Science Examwords - Clues in the Question!



means you need to list the main ideas in your answer and explain how they are related to the problem and why they are important.

Separate the information into components, and identify their characteristics - then discuss the 'pros and cons' of a topic or argument and make reasoned comments


means you must use numbers given in the question to work out the answer. Always show your working, as it may be possible for the examiner to award some marks for the method even if the final answer is wrong.
Always give the units – sometimes a mark may be awarded just for the correct units, even if the calculation is wrong.


Select from a list or a number of alternatives.

Comment on

means to discuss, criticise or explain its meaning as completely as possible.


means to show both the similarities and the differences.


means to compare by showing the differences. You must not just write about one. If you are asked to "compare x with y", they need to write down something
about x and something about y that is different to x.


means add words, numbers, labels or plot points to complete a sentence, table, diagram or graph.


means to give your judgement or reasoned opinion of something, showing its good and bad points. It is not necessary to attack it.


means make a decision as to the meaning of the data given to you in the question


means to draw a diagram precisely using mathematical instruments (like a ruler, protractor and compass)


means to change a given value into another form (usually into a different unit)


means to use your knowledge and/or supplied data to work something out - show how you do it!


means to give the formal meaning by distinguishing it from related terms. This is often a matter of giving a memorised definition.


means to write a detailed account or verbal picture in a logical sequence or story form.

You should recall the facts, events or process in an accurate way - for example in an experiment you have done. You may need to give an account of what something looked like, or what happened, and findings such as a trend in some data


means to plan and present ideas to show a layout / function / workings / object / system / process.


means to obtain a solution by following a set of procedures.

For example obtain a numerical value by carrying out a series of calculations.


means to make a graph, chart, or drawing.

Be sure that you label it clearly and add a brief explanation if it is needed.


means to describe, giving the details and explaining the 'pros and cons' of it.


means produce a diagram with sufficient detail and labels to illustrate the answer - compare with 'sketch'..


means to list. Name and list the main ideas one by one and number them.


means give an approximate value.


means you should carefully read the information supplied in the question and (using your own knowledge and understanding) consider the evidence 'for and against' the subject of discussion and state these advantages and disadvantages in your answer.

You then need to draw a conclusions and give your opinion (or some expert's opinion) of the truth or importance of a concept.

This type of question expects you to go further than "compare".

For example, you may be given a passage to read and told to
"Evaluate the benefits of using system x and system y".
This means you will need to write down some of the pros and cons for both systems, AND then state which one is better and why. You are expected to complete the answer with a conclusion.


means you need to make something clear, or state the reasons for something happening.
The points in the answer must be linked coherently and logically.
The answer should not be a simple list of reasons.


see 'determine' - same thing!

Give, name orwrite down

Only a short answer is required - not an explanation or a description.

Often it can be answered with a single word, phrase or sentence.

If the question asks you to state, give, or write down a particular number of examples, you should write down only the specified number of answers - you may lose marks for any wrong
examples given.


means to recognise, list, name or otherwise characterise.


means to explain or make clear by concrete examples, comparisons or analogies, or providing diagrams.


means to give the meaning using examples and personal comments to make it clear.


means to give a statement of why you think it is so.

Give reasons for your statement and conclusion.


See Enumerate


means to give a general summary. It should contain a series of main ideas supported by secondary ideas. Omit minor details. Show the organization of your ideas.


means consider the problem, and set out what should be done.


means translate the given data into a suitable graph or chart, with labelled axes.


means make a judgement using your knowledge, experience or evidence as to an event or action that will happen in the future.


means to show-'by argument or logic' that it is true. (The word 'prove' has a very special meaning in mathematics and physics).


means to show the connections between things telling how one causes or is like another.


means to give a survey or summary in which you look at the important parts and criticise where necessary.


means produce a simple, freehand drawing to illustrate the general point being conveyed. Detail is not required. (Compare with 'Draw')

In the context of a graph, the general shape of the curve would be sufficient without plotting precise points. (Compare with 'Plot')


means to describe the main points in precise terms. Be formal. Use brief clear sentences. Omit details or examples.


This term is used in questions where you need to apply your knowledge and understanding to a new situation.

Often there may be more than one correct answer as you are expected to base their answers on scientific knowledge and/or principles and how they apply to the situation. In real life many factors often play a part - show you realise the situation is complex and what scientific principles apply.


means to give a brief, condensed account of the main ideas. Omit details and examples.


means to follow the progress or history of a subject.


(the information in the passage/ diagram/ graph/ table to…)

The answer must be based on the information given in the question. Unless the information given in the question is used, no marks can be given.

If you are given a graph clearly mark on the graph with dashed lines to any readings from the axes you have used.

LOJ September 2002 - added to in July 2010 and January 2021