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Exam command words

Page history last edited by K J Hutchinson 14 years, 6 months ago

Exam command words


The following command words were used in the Specimen Exam Papers that AQA have published for this course. Make sure that you know what they mean and what they require you to do!


Study = look very carefully at the resource - this is not a question that you have to answer but an instruction that needs to be followed before you answer the following questions


Complete = this might be filling in a table, finishing off a graph using data you have been given, choosing words from a list to fill in the missing gaps in a paragraph, circling the correct answer from a range of options etc. Make sure that you circle / tick the correct number of items! Many candidiates lose marks because they only circle one answer when they should have chosen two!


Name = just give the name - there is no need to write anything else

eg. Name the Oceans marked on the map at A and B.

Just write 'Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean' (or whatever they are!) not 'The ocean named on the map at A is the Pacific Ocean and the ocean named on the map at B is the Atlantic Ocean'.


Label = this kind of question often asks you to add a name, description or explanation to a text-box on a photograph or diagram. You might also be asked to label a sea or ocean on a map, or to add city names to locations on a map.

eg. Label the following cities on Figure 1 - Chicago (the northern inland city), New Orleans (on the Mississippi delta as it enters the Gulf of Mexico) and San Francisco (the west coast city seen in many tourist brochures)


Describe = say what you see (without giving reasons) - are there any patterns, outliers, trends? If you are describing a graph, make sure that you icnlude figures in your answer.

eg. Describe the changes to the average number of tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean between 1900-2005.

Between 1900-1930, the average number of tropical storms was low (averaging about 7 per year), decreasing overall during the period. Theere was a sudden increase in 1930, and between 1930-1990 the average was approximately 10 per year (although there was quite a lot of fluctuation). The number of tropical storms poer year since 1990 has risen considerably, and by 2005 he average was 15 per year. This is double the rate experienced between 1900-1930.


Describe the location = say where something is - try to include distance and direction from other places in your answer

eg. Describe the location of Southampton.

Southampton is a city in Hampshire, on the south-coast of England. It is 25km north-west of Portsmouth and 40 km north-east of Bournemouth.


Describe the distribution = say how something is spread out over space

eg. Describe the distribution of tropical storms.

Tropical storms occur in warm oceans between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, foe example in the Bay of Bengal, the Arafuna Sea the Arabian Sea and the Caribbean Sea.


Explain / Give reasons / Suggest reasons = give reasons for why something happens and include all the specific detail as to why they lead to it happening; useful words to use in an 'explain' question include: therefore, so, because, as a result of, consequently, this means that.

eg. Explain how Old Harry stack formed.

The base of the chalk headland was attacked by abrasion (stones being hurled at the cliff). This marine process attacked weaknesses in the rocks, expanding them to produce cracks and wave-cut notches. Over time, these cracks were widened by hydraulic action, abrasion and solution and, as a result, they became caves. Erosion continued, forming an arch when the sea caves broke through the headland. Because the roof of the arch was unsupported, it collapsed. When the roof of an arch collapsed, it left behind a pillar or stack - Old Harry. Over time, the stack will be attacked by marine and sub-aerial processes, leaving a stump.


Suggest the cause = give reasons for why something happened

eg. Suggest the cause of the earthquake in California.

The Pacific Plate and North American Plate are moving past each other at a conservative margin. As they move, they snag amd tension builds. A sudden movement sends out shock waves, which causes an earthquake.


Give effects / Suggest impacts = this type of question asks you to look into the future and write about the consequences of something happening

eg. Suggest some of the possible effects of pedestrianising the area shown in Figure 10.

If the area was pedestrianised it could be landscapes and seating could be built. This would make areas which are safer and cleaner and more sociable. This would bring in more business. However, it would be expensive and may create traffic problems elsewhere.


Use examples = you must use real-life examples to gain full marks! You have studied a wide variety of examples in lessons, and there are lots of detailed case studies on this website. You can use your own general knowledge too. Make sure you give specific detail about the example you are using. Make sure you include its name and location!

eg. Using an example you have studied, explain how conservation methods are protecting coastal environments.

Some coastal areas like Hurst Castle Spit in Hampshire and parts of Norfolk have been made into Nature Reserves, In these areas, the wildlife is protected and building is not allowed. There are strict conservation rules and the area is managed by nature wardens.


Identify evidence / Use map evidence = this means that you must include information taken from the resources that you have been provided with. Using grid references can help you when giving map evidence. Don't forget to interpret the evidence that you give!

eg. Use map evidence to suggest why the area is vulnerable to coastal flooding.

The land is very flat and wet so if the sea broke through, large areas would be flooded. I can tell that the land is flat because the only contour line shown on the map extract is at 10 metres. The land in squares 4126 and 4127 is 'Hempstead Marshes'. Great Moss Fen is in 4225 and 4226. Marshes and Fens are flat and wet.


Compare = describe the similarities and differences between things - words that will force you into a comparison are 'whereas' and 'in comparison to' 'alternatively' and 'on the other hand'; words ending in '-er' are also useful (eg. taller, richer, stronger); words such as 'less than' and 'more than' can also be used to compare things


Annotate = this means add labels to a diagram, photograph or map. Annotate questions will also ask you to do something else eg. describe or explain. This additional command word tells you what type of statements to write in your annotations. When explaining, you will need to give detailed reasons. Make sure that you use geographical vocabulary wherever possible.

eg. Annotate the photograph to explain some of the possible impacts on the natural environment of a large-scale tourist development in the area.

New buildings may be on vegetation and destroy habitats meaning animal species may leave the area.

Lots of sewage from new hotels may leak into the water, killing fish and corl reefs.

Large buildings may be an eyesore destroying the beauty of the area permanently.

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