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”.)
Draft  Produce a document in the specified format (e.g. report, letter, etc.) 

(Note: “Draft” applies to assessments for CP3 only.)

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 Choose and implement a model or distribution that determines a relationship between observed values in a population and the expected values from the model or distribution.
(e.g. “Fit a generalised linear model to the data.”)
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

1. Demonstrate that the given result is correct.

2. Display the output of a specific part of a computer package item.
(Note: This second definition applies to only problem-based assessments for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

Simplify Give an equivalent, but simpler, version of a mathematical expression.
Simulate/Generate

Produce the values or models that have been asked for.

(e.g. "Simulate 20,000 values from the stated distribution.")

(e.g. "Generate 1,000 random values from a distribution".)

(Note: "Simulate" applies to only problem-based assessments for CS1, CS2, CM1 and CM2.)

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., 20/04/2021
End date
E.g., 20/04/2021

Events calendar

  • Spaces available

    Climate-Related Risk - This free to view webinar on Climate-Related Risk is the first in a series focusing on some of the ‘Hotspots’ identified in the JFAR Risk Perspective bringing the Risk Perspective to life with practical illustrations and insights from subject experts from the IFoA and other Regulators

  • Spaces available

    Recent decades have seen institutions, such as employers and financial services, give people more choice and flexibility, but these freedoms have come with more responsibilities. Individuals are now responsible for managing more of their own financial risks, from ensuring they put enough money into their pension to securing affordable protection to be financially resilient.

  • Actuarial Innovation in the COVID-19 era

    This event is online. 
    26 April 2021 - 7 May 2021
    Spaces available

    Join us for this brand new IFoA webinar weries comprising of a fortnight of webinars, panel sessions and a hackathon, that showcase the range of ways in which the actuarial profession has added value, in the public interest, to the understanding and management of the current and future pandemics through insight and learning.

  • Spaces available

    This event is now temporarily closed on Monday 26 April, but the session will be repeated on Tuesday 27 April, 09.00-10.30. Please click here to register your place. 

    Actuaries have a lot to offer biodiversity management over the next decade as the world develops more depth to its response to this global challenge. This sessional offers an opportunity to learn about this emergent risk, to contribute to our thinking as a profession and help us develop the next steps forward.

  • Europe Town Hall

    28 April 2021

    Spaces available

    IFoA Immediate Past President John Taylor would like to invite you to the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ (IFoA) virtual Europe Town Hall, hosted by John Taylor with IFoA Council Members Alan Rae, Jennifer Hartley, Maribel Vasquez Flores and IFoA Chief Executive, Stephen Mann.

  • Spaces available

    Sessional Meeting - Free to viewMis-estimation risk is a key element of demographic risk, and past work has focused on mis-estimation risk on a run-off basis.  However, this does not meet the requirements of regulatory regimes like Solvency II, which demands that capital requirements are set through the prism of a finite horizon like one year.  This paper presents a value-at-risk approach to mis-estimation risk suitable for Solvency II work

  • Finance & Investment Virtual Conference 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    10-12 May 2021
    Spaces available

    This year's Finance and Investment Virtual Conference takes on the timely theme of ‘resilience’, something we have all learnt a lot more about in the last year! Our diverse range of talks will explore the theme of resilience in a variety of ways including in building robust investment portfolios, in the incorporation of ESG factors, in govern

  • Spaces available

    This talk will explore the potential benefits that wearable tech can bring to health & protection insurers and their customers. The traditional approach of integrating wearables into insurance has largely focused on measuring steps and using rewards-based incentive programs to encourage more activity.

  • Spaces available

    Join us for this talk with Professor Sir Adrian Smith as part of the 'Dr Patrick Poon Presidential Speaker Series'. Professor Smith joined The Alan Turing Institute as Institute Director and Chief Executive in September 2018. In November 2020, he became President of the Royal Society, in addition to his leadership of the Turing. He is also a member of the government's AI Council, which helps boost AI growth in the UK and promote its adoption and ethical use in businesses and organisations across the country. He received a knighthood in the 2011 New Year Honours list.

     

  • CILA 2021

    Available to watch globally in May.
    19-21 May 2021
    Spaces available

    We continue to live in a world of global uncertainty. Survival depends on our ability to simultaneously navigate through the diverse root-causes, ranging from: the consequences of Climate Change; on-going financial consequences of the COVID pandemic; or self-imposed changes in regulatory requirements and accounting standards.

  • Pensions Conference 2021

    Online webinar series
    16-22 June 2021
    Spaces available

    Welcome to the programme for our 2nd Virtual Pensions Conference. This year's conference features 11 webinars offering members and non-members the opportunity to get up to date content from leading experts in the pension industry. There will also be opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.