This second part in the series of blogs of preparing for examinations – understanding Command Terms. The Command Terms for ITGS are found on the last two pages of the ITGS Guide as a reference. However, their importance places them as a top priority. All assessments both internal (Projects) and external (Paper 1, Paper 2 and HL Paper 3) rely on understanding these Command Terms.

What are Command Terms? Command Terms are verbs that are used used to state questions on an examination paper. The word usually appears at the beginning of a sentence to ‘set the scene’ for the type of response that is expected.

For example, let’s compare two common items: a tennis dress and a party dress.

There are 17 Command Terms (see chart below) for ITGS.   Consider what questions could be asked about these dresses using these Command Terms.


Questions may include:

  • Identify the two types of dresses.
  • Describe the tennis dress.
  • Outline where the party dress would be worn.
  • Explain how the design of  tennis dress is suited to the purpose for which is it used.
  • To what extent is the design of this tennis dress suited to the purpose for which it is used.

There are several points being made in these examples:

  • there is a hierarchy in the demands and thinking required in the Command Terms in the table.
  • questions are allocated a varying number of marks depending which Command Term is used.
  • the level thinking skills required varies from recall at the lower end with the word ‘Identify’ and increases when we reach the Command Terms “To what extent”, ‘Discuss’, ‘Evaluate’, and ‘Justify’.
  • ‘Formulate’ is only used on HL Paper 3.

The hierarchy from lower level to higher order thinking skills is shown in the diagram below.

ITGS_Taxonomy_2012It is important in preparing for examinations to understand the requirements of each of the command terms and organize responsesaccordingly. For example, carefully read the definition of ‘describe’ and ‘explain’. ‘Explain’ needs to meet the same requirements as ‘describe’ , but with  ‘reasons or causes’ also added. ‘Explain’ means ‘describe’ the situation and also provide the reasons ‘why’.

Three command terms that need to be considered together are: compare, contrast and distinguish. For example, consider the question ‘distinguish between the kind of online marketing that may be used to by a shop owner to advertise  tennis dresses and to advertise party dresses’. The response requires clear references to both the tennis dress and to the party dress in the response. The differences in the advertising for tennis dresses and for party dresses must be clearly presented.

The Command Terms ‘Discuss’, ‘Evaluate’, ‘To what extent’ and ‘Justify’ are more demanding because they appear in the last part of questions on ITGS Papers. They require in-depth responses which address a range of considerations and  balance by looking at different sides of the situation. At the end a conclusion must be reached that is consistent with the argument that has been presented and is not simply a restatement of what has already been stated earlier in the response.

In a similar manner all of the command terms need to be carefully reviewed by looking at specific scenarios where they are used. Past examination questions are useful for this purpose.