Tips for Answering Techniques

Tackle Science Questions
for Answering Techniques
By Dr Shawn Loh
elping out your child with his Science homework can prove to
be a daunting task. Tables and diagrams; charts and numbers.
Variables abound, and both you and your child are about to
call it quits. Don’t be discouraged. Here are a few tips on how to
dissect those pesky Science assignments.
Tom hammered a metal tin as shown below.
Understanding the Question
One of the key skills your child will need to navigate through his
assignments is the ability to identify the type of questions he will be
The Inquiry-based Question
Also known as the experimental question, these questions are
designed to test your child’s understanding of the scientific method.
Students are required to compare experimental set-ups and derive
the variables involved in the experiment. They have to develop
hypotheses and draw conclusions from the results given to them.
Lost track of all of that? Simply list all the information out to
the side of the question. Use different coloured pens or highlighters
to separate the variables from the results
• The Data Analysis Question
These questions usually involve graphs, tables and charts. Very
often, they are part of an inquiry-based question and would require
a broad set of skills to master. Tackling data analysis questions
involves a keen eye for numbers and patterns, as well as a basic
understanding of how information is displayed in science.
Remember that in science, patterns are important. Guide
your child to recognise increasing and decreasing trends, as well
as identify the relationships between the variables listed in the
headings of tables and the labels of graphs
The Inferential Question
Inferential questions can be challenging at times, requiring students
to put together disparate clues and form answers based on clues
and hints given in the question. More than any other type of
question, inferential questions require students to expand their
minds and think of solutions outside the box of convention.
a) What were the effects of the force applied on the metal
tin? (1m)
Here is one of the answers
students may provide:
A more appropriate answer
would be:
Answer: The force makes
the tin flat.
Answer: The force caused the
tin to change its shape and size.
(It makes sense if they were
answering a question about an
everyday observation. However,
we have to take into account
the keywords in the question. It
requires the student to discuss
the effects of a force.)
b) How has the mass of the metal tin changed after the force
had been applied to it? Explain your answer. (1m)
Here is the answer of the
Example of the better way to
answer the question.
Answer: The mass becomes
lesser. It is because the metal
tin has more occupied space
but when it is hammered it
has less occupied space.
Answer: The mass of the tin
remains the same as the amount
of matter that makes up the
tin is unchanged by the applied
(This time round, the student had
a misconception about critical
key concepts. He also overlooked
important relationships
between the variables involved
in the question.)
Speaking the Lingo
One of the greatest challenges that students face in tackling academic
Science is learning how to develop answers using the correct phrasing
and keywords. More often than not, students respond to questions
they get in a Science Exam the same way they respond to an everyday
question. Here’s an example of a question that some students have
Working It All Out
You and your child do not have to dread that dastardly Science
assignment or live in fear of Science exams. There are many ways
for your child to improve on his critical thinking skills and exam
preparations. Discuss your concerns with friends or other parents.
There are a multitude of forums online where parents come together
to share their experiences. Speak to your child’s teachers or tutors to
see how you can help your child at home.
Make Science a brand new adventure for both you and your child.
Contributed by Dr Shawn Loh (PhD in Chemistry – National University of Singapore) of Science Alive Learning Centre.