × 25) or 2625 and 925 [1]
  • divided by 100 = 35.5 [1]