Interpreting and Answering Examination Questions

Interpreting and Answering Examination Questions

1. Question word and Associated Requirements

1.1  In interpreting and answering examination questions, it is critical for students to identify the question word and associated requirements.

1.2  ‘Question work’ defines the level of knowledge and intellectual skills that are required in the question. It includes words like ‘list’ which requires recall or recognition of facts and ‘explain’ which demands interpretation of processes/problems and understanding of meaning, concepts or theories.

1.3  ‘Associated requirements’ informs students of the number of pointers to include in the answers, and the marks allocated to each of them.

2. Examples

Sample Question 1

List the five external forces.  (5 marks)

2.1.  Determine the question word: List

2.2.  Determine the associated requirements: five and 5 marks

5 marks divided by five external forces implies 1 mark per external force. Students are required to write down the external forces i.e. political, economic, social, technological and competitive forces. No explanation of the forces is necessary.

Sample Question 2

You are the marketing manager of a local distributor appointed to market a new brand of digital cameras. Describe four product-mix pricing strategies that you could consider to use in pricing the new brand of cameras.  (8 marks)

2.3.  Determine the question word: Describe

2.4.  Determine the associated requirements: four and 8 marks

8 marks divided by four strategies implies 2 marks per strategy. The marks determine the length and depth of the answer. In this question, the core definition or approach of each strategy is adequate as an answer.

Other possible question words: Identify, State, Define, Discuss, Differentiate, Elaborate, Give, Compare and Contrast

To fully understand the requirements of the question, it is also important for students need to determine the concept, context and perspective of the question.

3. Concept

3.1. Determine the concept to be tested:

product-mix pricing strategies

4. Context

4.1. Determine the context of the question:

a new brand of digital cameras

5. Perspective

5.1. Determine the perspective or the reference of discussion:

a local distributor’s perspective or point of view

6. Putting it together

Question word: Describe
Associating attributes: four
Context: a new brand of digital cameras
Concept to be tested: product-mix pricing strategies Perspective: a local distributor

Your answers must relate to a new brand of digital cameras that are marketed by local distributors. The following concepts of product-mix pricing strategies are relevant: the product line, optional product, captive product, and product bundle strategies.

Note: By-product pricing would not be a relevant answer though it is one of the product-mix pricing strategies. Rationale: The perspective of the question is “local distributor” and not a camera maker.


The local distributor could consider the following product-mix pricing strategies.

Product line pricing strategy is to set price steps between the different product lines of digital cameras. (2 marks)

Optional product pricing strategy is to set the prices of optional or accessory products such as carrying case or tripod to be sold separately with the digital camera. (2 marks)

Captive product pricing strategy is to set the price of product such as lens attachment or customized battery pack that must be used with the digital camera. (2 marks)

Product bundle is to price bundle of products sold together such as photo-sized printer together with the digital camera. (2 marks)

7. Writing answers

7.1 Write each pointer as a separate paragraph.

7.1.1 In the example above, it is useful to write each pricing strategy as a separate paragraph to clearly distinguish that all the five pricing strategies have been answered.


o Allow student to quickly and clearly confirm that no answers are left out

o Easy for the marker to identify, mark and award marks

7.2 Begin each question on a fresh page.

7.3 Write legibly as marker awards marks based on answers that could be clearly read and understood.

8. Check and balance

8.1.  If time permits, student should review each answer after completing the required number of questions.

8.2.  Review the questions together with the written answers.

9. Tips

9.1 Before writing the answers, student should read each of the questions carefully, and write as many pointers as possible on the question paper. These pointers serve to remind the student of the answers that ought to be included.

9.2 After reading the last question, student should then review each of the questions and select those that contain the most number of pointers. Generally speaking, the student may have a higher level of confidence in attempting a question with more pointers.

9.3 Before writing the answers, student should prioritize the pointers so as to make sure that the answers are logical and sequentially correct.

9.4 Student may probably take ten minutes of the writing time to do the above, but the benefits are many.

9.4.1 A better approach compared to haphazardly answering a question that leads to canceling of answers and having to start all over again.

9.4.2 Fight writing fatigue particularly after completing the third question.

9.4.3 Builds one’s planning skill despite under pressure which is expected of a manager.