Using command terms to demand high order responses in assessment in medical education

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterEducationpeer-review


Command terms provide a way of assessors defining expectations when asking questions while clearly indicating
the level of response required. Many examinations contain questions which include “calculate the...” or “What is
the...” as the main requirement and objective. The level of response required is, however, unclear. Most
assessment in medicine requires the learner to demonstrate higher order skills such as synthesis and evaluation.
Using the appropriate command term will greatly assist in communicating the required level of response.
First year medical students were provided with a list of command terms and definitions. They practiced using
these when writing revision questions and learning issues for themselves within PBL classes. These command
terms were incorporated into the subsequent medical examinations.
Command terms were seen by students as a way to enhance their understanding of what was being asked in
each question. They can now identify that questions requiring “review” or “evaluate” require a higher level of
response, than those requesting “list” or “define” answers for the same topic. This has enhanced the clarity of
questions, the level of responses, and the student comprehension of expectations for their answers.
As an educator, making one’s intentions clear about exactly what is expected in student responses to a question
is important. Command terms assist when demanding higher-order thinking from a student when examining their
comprehension and application of learned content.
Take-home message
Having a common understanding of the words used in assessment will assist both the learners and the

Poster no: 1067
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016
EventThe 17th Ottawa Conference and the ANZAHPE 2016 Conference - Perth Exhibition and Conference Centre, Perth, Australia
Duration: 19 Mar 201623 Mar 2016
Conference number: 17th


ConferenceThe 17th Ottawa Conference and the ANZAHPE 2016 Conference
OtherThe continuum of healthcare professions education and assessment will be addressed, with sessions covering undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education. The Conference provides the opportunity to focus on developments in the assessment of competence in medicine and the healthcare professions internationally by following the Ottawa streams, or to look more generally at education in the healthcare professions by following the ANZAHPE streams. All participants will have the opportunity through one joint registration to attend sessions in either stream depending on their interests and needs.

In this period of economic rationalisation of resources, increasing demands on healthcare delivery and the required provision of evidence of best utilisation of finite resources to deliver health care, what should be our expectations of our trainees and health professionals in the workplace? How can we promote and share best practice in education, in assessment and in the evaluation of our training programmes? The Conference will provide ample opportunities to present and exchange ideas and concepts with colleagues from across the world.
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