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Craft better answers for structured questions

Now let’s consider the thought process of addressing Geographical structured questions. Here are the 3 main steps that I would recommend you to review before you begin to craft your answers to any structured questions:


1. Identifying and unpacking the command word(s)

2. Understanding the demand of the question

3. Mark allocation


#1 Command words: Unpacking command word(s) of the question is the most important step as this will determine how you develop your answer.


For instance, the answers expected from ‘describe' questions and ‘explain’ questions are drastically different. To better understand what each command word mean, I would recommend you to search for the 'O Level Geography syllabus document' on Google and take a look at the list of command words found on the last two pages of the document.


Some of most used command words include:

- Describe

- Explain, Account for

- Assess, Discuss

- Compare


Some of the most used command words for Geographical Investigation (GI) structured questions:

- State

- Suggest a hypothesis/ guiding question

- Outline the steps taken

- Comment o

- Discuss

- What conclusions can be drawn


With the above list of the most used command words, start being practical! Read and understand what is expected from you when you're answering questions with these command words. I'll be crafting another blog post (click here) about the common mistakes that I've observed from the answers provided by my students.


For instance, a stimuli (usually in the form of photograph, map, table or any other graphical presentation format) is usually provided for a describe question. In this case, analyse the stimuli in detail, and share your observations by quoting evidence from the stimuli as you craft your answer.


For explanation and reasoning questions, do make sure you provide sufficient in-depth explanation with your geographical knowledge. Make full use of geographical terminologies. Brief answers with sweeping explanations will not warrant you the full credit!



#2 Demand of questions: Understanding the demand of the question is essential in helping you draw links between your answer and the question.


Link! Link! Link!


Over the years, I observed many students get overly excited when faced with familiar questions that looked similar to what they have practiced during their revision. As such, without reading the questions carefully, they will dive into the process of recalling and regurgitating facts learnt. Often times, their answers would either be too long-winded or have failed to address the demands of the questions, which in turn would be translated to their inability to obtain full credit for the questions.


As such, I would strongly encourage you to identify and underline the demand(s) of the questions whenever you are attempting your assessments. It may seem unnecessary but I strongly believe that by paying closer attention to the question demand, students will become more aware of the importance of addressing the question.



#3 Mark allocation: Understanding the mark allocation of different types of questions will enable you to plan your answer in a more structured manner.


The worst fear of any teacher or examination marker is to find answers that are too long or too short. Answers that are too long may suggest that the student will most probably encounter difficulties with his/her time management for the later part of the paper. On the other hand, answers that are too short will most probably indicate that insufficient details or points are included in the answer, and hence, the inability of the student to obtain the full credit.


Take a close look of the marks allocated for each question.


Different question types often demand different answer structures:


  • Describe questions: you can obtain 1 mark per point of description. If it is a 4 marks question, don't simply write one entire paragraph about one point/observation that you have made.

  • Explain/Account For questions: you can obtain around 2 marks per detailed explanation. Should your explanation be brief yet accurate, marks will still be awarded but you will not be able to obtain the full credit.

  • Discuss/Assess questions: you can obtain around 2 marks per detailed explanation. However, do note that questions like this requires you to consider both sides/perspectives. As such, plan your answer carefully to ensure that you have sufficient points of explanation for each perspective.

  • Levels questions: this is the standard 8 marks question at the end of each section in the examination paper. Do note that such questions are marked based on a rubrics. Teachers and examination markers are awarding marks based on your ability to address the question demand, develop your answer, support with evidence, and most importantly, provide well-developed two-sided perspectives to your answer.


Why not try out these 3 steps whenever you attempt to answer Geography structured questions. I hope you'll benefit from it.


Let me know your thoughts. Hit me up on Instagram.

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© 2020 by Bernice Loon