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Command verbs used in the Associate and Fellowship exams

Command verbs are the words in your exam questions that tell you what the examiner wants you to do

Exam questions should test a range of knowledge and skills. They should test and reward critical appreciation and the ability to apply what has been learnt rather than the reproduction of memorised facts

As they progress through the IFoA exams candidates are usually required to demonstrate higher level cognitive and intellectual skills, i.e. it is not enough for students to demonstrate that they can remember facts and figures; they need to show they are able to interpret the meaning of data and evaluate their significance. When writing examination questions it can be extremely helpful to consider the level of cognition that is to be tested to help to select the most appropriate verb to be used in the exam question.

To assist you in designing exam questions the IFoA introduced a set of command verbs for the different levels of cognition. These are also provided to students for guidance in preparation for sitting the exam. Note that this list is for the standard written exam questions and does not cover direct questioning words for multiple choice questions (e.g. What, Why, Who etc.) or specific verbs.

Knowledge

Command Verb Definition
Define Give the exact meaning of.
Describe Express, fully and clearly, the details/facts of. 
(e.g. “Describe the benefits payable under a term assurance policy”.)
Draw Produce a representation of…a diagram, graph, chart etc. 
(e.g. “Draw a diagram to illustrate the profit-maximising price”.)
Label Attach a name to unidentified terms …on a graph, chart, diagram, table
(e.g. “Label the axes”.)
List Make a list of. 
(e.g. “List the Technical Actuarial Standards issued by the Financial Reporting Council”.)
State Express the details/facts of…. without elaboration. 
(e.g. “State the principles of investment”.)
Write Down Provide exactly what has been asked for, without explanation or elaboration.

Application

Command Verb Definition
Calculate Break down into component parts.
Construct Produce what has been asked for, with appropriate structure. 
(e.g. “Construct a table showing…”.)
Demonstrate Prove with certainty or exhibit by practical means.
Derive Develop a result from first principles (or from the given starting point),
Describe Express, fully and clearly, the details/facts of. 
(e.g. “Describe the risks arising” under a specific given scenario.)
Determine Find the solution by argument or calculation, making clear your reasoning. 
(e.g. “Determine the type of event that has occurred, based on the data provided”.)
Draw Produce a representation of…a diagram, graph, chart etc. 
(e.g. “Draw a scatterplot”.)
Explain Make clear the meaning or purpose or details of, or the justification for.
Express Write down the result in the specified terms.
Fit Define the relationship between observed and expected values of a distribution or model.
(e.g. “Fit a generalised linear model to the data.”)
Generate

Simulate or implement what has been asked for.
(e.g. “Generate 1,000 random values from a distribution.”)
(Note: “Generate” applies to only problem-based assessments for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

Give Write down what has been asked for, without elaboration. 
(e.g. “Give an example of…”.)
Label Attach a name to unidentified terms …on a graph, chart, diagram, table. 
(e.g. “Label the curves which correspond to each of the given scenarios”.)
List Make a list of. 
(e.g. “List the assumptions/rating factors that would be required to price this product”.)
Outline Describe briefly without elaboration or explanation.
Perform Undertake the specified test or task.
Plot Illustrate the given information or data using a chart or graph. 
(Note: “Plot” implies that more accuracy is required than “Sketch”.)
Prepare Make or get ready for use. 
(Note: “Prepare a Report” is restricted to CP2 and CP3.)
Prove Demonstrate the truth of what is indicated, through mathematical argument.
Sample

To take a sample from a distribution.
(Note: “Sample” applies to only problem-based assessments for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

Show

Display the output of a specific part of a computer package item.
(Note: “Show” applies to only problem-based exams for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

Simplify Give an equivalent, but simpler, version of a mathematical expression.
Sketch Produce a rough graph, chart or diagram of.
Solve Find a mathematical answer to.
State Express the details/facts of…. without elaboration. 
(e.g. “State whether the investor should take a long or short position on the option in this situation”.)
Test Check or examine something. 
(e.g. “Test the hypothesis that…”)
Update

Amend by adding new information or making corrections.
(e.g. “Update the plot, overlaying the density function.”)
(Note: “Update” applies to only problem-based assessments for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

Verify Demonstrate to be true.

