Guide To The PDHPE Long Response

When answering a PDHPE long response question, it may feel like you can put down everything you know about the topic and still fall short of full marks. By making sure to break down the question, provide enough relevant examples and plan before you write you’ll be able to answer quickly, confidently and with a greater chance at maximising your marks.

Post written by Zobia Khan (9th in the state PDHPE and 16th in the state Biology). See all articles first and personally get in touch with our state rankers here

1. Breaking down the question

The directive verb

Underline the verb and recall how you need to address it. You may need to include similarities and differences, arguments for and against or a final judgement. This will determine a scaffold for your response. Keep in mind that sometimes the verb is not explicitly stated.

Here’s an example:

Breast cancer and lung cancer are two common cancers in Australia. What are the determinants of these cancers and why do they put some groups more at risk than the general population? (7 marks)

There are two parts to this question and they need to be answered differently.

The first part which asks ‘WHAT are the determinants’ is an ‘identify’ question that requires you to list the determinants of breast and lung cancer.

The second part of the question which asks ‘WHY do they put some groups more at risk’ is an ‘explain’ question that wants you to demonstrate a relationship between the determinants and how they increase the risk of cancer for certain groups.

The syllabus dot point

Next, identify which dot point the question is targeting. This step is crucial. The marking criteria will require you to address the correct area of the syllabus and ALL relevant subheadings. Some questions may even ask you to draw links between different points in the syllabus.

Here’s the Core 1 dot point the above question is from (with only the relevant points included):

Research and analyse CVD, cancer and one other condition listed by analysing:
- The socioeconomic, sociocultural and environmental determinants
- The groups at risk

Keep in mind that the question wants you to draw links between these two subheadings (the determinants and the groups at risk), not just talk about them separately. In fact, the marking criteria for this question states that you would not get above 5 out of 7 without demonstrating that link.

2. Examples

Good examples should make up the bulk of any long response. The mark allocation will help you decide how many examples to include. It’s usually more than enough to go with half the number of total marks. So 2–3 examples for a 5 marker, 3 for a six marker and 4 for an 8 marker.

For the above question, we can include 2 examples for each cancer.

Breast cancer
Determinant: Awareness of and access to services (e.g. mammograms)
Groups at risk: women in rural areas, those of low SES, ATSI background
Determinant: Dietary patterns (e.g. high fat diet linked to breast cancer)
Groups at risk: women who are obese or have high BMI
Lung cancer
Determinant: Employment (e.g. occupational exposure to carcinogens)
Groups at risk: workers employed in areas with asbestos, tobacco etc
Determinant: Family stability, stress and discrimination
Groups at risk: ATSI (more likely to smoke -> associated with increased risk of lung cancer)

3. Planning

Once you know the points you will use to answer the question, write a brief plan at the top of the page to structure the body of your response. This should be a checklist for your examples and the order of your points. Also, a plan may get you marks if you don’t end up finishing your response.

For the above question a possible plan could be:

  • Breast cancer determinants
  • Socioeconomic
  • Sociocultural
  • Environmental
  • 2 examples linking determinants and groups at risk
  • Access -> rural, ATSI, low SES
  • Diet -> obese, high BMI
  • Lung cancer determinants
  • Socioeconomic
  • Sociocultural
  • Environmental
  • 2 examples linking determinants and groups at risk
  • Employment -> certain jobs with carcinogen exposure
  • Stresses -> ATSI

4. Writing

Start with an introductory statement (NOT paragraph- keep it short). Don’t just reword the question. Outline what your response will contain and use keywords to highlight areas of the syllabus.

Again for the above question:

While incidence of breast and lung cancer remains high for all Australians, environmental, sociocultural and socioeconomic determinants put certain groups at greater risk of developing these diseases.

This sentence immediately shows the marker the 2 dot points of the syllabus that you’ve identified as being relevant and also highlights that you’ve realised the need to draw a link between the two.

Follow by fleshing out each point in your plan into a mini paragraph, each of which should follow a PEEL structure (Point, example, explain and link).


Start your paragraph by clearly stating the point you will be making. For example:

There are certain determinants that can increase one’s risk of developing breast cancer.


Your detailed example comes next. It’s important to use course specific terminology to avoid sounding too casual. For example:

A high saturated fat diet has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer’ shows better understanding than ‘Eating unhealthy food makes you more likely to get breast cancer.


Elaborate on your example briefly by explaining the relationship you are trying to draw in more detail. This may not be necessary depending on the question. For an identify, describe or outline question, you could probably skip this step.


At the end of each mini paragraph it’s good to link back to the question using words such as ‘thus’, ‘therefore’ or ‘this illustrates how’ to show the marker that your example proves the point you’re trying to make.

As you write, cross off completed points from your plan to ensure you don’t miss anything.

End your response with a final summarising statement that shows how you have used your points and examples to come to a conclusion. In other words, there should be something extra in this final statement compared to your introduction. This can be a judgement (for an ‘evaluate’ or ‘assess’ question) or simply a consolidation of the link between two concepts (for an ‘explain’ question).

For our question:

Thus it is evident, in the case of breast and lung cancer, that health determinants affect some people more than others and put certain groups within the population at a greater risk of developing the disease.

Finally, make sure to reread both the question and your response after you finish to make sure you haven’t missed anything (unlikely if you broke down the question first!) Also, it’s good to improve any responses that feel a little rushed if you happen to have time at the end.

Post written by Zobia Khan (9th in the state PDHPE and 16th in the state Biology)

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