Thursday, January 15, 2015

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

  • 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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