Verbs in Essay questions – Relevant to CMA, CFA, ACCA and CIMA.

Although this article has been written for CMA exams, its contents are also applicable to exams of ACCA, CIMA and CFA.

Teaching CMA students for multiple years in Qatar; where students are not very confident with their English, I felt there was a great need to address the issue of Essay questions where the students actually have to understand a scenario and actually type in their answers rather than just choosing an option from multiple choice questions. Although the essay questions are not difficult and are just 25% of the exam, most students lack confidence in this part of the exam.

If you want to know how the essay questions section looks like and the top 10 tips for essay questions, you can read my other article Top 10 tips on Essay Questions.

Below is a list of important verbs that can be a part of essay questions in the CMA exam. There is also an explanation of the meaning of each part as well as a key tip.

Define

Actual meaning: Give the meaning; usually a meaning specific to the course or subject.

Key tip: Explain the exact meaning because usually definitions are short.

Describe

Actual meaning: Give a detailed account or key features. List characteristics, qualities and parts.

Key tip: Make a picture with words; identification is not sufficient.

Discuss

Actual meaning: Consider and debate/argue about the pros and cons of an issue. Examine in-detail by using arguments in favor and/or against.

Key tip: Write about any conflict, compare and contrast.

Evaluate

Actual meaning: Determine the scenario in the light of the arguments for and against.

Key tip: Mention evidence/case/point/ issue to support evaluation. Give an opinion.

Explain

Actual meaning: Make an idea clear. Show logically how a concept is developed. Give the reason for an event.

Key tip: Don’t just provide a list of points, add in some explanation of the points you’re discussing.

Analyze

Actual meaning: Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part.
Key tip: Give reasons for the current situation or what has happened.

Apply

Actual meaning : To judge the worth, importance, evaluate or estimate the nature, quality, ability, extent, or significance

Key tip: Determine the strengths/weaknesses/importance/ significance/ability to contribute.

Calculate

Actual meaning : :To determine by computation, to make an estimate of; evaluate, to perform a mathematical process.

Key tip: Provide description along with numerical calculations.

Comment

Actual meaning: To remark or express an opinion

Key tip: Your answer should include an explanation, illustration or criticism.

Compare

Actual meaning : Examine two or more things to identify similarities and differences

Key tip: Clearly explain the resemblances or differences

Conclusion / Conclude

Actual meaning: The result or outcome of an act or process or event, final arrangement or settlement.
Key tip: End your answer well, with a clear decision

Criticize

Actual meaning: Present the weaknesses/ problems; evaluate comparative worth. Don’t explain the situation. Instead, analyse it.
Key tip: Criticism often involves analysis.

Illustrate

Actual meaning: Give concrete examples. Explain clearly by using comparisons or examples.

Key tip: Add in some description.

Interpret

Actual meaning: Comment on, give examples, describe relationships.

Key tip: Include explanation and evaluation (give an opinion).

List

Actual meaning: List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc

Key tip: Don’t discuss, just make a list.

Outline

Actual meaning: Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events.

Key tip: Briefly explain the highlighted points.

Recommend

Actual meaning: Advice on the appropriate actions to pursue in terms that the recipient will understand

Key tip: Give advice or counsel.

Relate

Actual meaning: Show the connections between ideas or events

Key tip: Relate to real time examples.

State

Actual meaning: Explain precisely.

Key tip: Focus on the exact point.

Summarise

Actual meaning: Give a brief, condensed account. Include conclusions. Avoid unnecessary details

Key tip: Remember to conclude your explanation.