Six mark questions

Six mark questions are often the questions that people find the most difficult. In all longer answer questions, but especially the six mark ones, it is important that you plan your answer and not just rush into it. After all, you would plan an essay or short story before starting. Without a plan it is easy to stray away from the key point and lose marks, get steps in a process in the wrong order or forget key bits of information.

Six mark questions will start with command words such as 'describe' or 'explain'. 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 the number of radioactive nuclei decreases as time increases. It does this 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: '[6 marks]'. It is essential that you give as many different points in your answer as possible, linking these together. Often, you will be asked to compare two things: make sure that you include both in your answer otherwise, you are likely to limit your score to two marks out of six marks.

Sample question 1 - Foundation and Higher


Explain the differences between longitudinal and transverse waves. Your explanation should refer to ultraviolet, ultrasound and seismic waves. [6 marks]

An Edexcel question courtesy of Pearson Education Ltd.

Transverse waves have oscillations perpendicular to direction of travel of the wave [1]. Longitudinal waves have oscillations in the same direction as the direction of travel of the wave [1]. Ultraviolet waves and seismic S waves are transverse [2]. Ultrasound and seismic P waves are longitudinal [2].

Plan the key points that you should include in your answer. Use the definitions you have learnt to explain the differences between longitudinal and transverse waves. State whether each of the types of wave mentioned in the question are transverse or longitudinal.