Candidates need to be familiar with these key terms and phrases used in economics examination questions, which are to be understood as described in the glossary. Although these terms are used frequently in examination questions, other terms may also be used to direct candidates to present an answer in a specific way.
Account for Asks candidates to explain a particular situation or a particular outcome. Candidates are expected to present a reasoned case for the existence of something. For example:
Account for the rise in unemployment shown in the table of data.
Analyse Asks candidates to respond with a closely argued and detailed examination of a particular topic or event. A clearly written analysis will indicate the relevant interrelationships between important variables and any relevant assumptions involved, and will also include a critical view of the significance of the account as presented. If this key word is augmented by the phrase “the extent to which”, then candidates should be clear that judgment is also sought. For example:
Analyse the extent to which foreign aid promotes economic development.
Assess Asks candidates to measure and judge the magnitude or quality of something. Candidates may offer differing assessments as long as they present the reasoning for their conclusion. For example:
Assess the economic implications of the movement of many eastern and central European countries from planned economies to market economies.
Calculate Asks candidates to give a precise answer, meaning there is only one acceptable answer. For example:
Calculate the PED for a price change of 2.00 € to 2.20 €.
Compare/Compare and contrast Asks candidates to describe two situations and present the similarities and differences between them. A description of the two situations does not on its own meet the requirements of this key term. For example:
Compare the effectiveness of demand-side policies to supply-side policies in reducing the level of unemployment.
Define Asks candidates to give a clear and precise account of a given word or concept. For example:
Define what is meant by a free-trade area.
Describe Asks candidates to provide a description of a given situation. It is a neutral request to present a detailed picture. For example:
Describe the main roles of the IMF and the World Bank.
Discuss Asks candidates to consider a statement or to offer a considered review of or balanced argument about a particular topic. For example:
Discuss the view that trade is more effective than aid in promoting economic development.
Distinguish Asks candidates to make clear their understanding of similar terms. For example:
Distinguish between normal and supernormal profit.
Evaluate* Invites candidates to make an appraisal of a situation. Candidates should weigh the nature of the evidence available and discuss the convincing aspects of an argument as well as its implications and limitations, and the less convincing elements within an argument. For example:
Evaluate alternative policies designed to reduce inflation.
Explain Directs candidates to describe clearly, make intelligible and give reasons for a concept or idea. For example:
Explain why a monopolist may charge different prices to different customers for the same service.
To what extent? Asks candidates to evaluate the success or otherwise of one argument or concept over another. Candidates should present a conclusion, supported by arguments. For example:
To what extent should LDCs adopt outward-oriented strategies rather than inward-oriented strategies to promote economic development?
What? Asks candidates to clarify the nature of something, in contrast to either a temporal dimension (when?) or a spatial dimension (where?). For example:
What is the difference between a tariff and a quota?
Why? Invites candidates to present reasons for the existence of something. This command word implies a powerful requirement to present a judgment. It is similar to the invitation “account for”. For example:
Why do prices tend to be stable in an oligopolistic industry?
Evaluation occurs when a judgment is made. It is the weighing or measuring of factors followed by an attempt to give relative weight to those factors. Questions that begin “evaluate”, “assess”, “critically assess”, “discuss” or “to what extent” require candidates to show their skills of evaluation in order to reach the highest achievement levels.
There are many ways that candidates can be encouraged to improve their skills of evaluation.
• When factors such as causes, consequences or remedies are asked for, candidates should attempt to identify the most important ones and then to justify the reason for the choice.
• When advantages and disadvantages are asked for, candidates should attempt to identify the most important advantage (or disadvantage) and then justify the reason for the choice.
• When strategies are asked for, candidates should attempt to assess the short term and long term implications.
• When data is offered, candidates may question its validity, in terms of whether it is appropriate, whether it is reliable, or whether it is still relevant.
• When summarizing a theory, candidates may question its validity, in terms of whether it is appropriate, whether it is reliable, or whether it is still relevant.