Biology Chemistry Physics Controlled Assessments Long Answer Questions 11-14 Science Big Moments in Science Linkup

 Why Extended writing?

Many Science examinations now require students to explain their answers in depth.

Looked at in another way, if you are a scientist explaining something that you know, you have to show that you know your stuff, use the appropriate words and make sure what you are explaining flows (is logical or is coherent).

There are moves towards penalising for poor spelling and punctuation even in Science Exams.

In response Exam bodies now talk about 'Q' or 'QWC'- Quality or Quality of Written Communication.

In short, in long exam questions, you are awarded marks for:


  • the quality of the answer- use of appropriate subject vocabulary (Key words)
  • flow or coherence
  • spelling and punctuation

This is a huge demand on students but hooray! we are here to help.

Step 1

Read the question and pay attention to its command words i.e. describe, explain etc.

-Describe means 'give me the picture'

-Explain means 'tell me the science behind it'

Step 2

Pay attention to what the command word asks you to act on i.e. is it a concept e.g. energy, enzyme action, bonding or a process e.g. photosynthesis, respiration or is it a pattern?

Step 3 Key words

Think about the knowledge that you have about the subject - what are the key words in that area?

Step 4- Connectives

To make it 'flow' what connectives are you going to use?

Here are a few examples and where to use them:

To add information To give examples To contrast To sequence To argue To conclude



to add


for example

for instance

as an illustration


despite this

in contrast


initially, then..

First.., second ..., third

Following this...






In conclusion

In summary

To sum up

To summarise..

As a conclusion ..

As stated...

Now that you have gathered your key words (subject language) and connectives, you are ready to write down your answer.

Constructing Your Answer: In the Text or in your head?

Many of us tend to give up easily when we encounter a test or exam question which has no obvious answer. In the end we resort to the all-too-common excuse: the teacher didn't teach me that!

It is ok, this excuse works for a moment to help us 'not feel guilty' but does not help us 'get the marks' which 'get the grade'! It is probably true the teacher didn't teach you the strategies to enable you to deal with new situations and transfer the knowledge.

The following can help; try it with any question!

Where is the answer?

In the text? ...............................................................or ...........................................In my Head?

If its in the text, Is it:

1. Right there- in direct words from the question or text


2. I need to put it together?- using what information I have been given and what I already know.

If its in my head, should I:

1. Make it on my own...


2. Make it using what the text or question gave me and what I know?

(Adapted from Raphael, 1986)

Feature 1 Mark 2 Marks 3 Marks 4 Marks
Vocabulary Poor, inappropriate word choice

Fair word choice, Simple words

Good word choice, Meaning is clear

Vivid, imaginative, Appropriate

Flow Not organised Sparsely organised, lack of sequence Well organised, flow and sequence evident Smooth flow with strong sequence

Sentence structure

Poor, many errors Fair, sloppy with no variety Adequate, few errors, some variety of lengths Excellent, no errors, variety of lengths
Punctuation Many errors Visible errors Very few errors(1 or 2 in a 5 mark question) Error free
Spelling Too many errors Some errors Few errors Error free

The PEE (or PEEL)method -This stands for:

Point- Say your point.(Grade E-ish)

Evidence- provide backing evidence (could be from a graph or part of the text. (Grade D/C ish)

Explain/Examples- Explain it using subject knowledge/relevant theory and examples (Grade B/A ish)

Link- Apply it to this new situation of the question or other new ones by clearly showing that you can see the patterns (Grades A/A*)


Evaluate questions

There are now frequent questions that require you to evaluate a piece of scientific information or a method, e.g.Evaluate the use of embryo screening in the case of cystic fibrosis. (6 Marks)

To evaluate is to judge as good or bad!

These questions are easy to do if you use the Plus, Minus, Conclusion (PMC) method.

-make a quick list on scrap paper/margin about the positives (good), the negatives (bad) about the information or method. Use these to write a nice clear straight-to-the-point paragraph. It must talk about both positives and negatives, then provide a conclusion-where do you stand? You must never leave it without a conclusion or with maybe! scientists make up their minds!

-There is no correct answer to such questions but your conclusion must be clearly backed up by the pluses or minuses.

Happy writing!