Higher Order Skills

Command Verb Definition
Analyse Break down into component parts.
Assess Judge the effectiveness, implications, relevance, importance, suitability and/or value of.
Comment on Give brief conclusions on.
Compare Highlight the similarities and differences between.
Contrast Highlight the differences between.
Determine Find the solution by argument or calculation, making clear your reasoning. 
(e.g. “Determine the most appropriate course of action for the company, within the given constraints”.)
Discuss Write about in some detail, taking into account different issues or points of view.
Estimate Calculate a result, using judgement to decide on suitable assumptions and/or approximations.
(Used when the result is not definitive.  Assumptions made should be expressed clearly and intermediate workings should be shown.)
Evaluate Judge the suitability of something for a given purpose.
Identify Select after consideration of the possible options or alternatives.
Justify Provide reasons to support.
Propose Select and then communicate a solution, action or range of possible solutions/actions. 
(Justification is not expected unless explicitly asked for, e.g. “with reasons”.)
Recommend Select and then communicate a preferred solution or course of action.
(Justification is not expected unless explicitly asked for, e.g. “with reasons”.)
Set out Write down in a structured way.
Suggest Communicate a range of solutions, actions or reasons without justification. 
(This is normally used in a situation where there is insufficient information provided to form a definitive recommendation or proposal,
e.g. “Suggest possible reasons” or “Suggest possible actions”.) 

Guidance Notes on the Use of Command Verbs

  1. The given categorisation of the command verb indicates whether the question should in the first instance be allocated as Knowledge, Application, Higher Order Skills in the exam plan.
     
  2. If a question crosses more than one of the K/A/H skill levels, then wherever possible it should be broken down into separate parts so that each part can be allocated to one category only.
     
  3. However, if this is not feasible then questions can have partial marks allocated to lower categories, i.e. a Higher Order Skill question can have some of its marks allocated to Allocation and/or Knowledge categories where relevant, and an Application question may have some of its marks allocated to Knowledge where relevant.  [This reflects the higher categories requiring skills which build up from lower level skills.]
     
  4. The rule about only having one command verb per question remains unchanged. 
     
  5. Use of the present participle as an extension of the question is permitted where these parts cannot readily be separated (e.g. “… stating any assumptions”, “… showing your workings”).  However, if they could be separated (e.g. “… commenting on your answer”) then they should be (i.e. “Comment on your answer” as a separate part).
     
  6. If a question is written for which an appropriate verb does not appear on this list (in the view of the Examiners and Education Actuary) then this should be fed back into the process with a view to adding this verb to the agreed list for the next session.

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  • IFoA Members Reception, South Africa

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    21 October 2019

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    We warmly invite you to join us for a drinks reception, with the opportunity to meet Marjorie Ngwenya, past President of the IFoA, and Ben Kemp, General Counsel.

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    22 October 2019

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  • KSS Event – GAD: the 100 year life (Edinburgh)

    KPMG  Saltire Court 20 Castle Terrace Edinburgh EH1 2EG
    22 October 2019

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    The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) marks its centenary this year. George Russell, formerly Deputy Government Actuary, who currently heads up GAD’s Edinburgh office, leading on GAD support to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, will outline GAD’s development over that period and its range of work today. Having just “celebrated” his 25th anniversary of joining GAD, George will also reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities of advising at the interface of the actuarial and the political worlds.

  • KSS Event – Equity Release Mortgages: The Irish Experience

    Room CM S.01 (Second floor, Colin Maclaurin Building, building 22 on the campus map.) Campus maps can be found at https://www.hw.ac.uk/uk/edinburgh/map.htm
    23 October 2019

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    This is a co-branded KSS/Heriot-Watt University event.  Equity release mortgages (ERMs), also called lifetime mortgages, have played an increasing role in generating income for retired home-owners.  As new liquidity rules have reduced the supply of bank lending, so insurers have stepped in, encouraged by generous regulatory treatment for annuity writers.

  • KSS event – GAD: the 100 year life (Glasgow)

    Barnett Waddingham 163 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 2JJ
    24 October 2019

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    The Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) marks its centenary this year. George Russell, formerly Deputy Government Actuary, who currently heads up GAD’s Edinburgh office, leading on GAD support to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, will outline GAD’s development over that period and its range of work today. Having just “celebrated” his 25th anniversary of joining GAD, George will also reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities of advising at the interface of the actuarial and the political worlds.

  • Sessional Meeting - Autonomous Vehicles and impacts on the wider insurance industry

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ         
    28 October 2019

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    The Sessional Meeting is now fully booked.

    Please click here to register on the waiting list.

