Wednesday, August 19, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMAND WORDS - WORKED EXAMPLES

Question 1:

‘What factors influence the success of a tourist attraction?’

1. What does the Command Word require in this question?

The Command Word here is ‘what’. ‘What’ looks for nouns, things; as opposed to ‘why’ which looks for reasons; and ‘how’ which looks for processes. As such, this question is looking for a list of ‘factors’ or things that contribute to or hinder the success.

2. How can the question be changed to elicit a list, a description and an explanation?

List – The question already elicits a list, as signaled by the word ‘what’. The most obvious alternative to expressing this question is ‘List the/Name the/State the/ Suggest factors that influence…’.

Description – Again, the most obvious way to express this would be to use the direct term for descriptions, ‘Describe’, i.e. ‘Describe the factors which influence…’.

A comparison, if desired, may be worded as ‘Contrast/Compare the factors which…’. In this case, the focus of the answer changes to the analysis of the factors.

Explanation – The most direct way to change this question is to use the words ‘Explain/Account for/Give reasons for/Suggest reasons for’. The focus would then change from merely looking for the list of factors, to eliciting the reasons behind the influence of these factors. Some examiners preface the Command Word ‘explain’ with the Command Word ‘state’ so that the inherent two-fold demands of the question, which are to list and then expound on the reasons are clearer to candidates.


Question 2:

‘Deduce from the graph whether it was the acid or the marble which was in excess.’

1. What does the Command Word require in this question?

The Command Word ‘Deduce’ requires candidates to make an inference from information given. Therefore, this question requires the judgement, on whether the item in question is an acid or marble, to be based on the information given in the said graph.

2. How can the question be changed to elicit a list, a description and an explanation?

List – To change this deductive question to one that elicits a list, the Command Word ‘Deduce’ would have to be changed to a noun, putting the focus squarely on the task of putting down a catalog of deductions; e.g. ‘List the possible deductions that can be drawn from the graph.’

Description – Data sources, such as the one that is implicitly referred to in the question as signaled by the words “the graph”, lend themselves naturally to descriptive Command Words. e.g. ‘Describe the trends shown in the graph.’ The limitation is that once the question is changed to a descriptive type question, it would be very difficult to retain the element of deduction.

Explanation – An explanation here could be used to look at the reasons behind the deduction, i.e. ‘Deduce from the graph whether it was the acid or the marble which was in excess. Explain your answer.’ or ‘Explain how the graph helps you with deducing whether it was the acid or the marble which was in excess.’ Regardless, the focus would have changed, just like the math example earlier which looked at the difference between ‘solve’ and ‘prove’, and now looks at rationalizing the answer rather than merely arriving at the final answer.


Question 3:

‘If 4 men left after 5 months, how many more months will be required to complete the project?‘

1. What does the Command Word require in this question?

The Command Word here is not merely “how” but “how many more months”, signalling that what is required is a number, and not a reason.

2. How will changing the Command Word change the focus of the question?

This question essentially requires candidates to derive the answer from a calculation based on given information. There are no items to list, nor describe, nor explain. Therefore, a more fruitful discussion of this question would be to look at the various skills that can be highlighted in a question with this stem.

As it stands, the question is focused on the derived answer. However, if the Command Word was changed from “how many more months” to ‘calculate’ or ‘show’, the working would then become important and marks would have to be specifically awarded for the working.

3. If the Conditional Command Word ‘Using information from Figure 1 only,’ was added, how would the question change?

Similar to the earlier question, this question, as it stands, begs for more information to be given in order to calculate how long it would take if the 4 men did not leave. As such, assuming the required information is given in Figure 1, it becomes imperative to include the information provided.
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