Some Tips on Answering Science Open-Ended Questions

Dear Parents, have you come across these commonly given feedback on your child’s answers in Science open-ended questions; “The answer is not to the point”, “The concept is not present in the answer” “The answer is not structured well” … Often, this is a result of your children understanding a concept or topic but being unable to express themselves to attain the marks they deserve.

Here are some tips that your child may find useful in helping them structure their answers. Please understand that these tips are not exhaustive and may not encompass all open-ended questions. Nevertheless, I have found it quite useful when helping children to structure their Science open-ended answers.
 

Here are some common sentence structures your child can adopt when answering open-ended questions. They can use the question stems and the context to help them identify the sentence structures.
 

‘What’ Questions are often questions that test your child on identifying the correct fact. The words that identify these questions are as follows.

  • List – These questions require you to name the fact or identify the object. Providing the correct fact will suffice

E.g. Qn: Name a fungi that is also a micro-organism.  Ans: Yeast
 

  • Describe – These questions require you to provide details about an object or a scenario. You should describe what you see and understand in the question provided.

E.g. Qn: Describe yeast 
Ans: Yeast is a microscopic fungi.
 

  • Classify / Similarities and Differences – These questions require you to classify by providing headings or to describe the similarities / differences between 2 objects. If you are describing the similarities or differences, always write about the 2 objects in your answer.

E.g. Describe one similarity and difference between Yeast and Jew’s Ear.
Ans: Both of them are fungi.
Ans: Yeast is a micro-organism but Jew’s Ear is not.

‘Why’ Questions are often questions that test your child on the analysing and explaining of scientific phenomena. The words that identify these questions are as follows.
 

  • Explain – These questions require you to provide a reason for your answer. Always link your explanation to your earlier answer or the phenomenon described in the question.

E.g. Qn: Why can’t you see in a dark room?
Ans: There is no light source (description) to provide light for us to see (theory / concept).
 
Explain (Compare) – These questions will require you to compare between 2 – 3 elements so it is very important to use comparatives or superlatives, depending on the number of elements / variables.
E.g. Qn: Why would you choose Substance A?
Ans: Substance A is the best conductor as compared to the rest.

‘How’ Questions are often questions that test your child on identifying the scientific processes. The words that identify these questions are as follows.

  • Aim of Experiment – These questions will ask you to identify what is the aim of the experiment, based on the variables given to you. Isolate the dependent and independent variables to help you answer the question.

E.g. Qn What is the aim of the experiment?
Ans: The aim of the experiment is to find out whether Material A is stronger than Material B / the strength of the 2 materials.

  • Conclusion – These questions will ask you to explain what the findings of an experiment mean. Link your answers to the experiment provided in the question and the theory / concept behind it.

E.g. Qn What can you conclude from the experiment?
Ans: Material A is stronger than Material B.

  • Predict / Infer / Suggest – These questions will ask you to make an educated guess on what would happen if the experiment had been changed in one way or another. You should link it to a theory / concept that you have identified earlier.

E.g. Qn What would happen if you use Material B to make a bag?
Ans: It will break if the contents are too heavy.

  • Relationship – These questions require you to identify the relationship or linkages between 2 variables. Always provide the cause and effect, as well as the 2 variables in your answer.

E.g. Qn What is the relationship between heart rate and activity rate?
Ans: As the activity rate goes up, the heart rate will go up.

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Hope it helps!

Niedino

 Thanks for the feedback.

 Thanks for the feedback. There are a few ways to answer Science questions and I’m sharing some simple examples. Appreciate your sharing.

 Thank you for your helpful

 Thank you for your helpful tips. I’m sure it’ll benefits many parents. However, let me put in my humble opinion on 2 of the examples posted.

E.g. Describe one similarity and difference between Yeast and Jew’s Ear.

Ans: Both of them are fungi.

I think the better answer should be: They reproduce by spores.

Ans: Yeast is a micro-organism but Jew’s Ear is not.

here I think the better answer should be: We can see Jew’s Ear with our naked eyes but we need a microscope to see Yeast.

reason being that by stating that they are both fungi and while Yeast is a micro-organism but Jew’s Ear is not does not really answer the questions. It’s like asking what’s the similarity and difference between Jane and Siti, and giving the answer that they are both girls and Jane is tall and Siti is small.

 

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