    The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries is running a sessional meeting on autonomous vehicles on 28th October.  The session will showcase the work of the IFoA “Autonomous Vehicles” working party alongside a number of expert external presenters. 

  • ARC Event: Beyond Proportional Hazards

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    30 October 2019

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    ARC Event: Beyond Proportional Hazards: Statistical methods for assessment of the impact of medical advances and health interventions on longevity and population projections.

    This workshop is being delivered by the Actuarial Research Centre’s (ARC) ‘Big Health and Actuarial Data’ Research Programme.

  • Hot Topics in Health and Care: Networking and Drinks

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, London WC1V 6DR
    4 November 2019

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    This evening will feature two new cases studies that highlight the implications for insurers of issues impacting on health and mortality for life, pensions, and health and care products; Impactability modelling: a worked example in Type II diabetes presented by Josephine Robertson, and Seasonal Mortality in England and Wales 1993-2016 presented by Mary Hall, Dublin City University.

  • SIAS Event: Introduction to the Mortality Research Steering Committee (MRSC)

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    5 November 2019

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    The MRSC is responsible for guiding the profession’s research in the areas of longevity, mortality and morbidity such that it is recognised as a thought leader in this area. It has recently been reviewing what the priorities and have identified 6 areas that we believe are the most important areas of research that should be the current focus and these are:

  • Spaces available

    On behalf of the International Actuarial Association’s (IAA) Banking Working Group, the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s (ASSA) Banking Committee and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) Banking Member Interest Group, you are invited to participate in the upcoming webinar entitled Career opportunities in Banking: Retail and Group Risk.

    The actuarial profession has much to offer the world of banking. In this second webinar on opportunities for actuaries in banking, we have three actuaries sharing their experiences:

  • IFoA CPD Co-ordinators' Briefing

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn London WC1V 7QJ
    7 November 2019

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    The theme of this year’s annual briefing is: Lifelong Learning – providing continuous development for our members.

    This event is primarily for volunteer CPD Co-ordinators, who attend to represent their organisation. CPD Co-ordinators play a key role in effective engagement between organisations who employ our members and the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFOA).

  • The challenges for AI in Autonomous driving – Professor Andrew Blake

    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 11 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JQ
    11 November 2019

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    In conjunction with the Scottish Board and supporting the IFoA’s focus on data science.

    The IFoA’s Scottish Board have arranged for UK pioneer in Computer Vision and Machine Intelligence, Professor Andrew Blake to speak to delegates on the subject of AI in Autonomous driving. This lecture will focus on safety-critical operation and the computation of risk.  

  • Autumn Pension Seminar

    Grand Connaught Rooms, 61-65 Great Queen St, Holborn, London WC2B 5DA
    13 November 2019

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    Join us for this brand new seminar that brings together our Current Issues in Pensions, Pensions and the Law, and Investment for Pension Actuaries events. The seminar builds on the IFoA’s Annual Pension Conference with sessions covering CDC, TPR’s code of practice, investments, legal updates and Professional Skills Training with a focus on interactive discussion throughout.

  • KSS event: How is Scotland’s population changing and what are the implications?

    Barnett Waddingham, 163 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 2JJ
    14 November 2019

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    The National Records of Scotland (NRS) collects, preserves and produces information about Scotland's people and history to inform current and future generations - work that underpins the fabric of Scottish society and tells the story of our nation. This KSS talk will explore the following and other areas impacting Scotland’s changing population, and assess the potential implications of the changes:

    • population statistics
    • life expectancy
    • changes in age structure
    • birth and death rates, including causes of death statistics.
  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (14 November 19)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    14 November 2019

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    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Life Conference 2019

    The Convention Centre Dublin, Spencer Dock, North Wall Quay, Dublin 1
    20-22 November 2019
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    The Life Conference is the premier event for professionals interested in life insurance.  Offering a wide range of workshops and plenary sessions it’s the perfect opportunity to discover what’s hot and current in life insurance ensuring you get up to date on the latest thinking and innovation whilst meeting and exchanging ideas with a broad range of professionals.

  • Professional Skills Training - London (20 November 2019)

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn London WC1V 7Q
    20 November 2019

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    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • ARC Workshop: Modelling Socio-Economic Differences in English Mortality

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    2 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Purpose
    The workshop will give participants detailed insights into how a large and detailed dataset can be used to assess levels of mortality inequality in England, using a number of novel statistical methods. We will also address the question: are regional variations in mortality real or imaginary?

