E X A M S: HOW TO B E S U C C E S S F U L EXA MS : H O W TO B E S U C C E S S F U L
Command words Interpreting the questions
One of the first things to do when you look at an exam question is check out the command You have probably already been told by your teacher to read the exam question carefully
word. This tells you what the examiner wants you to do. This table gives you some of the and answer the question set – not the one you think it might be. That means you need to
most commonly used command words. interpret it to work out exactly what it is asking. So, look at the key words. These include:
Command word What it means Example Command words – these have distinct meanings which are listed opposite.
Explain the reasons for – you get marks for Account for the changes in Cornwall’s Theme or topic – this is what the question is about. The examiner who wrote the
explanation rather than description. employment structure. question will have tried to narrow the theme down, and you need to spot how so that
Identify the main characteristics and rate the Analyse the economic effects of you do not write everything you know about the theme.
factors with respect to importance. Objective One funding in Cornwall. Focus – this shows how the theme has been narrowed down.
Examine closely and ‘weigh up’ a particular Assess the success of coastal Case studies – look to see if you are asked for specific examples.
Assess situation, e.g. strengths and weaknesses, for management schemes, using named
and against. examples.
Comment on the view that Here is an example of a question that has been interpreted using the key words above.
This is asking you to assess a statement. You
Comment on desertification is caused by human rather
need to put both sides of the argument.
than physical factors.
Identify similarities and differences between Compare the causes and impacts of
two or more things. hazards in California and the Philippines. • Command words
Identify the differences between two or more Contrast the impacts of hazards in ‘Suggest reasons’ You must give more than
things. California and the Philippines. one reason for the trends.
‘Choose one named area’ You are being
Define Give a clear meaning. Define river discharge.
asked for a case study. • Theme or topic
Describe Say what something is like; identify trends. Describe the trends shown in the graph. This question is for World at Risk,
‘Explain’ Give reasons why your named
Discuss Similar to assess. ‘Global warming is a myth.’ Discuss. area is considered a disaster hotspot. looking speciﬁcally at natural
disasters and disaster hotspots.
Evaluate the success of flood
Evaluate The same as assess.
Examine the attempts by governments to
Examine You need to describe and explain.
control population growth.
Explain, using examples, whether you Study Figure 7.
Explain Give reasons why something happens.
think hazards are really ‘natural’.
a Suggest reasons for the trends in natural disasters
How far is Kiribati a nation facing multiple
How far? You need to put both sides of an argument. shown in the graph. (10)
b Choose one named area of the world and explain why
Illustrate the ways that debt makes
Illustrate Use specific examples to support a statement. development difficult in some developing it is considered a disaster hotspot. (15)
countries. (Total 25 marks)
Suggest three ways in which Botswana
Justify Give evidence to support your statements. could attempt to reduce poverty. Justify
List the different methods of coastal • Case studies • Focus
List Just state the factors, nothing else is needed.
protection. Choose one named area only. Part (a) asks you to talk about trends. You
You need to describe and explain, but more Use the graphs to outline the trends in need to suggest reasons for the trends,
Outline not everything you know about natural
description than explanation. global disasters.
‘The Sydney Olympics – economic and
Part (b) asks you to explain why your
To what extent? The same as ‘How far?’ environmental benefits, but at a social
chosen area is a disaster hotspot. Give
cost.’ To what extent is this true?
examples to support your answer.
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