Uploaded by Melissa Alberts

Command Words - Physical Science

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“State”
Often with command words, they’re fairly self-explanatory. ‘State’ questions are usually 1 markers with a
simple task attached. Whether it’s an equation in Chemistry, a law in Physics or a definition in Biology,
your job is simply to write it out in plain and simple terms your answer. When asked to state something,
there’s no need for detailed explanations. ‘State’ your answer and move forward.
“Describe”
The trap that many fall into with ‘Describe’ questions is treating them as ‘Explain’ questions, when in fact
you don’t have to go into reams of detail about theories. Simply do what the question asks, and describe
the process of events, without going too far into explaining the hows and whys. ‘Describe’ questions can
bring in varying numbers of marks, but whether they’re 2-mark questions or 5-mark questions, resist the
temptation to start explaining!
“Explain”
Where explanations aren’t required in ‘Describe’ questions, they absolutely are in ‘Explain’ questions. The
key with ‘Explain’ questions is to describe why certain things happened, rather than just what took place.
Having the word ‘because’ (or any equivalent) in your mind as you think about your answer is important.
Don’t assume the examiner will know what you’re talking about. Explain yourself clearly.
“Calculate”
‘Calculate’ questions are more common in Physics and Chemistry, as they’re centred on picking the right
equations and formulae to work out an answer mathematically. Be sure to show your workings and
include your units of measurement, and make it clear how you got to your final answer.
“Compare”
In ‘Compare’ questions, don’t just focus on the differences between the two things being compared. You
can also get marks for pointing out similarities between them; but acknowledging both the similarities
and differences provides a far stronger answer. ‘Compare’ questions are common across all three
sciences, and often you’ll have to work off your own knowledge rather than simply information provided
in the question.
You also be asked to ‘Evaluate’ in some questions. When evaluating you must be sure to weigh up both
sides of the argument in your answer in order to reach a conclusion. ‘Evaluate’ questions require clear
discussion of both elements in the question, and a consideration of the pros and cons.
“Discuss”
‘Discuss’ questions are generally the ones that are worth the most marks, as they require the most
knowledge and detail. It’s vital to pay full attention to how the question is worded and what it’s asking of
you specifically, as it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose focus when answering lengthy and open-ended
‘Discuss’ questions. As with all questions, the number of marks available is a solid indicator of how much
information you need to put in, and the rough ball parlk that a 4-mark question requires at least four
separate pieces of information will help you stay on track with your answer.