A Guide to Examination Command Words

Normally, there are three main parts to examination questions:

COMMAND: These are command/key words that tell the learner what to do, such as “Describe”, “Analyse” or “Evaluate”.

TOPIC: The general subject area being tested.

FOCUS: The specific area of the topic that you need to write about.

If you do not do all three parts of the examination question, you will not be able to pass.

Following on from this, command words are the key words which every question in your examination will have in it. This is the word that tells you exactly what you have to do in order to pass the question.

Each assessment criteria in the syllabus has a certain command word associated with it. As such, if you do not do exactly as the command word says in the question, you will not be able to pass. You could know every single thing about the particular subject, but if you do not write your answer in a way that does what the command word says, you will not pass.

There is no use in listing as many facts as possible about a particular subject area because, although the facts you have written may be correct, you will not have satisfied the particular demands of the question. For example, if the question asks you to “Comment” yet you have not included a single opinion in your answer, you will automatically fail. The examinations do not just want to see all of your knowledge of the subject; they want to test how well you can use that knowledge in different situations.

Download the glossary of command words below to learn what each command word means so that you know how to write an answer which uses them:


ABMA Education has created this document to help learners when completing the regulated qualifications. Please download the PDF below and learn more about the examination command words:


file_extension_pdfGuide to Examination Command Words



  • “I feel proud of the skills I have gained from the my ABMA studies and I am hoping to progress to a higher position in my career as well as develop in my current role.”

    Mohaladi Sarefo

  • “ABMA has really helped me, in such a way that after completing my ABMA Advanced Diploma in Business Administration and Management Studies I am able to compete internationally when seeking employment. I also have the possibility of going straight into a Masters Degree with my ABMA qualification!”

    Patricia Sendeza

  • “I feel ABMA courses are wonderful as they have made me who I am today. I am a good communicator and a computer specialist. ABMA has added massively to my well being in life and I am able to work well in the business world.”

    Boston Leji

  • “My ABMA qualification, being an international one, is highly recognised. If I went job seeking, without hesitation I would be given a chance to sit an interview!”

    Margaret Onduri