Six-mark questions

Six-mark questions are extended open response questions. These require longer answers than the structured questions. It is wise to plan your answer rather than rushing straight into it, otherwise you may stray away from the key points.

Most questions on exam papers have mark schemes that give key points that are given marks. The six-mark questions are marked differently: they use a levels-based mark scheme. This type of mark scheme is used because these questions are more open-ended. To gain full marks, you need to:

  • support explanations using scientific knowledge and understanding
  • use appropriate scientific words and terms
  • write clearly and link ideas in a logical way
  • maintain a sustained line of reasoning, rather than getting lost or bogged down

Six-mark questions often use these command words:

  • Describe - you need to give an account but no reason
  • Explain - you must give reasons or explanations
  • Devise - you must plan or invent a procedure using your scientific knowledge and understanding
  • Evaluate - you must review information, including identifying strengths and weaknesses, and make a supported conclusion

Six-mark questions may be synoptic questions. These questions bring together ideas from two or more topics. For example, a question about fertilisers could include ideas about covalent substances, acids and alkalis, chemical calculations, and effects on the environment.

The answers shown here give marking points as bullet points. You do not usually need to include all of them to gain six marks, but you do need to write in full sentences, linking them logically and clearly.

Answers are placed in three marking bands:

  • 1-2 marks for answers showing limited content and reasoning and with significant omissions
  • 3-4 marks for answers that give some relevant points, with linking and reasoning and with fewer omissions
  • 5-6 marks for answers that link most of the relevant points, with good links and reasoning. They will have few, if any, omissions.

Questions courtesy of Eduqas.

Sample question 1 - Foundation


Describe the properties of metals and relate these properties to the uses of two metals of your choice. [6 marks]

Your answer could include the following:


  • low density - used to build aircraft
  • good heat conductor - saucepans
  • good electrical conductivity and low density - overhead power cables


  • good heat conductor - saucepan bases
  • good electrical conductor - electrical wires


  • strong with low density - helicopter rotor, hip replacement


Sample question 2 - Higher


Lithium chloride is a solid with a high melting point. It conducts electricity only when molten or in solution.

Describe the bonding present in lithium chloride and explain the properties given above. [6 marks]

Your answer should include the following:

  • lithium atom loses an electron
  • it becomes a positive ion
  • chlorine atom gains an electron
  • it becomes a negative chloride ion
  • diagram showing transfer of electrons from lithium to chlorine
  • strong force of attraction between oppositely charged ions
  • high melting point due to strong bonds between ions
  • conducts electricity when molten or in solution as charged ions are free to move
  • does not conduct when solid as ions are not free to move