Understanding the question

Question keywords are also called 'command' words. These are the words in your exam questions that tell you what the examiner wants you to do. By understanding these command words, you are on your way to understanding your exam questions.

For example, you may be instructed in your exam question to 'describe' something within your answer. If your answer 'evaluates' rather than 'sets out the characteristics', you potentially haven't given the right answer.

The table below lists some of these command words, as defined by Ofqual. Some subjects may have more or different command words that aren't shown here. Ask your teachers for subject specific information and refer to your specification.

Command words

Analyse

separate information into components and identify their characteristics

Assess

make an informed judgement

Consider

review and respond to given information

Criticise

assess worth against explicit expectations

Comment

present an informed opinion

Define

specify meaning

Describe

set out characteristics

Discuss

present key points

Deduce

draw conclusions from information provided

Examine

investigate closely

Explore

investigate without preconceptions about the outcome

Evaluate

judge from available evidence

Explain

set out purposes or reasons

Illustrate

present clarifying examples

Interpret

translate information into recognisable form

Outline

set out main characteristics

Summarise

present principal points without detail

State

express in clear terms

Relate

demonstrate connections between items

Review

survey information

Argue

present a reasoned case

Debate

present different perspectives on an issue

Give

produce an answer from recall

Justify

support a case with evidence

Estimate

assign an approximate value

Calculate

work out the value of something

Suggest

present a possible case

Prove

demonstrate validity on the basis of evidence

Compare

identify similarities

Contrast

identify differences

Apply

put into effect in a recognised way

Complete

finish a task by adding to given information

Develop

take forward or build upon given information

Identify

name or otherwise characterise