You are here

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 Ascertain or reckon mathematically.
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.

You might also like

  • General information and practical advice that will be useful in your studies

Contact Details

Education Services Team

education.services@actuaries.org.uk

Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, 1st Floor, Park Central, 40/41 Park End Street, Oxford, OX1 1JD

+44 01865 268207

We aim to respond to all enquiries within two working days.

Filter or search events

Start date
E.g., 11/07/2020
End date
E.g., 11/07/2020

Events calendar

  • Spaces available

    This webinar is intended to raise awareness of the shifting landscape of climate liability risk and what it means for actuaries, including how it impacts on their professional and legal duties. Presentations will cover the legal risks around climate change for investment consultants and actuaries advising DB pension schemes as well as consideration of climate risk for insurers.

  • Spaces available

    Climate change risks are likely to become material for many risk management and investment decisions. This will require to incorporate explicitly climate change in the tools used for risk management and investment decisions. At present existing climate change tools are often too crude for decision making.

  • Current Issues in Life Assurance (CILA) Webinar series

    Webinar Series
    15 July 2020 - 3 August 2020

    Spaces available

    CILA is one of the pre-eminent events in the annual 'Life' calendar. Due to COVID-19 we are running the programme as a series of webinars covering topics aimed at practicing life actuaries from life offices, consulting firms and other employers of actuaries and those who work in or advise on, the life assurance market in the UK and Europe.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    For annuity writers, a key challenge is the need to fund capital-consumptive new business strain (NBS) as a consequence of writing the business intended to fund future distributions.

    Reinsurance, investment strategy and capital provision all have roles to play. Here, we:

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    Mortality in 2020 is now dominated by one thing, although – in our future-focused world – the pandemic is just one of many mortality considerations.  In this session, three well-regarded mortality/longevity specialists provide an overview of:

  • Spaces available

    Because of Covid-19, forecasters predict a severe recession in 2020, followed by a V or U-shaped recovery. This impacts both individuals and companies. However, compared to previous recessions, the impact on banks of higher credit losses should be mitigated to some extent by government actions. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series

    This session will provide an overview of the Population Health Management Working Party's research including defining impactability and impactability modelling, discussing some examples of specific modelling approaches, considering the practical challenges across the NHS as well as wider public perception and ethical issues.

  • Spaces available

    Many actuaries consider career opportunities in the Finance and Investment practice area after having started off in more traditional actuarial roles such as valuations, capital management or pricing. This session is aimed at helping actuaries to better understand roles in Finance and Investment and how they can fine tune their skills to pursue such careers.

  • Mortality and Longevity Webinar Series 2020

    Webinar Series
    22 July 2020 - 10 August 2020

    Spaces available

    Due to COVID-19, we are running this programme via a series of webinars commencing 22nd July.

    This webinar series will provide topical and practical updates and discussion on the latest thinking and innovations in mortality and longevity, and is designed to be very accessible to a broad range of experience.

     

  • Spaces available

    Predictive risk assessment and risk stratification models based on postcode-level consumer classification are widely used for life insurance underwriting. However, these are socio-economic models not directly related to health information. Similar to precision medicine, precision life insurance should aim to tailor policy pricing/reserving to the individual health characteristics of each client.

  • Spaces available

    As insurers look towards their internal model calibration process for 2020 final year financials and statutory returns, actuaries need to deal with the complexity of adequately modelling their business in 2020 and beyond. This discussion will look at what poor model selection and calibration could look like – using inappropriate historical data; using incorrect 2020 mortality data; inappropriate stochastic model recalibration (or lack thereof). What about being prudent vs setting a best estimate? How do you allow for tail risks during a tail risk event?  This is the fourth webinar in the Extreme Mortality Events series presented by Chair of the Life Board of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, Colin Dutkiewicz. 

  • Spaces available

    This webinar has been re-scheduled from its original date of the 1st July. Although ESG has many buyers across the asset allocation community, from pension funds to sovereign wealth funds, it still hasn’t found its place within the core asset management strategy desks where the money is actually invested. The problem as well as the opportunity is Fixed Income. Plenty of strategies exist for incorporating ESG within Equities, from screening, integration to a combination. ESG has picked up relatively quickly within Equities with rating,indices created using ESG factors. This talk will discuss how we price a quantifiable ESG credit risk premium and make it alpha worthy in a strategy. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series

    With the rising prevalence of dementia, how can we manage this risk effectively and can insurance do more? Matt Singleton, Ageing Lead at Swiss Re, will cover these topics and demonstrate how insurance could help people address their concerns.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    This talk will look at a range of such techniques (e.g. mass lapse risk transfer, contract boundaries, risk margin relief, non-standard longevity risk transfer) that have been applied or considered by UK and EU insurers, and the pros and cons of each.

     

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance.

    The International Association of Insurance Supervisors announced on 14 November 2019 the adoption of v2.0 of the global Insurance Capital Standard (ICS) which will undergo confidential reporting for 5 years starting from 2020. This session will include specific experiences from Legal and General (L&G) as well as global industry perspectives from EY.

  • Spaces available

    Current Issues in Life Assurance

    This session will cover the PRA supervisory statement on financial impacts related to climate change, industry insights into PRA climate risk business plans, examples climate risk strategy setting out key workstreams and activity steps for successful execution, an overview of a climate risk strategy execution timeline and the future.     

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. Using new and unique research and data from the UK, US, Sweden and China, this presentation investigates how consumers use the internet through their insurance journey and analyzes the role culture and generation plays in their online behaviour. We use this research to show the online landscape for insurance sales in the UK and suggest ways to shape new products and effectively engage with the consumer who is buying them.

  • Spaces available

    Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Gen Re Life/Health Research and Development, Dr John O'Brien, will discuss the impacts of Gene Modification for life/health insurance. 

  • Spaces available

    As an industry, it has been important to be able to look to the future to identify the next quantifiable risk. In this session, I will explore some of the less tangible, but none-the-less concerning risks to future health, such as the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, ingestion of plastic in the food chain, and the hazards of indoor air pollution through exposure to volatile organic compounds.

  • Spaces available

    The working party will help the industry to update and enhance how potential risk from diabetes and excess mortality is considered, including the need to understand the underwriting implications as treatments improve, and potentially to develop new products that are tailored to those with diabetes.

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. Modelling the structure and trends of cancer morbidity risk is important for pricing and reserving in related health insurance fields such as critical illness insurance and care provision. We model the dynamics of cancer incidence over time in different regions in England, using 1981-2016 ONS data. The modelling allows estimation of cancer rates at various age, year, gender and region levels, following a Bayesian setting to account for statistical uncertainty. Our analysis indicates significant regional variation in cancer incidence rates. 

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. In this talk we will outline the steps Aviva took in pulling together our first large-scale disclosures on the exposure of our business to climate change published in March 2019; in line with the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. After touching on why insurers have such an important role in climate change, we'll cover a brief “how-to” guide for those who have not yet embarked on thinking about these topics before giving a case study of how the learnings from a TCFD disclosure exercise can be applied to investment portfolios.

  • Spaces available

    Part of the Protection, Health and Care Conference 2020 webinar series. 

    The insurance industry currently underwrites customers with diabetes based on a range of factors, medical expertise and various medical studies. The work undertaken by the Diabetes Working Party would help the industry to approach this using current research findings to update and enhance how potential risk from diabetes is considered. This includes the need to understand the underwriting implications as treatments improve, and potentially to develop new products that are tailored to those with diabetes. This webinar will present our latest findings in the management of this important chronic condition which will include research in collaboration with the ARC.