  • Autumn Lecture 2019, London - Dr Kay Swinburne

    Lincoln's Inn The Treasury Office, London WC2A 3TL
    2 December 2019

    Fully booked.

    Change of Speaker Notification

    Thank you for registering for the IFoA’s 2019 Autumn Lecture event. As you know, we had originally invited the Rt. Hon Nicky Morgan to speak, however, her appointment to Government as a senior Minister means she has subsequently left her position as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee. Unfortunately, in her new role, she will no longer be able to speak at our event.

  • Autumn Lecture 2019: Live Streaming

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    2 December 2019

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    Change of Speaker Notification

    Thank you for registering for the IFoA’s 2019 Autumn Lecture event. As you know, we had originally invited the Rt. Hon Nicky Morgan to speak, however, her appointment to Government as a senior Minister means she has subsequently left her position as Chair of the Treasury Select Committee. Unfortunately, in her new role, she will no longer be able to speak at our event.

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (3 December 19)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    3 December 2019

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • SIAS Event: Discount Rates are Flawed

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    3 December 2019

    Spaces available

    This talk will be given by Jon Spain who, as far back as 1983, has been working independently, trying to bring “long-term” back to UK actuarial thinking. His current focus is on discount rates (see discrate.com).

  • A holistic study into Cash flow Driven Investment

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR, UK
    4 December 2019

    Spaces available

    Given that Cashflow Driven Investment strategy has attracted growing interests from pension funds and insurers at the backdrop of current market conditions and clients’ circumstances, the objective of this event is to gather thought leaders from asset managers, banks and insurers to offer attendees their perspectives and insights on main aspects of consideration when adopting this strategy.

  • Professional Skills Training - London (10 December 2019)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ  
    10 December 2019

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • SIAS Event: My Journey to Data Science, Big Data and AI

    Staple Inn Hall, High Holborn, London, WC1V 7QJ
    7 January 2020

    Spaces available

    Patrick Lee is an actuary who has made the transition to working in software architecture and artificial intelligence (AI). He holds Microsoft Professional qualifications in Data Science, Big Data and AI and is currently working towards a DevOps (the automation of software testing and deployment) qualification. He is a member of the IFoA Council and is also President of the Wessex Actuarial Society. He is also a member of the IFoA and the RSS's joint Data Science Focus Group and will talk on the ethical use of AI. 

  • Behavioural Finance Research Launch- 14 January 2020

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR
    14 January 2020

    Fully booked.

    We are delighted to announce the launch of the findings from our ARC funded Behavioural Finance research with a special evening event at Staple Inn on Tuesday 14th January 2020. Entitled Behavioural Aspects of Institutional Investment Decision-Making, this research programme is being delivered by City, University of London, Leeds University Business School and Ipsos.

    This event is now full. Please register for the waiting list.

  • IFoA Volunteer Recognition Reception

    Staple Inn, 4 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 6DR, UK
    15 January 2020

    Spaces available

    As a thank you to all our Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) volunteers, you are invited to join us at Staple Inn Hall, for an evening of drinks, canapes and networking, in London.

    IFoA President, John Taylor, will be attending and will make a speech

    If you support the IFoA as a volunteer (member or non-member), or in any other role, and you are going to be in London on 15 January, please book your place and join us at this reception.

     

  • Professional Skills Training - London (16 January 2020)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ
    16 January 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (23 January 2020)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    23 January 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Professional Skills Training - London (11 February 2020)

    Staple Inn, High Holborn, London WC1V 7QJ         
    11 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.

  • Sessional: Impact of E-cigarettes Working Party

    Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JQ
    24 February 2020

    Spaces available

    This sessional meeting will be of direct interest to actuaries and others working in the in the Health and Care, Life or Pensions sectors or indeed actuaries with an interest in morbidity or mortality.

  • Professional Skills Training - Edinburgh (25 February 2020)

    IFoA (Edinburgh), Level 2, Exchange Crescent 7 Conference Square Edinburgh EH3 8RA
    25 February 2020

    Spaces available

    A Trusted Profession

    A 2 hour CPD event designed to meet the IFoA’s Stage 3 Professional Skills Training under the IFoA’s CPD Scheme 2019/2020This session is suitable for actuaries working in any area (i.e. it is not specifically aimed at Pensions, GI or any other technical discipline) and is interactive, so you should come along prepared to take part in the discussions.