Sunday, 30 October 2011

The keywords in a question.


Each question may have a stem, but will then have a keyword at the start of the question sentence. These keywords have specific meanings:

State
A simple statement of fact, this may be a one word answer. Questions like this will be the only occasion that a one word response is acceptable.
Example:
An operating system contains a number of different types of utility programs.
State three utility programs that would be available in all personal computer operating systems.          [3]
The expected answers are: File handlers; virus checkers; hardware drivers…
A single word or phrase is all that is required. Other correct answers are possible and the candidate will get credited for these but be careful of grey areas…

Give
Generally requires a sentence for a mark.
Example:
The software needed to solve a problem can most easily be produced by splitting the main problem into modules.
Give two reasons why the problem should be modularised.                                      [2]
‘The program is produced faster’ would be a ‘state’ type of answer. Compare that with: ‘The program can be produced faster because different programmers can work on the different modules.’ Notice how this also raises the answer above an IGCSE type of response into a higher level type of response.

Describe
The candidate has to say something and then expand on what they have said for a second mark. The describe type of question is normally worth two marks per point.
Example:
Describe the features of a spreadsheet package that allow models to be set up.
·         A spreadsheet has rows and columns forming cells in which data items can be kept
·         A spreadsheet gives the user the ability to use formulas in order to calculate specific values based on others which may themselves alter
·         A spreadsheet gives the user a series of pre-determined formulas which can be used to manipulate data
The question is which of these answer the question that has been asked? How many of them is the candidate expected to come up with? How many marks is each one worth?
Example:
A word-processing package is used by both a technical author and an office secretary. The author uses it to produce scientific books, the secretary uses it for letters to customers.
a) Describe two features of a word-processor that would be important to the author but not necessarily to the secretary.                                                                                                                         [4]
b) Describe two features of the word-processor which would be important to the secretary but not necessarily to the author.                                                                                                   [4]
We would expect the answer to part (a) to include thesaurus, special symbols, technical dictionary, page numbering, autoformat…
For part (b) the candidate should think about mail merge, standard letter templates, images…
The answers above would each be worth a mark but this is a describe question. The second mark needs to be for a description: Thesaurus for looking up synonyms of words; mail merge to send letters to all the people in a particular town who are also customers of the firm.
Note the layers!

Explain
Tends to be very similar to describe except that the first point has already been given. ‘Explain mail merging using a word processor’. There is now no mark for ‘mail merge’.
Example:
… Explain why the mail merge feature of the word processor would be useful to the secretary.            [4]
·         Because the secretary does not have to conduct their own search of the customer database in order to find those inhabitants who are customers.
·         This will save paper and postal costs because they will not have to write individual letters to too many people.
One way of asking an explain question is to ask for advantages and disadvantages of something. The format of the questions makes the candidate consider both sides of an argument and should involve a conclusion of some sort.

Discuss
A very rare type of question as it typically asks for a prose type of answer. We do not expect prose answers at all and consequently would still want this answered in bullet point form. A discussion question should always contain points from both sides of an argument and should ideally come to a conclusion.
Example:
Discuss the use of the Internet by young people in school time.                               [6]
Notice the high tariff for this question in comparison to others.
Inevitably the higher marks are expected to be attainable only by the higher ability candidates.

With thanks to Chris Leadbetter.