Tips from IB Examiners – Those Dreaded Command Terms

Last years subject exam reports highlighted that the students lost lots of marks and so grades from answering long answer questions in Paper 2 and 3 poorly as can be seen from some of their comments below :-

” but few gained more than 6 marks due to lack of structure ‘explaining’ three advantages rather than just describing them.”

“As usual with extended response questions relating to three distinct issues, candidates who planned their answer carefully and set out the issues gained most marks.”

“Only a small number of candidates organised their response into three distinct aspects of the design…”

So this highlights that you need to concentrate and understand the many command terms at the beginning of each question. They are listed at the beginning of the DT syllabus – some of the more difficult ones to differentiate are below :-

“Define  – Give the precise meaning of a word, phrase or physical quantity.

Distinguish  – Give the differences between two or more different items.

Outline –  Give a brief account or summary.

Analyse – Interpret data to reach conclusions.

Compare – Give an account of similarities and differences between two (or more) items, referring to both (all) of them throughout.

Discuss – Give an account including, where possible, a range of arguments for and against the relative importance of various factors, or comparisons of alternative hypotheses.

Evaluate – Assess the implications and limitations.

Explain – Give a detailed account of causes, reasons or mechanisms.”

IB DT Syllabus 2009

Once you understand the command terms the most important thing to do – is to practice how to plan answers. Often when practicing these questions it is more important to test your planning skills than writing the full answers as this should push you to structure their answer to gain maximum marks. (Note going over past papers and exam questions can take a lot of time – so just practicing planning questions can save time and actually be better practice for YOU!)  I would also suggest that the amount of space the IB gives for these questions is very small and misleading  – so I would encourage you to plan in this space and then write your answers on separate sheets of paper given to you by the proctor.

So an example question – “Explain three advantages of using laminated timber to produce the Penguin Donkey.”

Should be planned so that you have three separate paragraphs with three sentences in each : –

  • Introduction
  • Point 1 – available in large sheet sizes; Mark 2 – so the curved components; Mark 3 – can be cut from one sheet;
  • Point 2 – good strength to weight ratio; Mark 5 – so the product is easy to move around; Mark 6 – and will be robust in use;
  • Point 3 – product is designed with tight curves; Mark 8 – laminated timber can be used in thin sections; Mark 9 – and bent around a former to produce the curves;
  • Conclusion – Summing Up

The more practice the better – and always  avoid long paragraphs, waffly sentences and above ALL – PLAN PLAN PLAN PLAN your answers it could mean the difference between receiving a 6 rather than a 7!

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