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



  • “Affordable fees as well as providing library facilities on the ABMA Education website creating easy access to books, articles and many other study tools.”

    Takudzwa Chakanetsa

  • “I gained valuable skills which I used in my work nearly every day and continue to use in my studies.”

    Waza Dzoole

  • “ABMA Education had an appealing and innovative setup which I found very attractive while still maintaining affordability for me and helped me to enhance my career aspirations of becoming an entrepreneur.”

    Roberta Chikafutwa

  • “With the knowledge and skills I have gained so far, I would be able to fit myself in the business world and with ABMA Education certificates, I have a guaranteed future… I am proud to be an ABMA Education leaner.”

    Ndikum Keshia

  • “My studies have been informative, educational and eye opening. I may not have finished my qualifications yet but I already experience the power that comes with knowledge.”

    Shaanice Sharrell-Ann Moffat

  • “My honest advice to anyone who is thinking of undertaking ABMA Education is not to hesitate one bit … it can also be seen as a shortcut to get your university degree.”

    Koupouli Tibi Judith