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Command words

The following list of command words covers the most commonly used in Sociology papers at A and AS Level. However, this list is not exhaustive and similar words may be used from time to time. The meanings come from the Ofqual approved list of command words. Meanings and the examples are taken from specimen papers for the new specifications.

With this list we aim to illustrate how command words may be used in examination questions. It should help both teachers and students to identify the different types of response that would be expected for different command words


Separate information into components and identify their characteristics.


Specify meaning.


Judge from available evidence.


Set out purposes or reasons.


Set out main characteristics.

Outline and explain

Set out main characteristics and develop these purposes or reasons.

Using one example, briefly explain

Give a brief account of.

Phrases frequently used in conjunction with command words

Applying material from an item

Used as a preface to a command telling students to draw on material from a selected piece of information provided as part of the exam question.

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