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Verbs used on exam papers, what do they mean?


It’s exam time for many accounting students, be it college or professional exams. People often ask me for exam tips, and I usually focus on what not to do. There’s no point in mentioning things like the need to read and revise – if you haven’t figured that out, you’re in a lot of bother.

So what should you not do.Probably the worst thing you can do in any exam is to answer something other than what the examiner has in mind.  While numerate questions may be relatively easy to understand, narrative questions can be much more troublesome.

Of course, the best advice is always to read questions in full before attempting any answer. It’s also quite useful if you understand the language used by the examiner.  Many examiners reports frequently cite things like “the question was not answered”, or “the question was misinterpreted”.  To avoid misinterpretation, the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) in London have written a very useful article which explains the verbs used by their examiners. Here’s a link; scroll down to page 4 and you’ll see the list of verbs and their meaning.

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About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

One response to “Verbs used on exam papers, what do they mean?”

  1. Rone says :

    Thanks! I definitely agree that the worst thing you can do in any exam is to answer something other than what the examiner has in mind.

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