# O-Level Physics (5054) | Command words in papers

Command words are used in exam
papers to help you to write down the answer examiners are looking for.

The list below explains what each of these words or phrases means and will help you to understand the kind of answer you should write. You should bear in mind that the meaning of a term may vary slightly according to how the question is worded.

Before listing the command words and
their meanings, you are welcomed to download this list of Physical quantities, Symbols and units.

__Calculate__
A numerical answer is needed. Show
your working, especially when there are two or more steps in a calculation.

__Deduce__
This may be used in two ways:

- You
find the answer by working out the patterns in the information given to you and
drawing logical conclusions from them. You may need to use information from
tables and graphs and do calculations
*e.g. deduce what will happen to the velocity of the vehicle if ….* - You
have to refer to a Law or scientific theory or give a reason for your answer
*e.g. use your knowledge of the kinetic theory to deduce what will happen when ……*

__Define__
A formal statement of a quantity is
required. You can sometimes give a defining equation,

*e.g. speed = d/t*, as long as you state what the symbols are that you use in your equation, in the example given*d = distance, t = time*.

__Describe__
Try to set out a logical sequence
that allows the reader to follow the main points about something. You may use
labelled diagrams if you find it easier;

*e.g. describe a rotating-coil generator*
You may also be asked to describe

- observations;
*e.g. describe the ways in which a force may change the motion of a body* - how
to do particular experiments;
*e.g. describe an experiment to determine resistance using a voltmeter and an ammeter.*

__Determine__
You are expected to use a formula or
method that you know to calculate a quantity;

*e.g. determine graphically the resultant of two vectors.*

__Discuss__
You must write down points for and
against an argument;

*e.g. discuss the supply of energy with a nuclear power station.*

__Estimate__
Give an approximate value for a
quantity based on reasons and data. You may need to make some approximations;

*e.g. estimate the volume of a test tube.*

__Explain__
You must give reasons for your
answer or refer to a particular theory.

__List__
Write down a number of separate
points. Where the number of points is stated in the question, you should not
write more than this number.

__Measure__
You are expected to find a quantity
by using a measuring instrument;

*e.g. length by using a ruler, or angle by using a protractor.*

__Outline__
State the main points briefly

*e.g. outline a method of magnetising an iron bar*

__Predict__
This can be used in two ways:

- You find the answer by working out the patterns in the information provided and drawing logical conclusions from this. You may need to use information from tables and graphs and do calculations; e.g. predict what will happen to the direction of the resultant force if ….
- It may also mean stating what might happen next e.g. predict what effect an increase in temperature will have on the resistance.

__Sketch__
When drawing graphs, this means that
you draw the approximate shape and/or position of the graph. You need to make
sure that important details, such as the line passing through the origin or
finishing at a certain point, are drawn accurately.

When drawing apparatus or other
diagrams, a simple line drawing is all that is needed, but make sure that the
proportions are correct and the most important details are shown. Always label
diagrams.

__State__
You should give a short answer
without going into any detail or explanation.

__Suggest__
This may be used in two ways:

- There
may be more than one correct answer.
*e.g. suggest a precaution to improve the accuracy of the experiment* - You
are being asked to apply your general knowledge of physics or reasoning skills
to a topic area that is not directly on the syllabus
*e.g. applying ideas about moments to the stability of a vehicle.*

__What is meant by / What do you understand by__
You should define something and also
make a more detailed comment about it,

*e.g. what do you understand by the term total internal reflection.*
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