Decoding the question

Many of the common errors made by students in tests and exams occur not because of lack of knowledge or skills but because they are not clear about the nature of the task that has been set. This is particularly the case with essays and longer pieces of writing where the instructions are often quite open and general.

Working out the exact demands of a question by taking each part of it in turn and focusing on its exact wording is thus an important initial stage in constructing a successful answer.

Students can complete this form when an essay has been set. They may need guidance on the exact meaning of command and key words and rewording the question is by no means a simple task.

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  • Created by: Miranda W
  • Created on: 09-12-15 12:12
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Decoding the question: Teachers' notes
Rationale Many of the common errors made by students in tests and exams occur not
because of lack of knowledge or skills but because they are not clear about the
nature of the task that has been set. This is particularly the case with essays…

Page 2

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Decoding the question
Decoding means working out exactly what a question is about and how it should be answered.
This is the essential first step in producing a successful answer.

Title or question




Command words are the instruction words that tell you what to do e.g. outline, describe, discuss,
identify,…

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