How to Define
The outcome verb dictates what a student should write for their answer. All too often, a student will see a term they know in a question and then write down as much as they know about it, to try to impress the examiner. Feeling like they are under time pressure, they can skim read the question asked, to ‘save’ time, and then overwrite in order to show off all they know about a topic/term that comes up in the question, and still walk away without the full allocation of marks!
So, if the outcome verb ‘define’ is asked for a term/topic, students should be very to the point; they should not give examples and thorough explanations. They will get full marks for a concise meaning of the term.
E.g. 2015 ABQ (B) (ii) Define the management activity of planning.
A student might see the term planning and think: ‘brilliant, I know loads about planning, lets get writing!’. Its even more likely for this example as it was in the ABQ and the student might be extra conscious to show what they know for the ABQ section as they often perceive it to be harder, and they usually do it towards the beginning of their exam.
Most students will be armed with lots of information on planning and could fill a page going on about types of planning (Strategic, Tactical, Contingency…), benefits of planning (focus on future, benchmark against performance, convince investors, motivate/direct staff…), but when the verb asked is Define, they shouldn’t.
So, what should they write…?
Define – brief, concise, to the point
Q: Define the management activity of planning.
(Answer, from the marking scheme, with marking scheme’s emphasis)
Planning is the setting down of specific goals and objectives and the putting in place of strategies that allow you to achieve the stated goals and objectives of the business.
The marks for define would be either 5 or 6 marks, split in 2 e.g. (3+3) or (2+3), so in this case, 3 would be given for saying something like ‘setting specific objectives’ and the other 3 would be given for saying something like ‘putting strategies in place to achieve them’.
We've put together a worksheet to use in class with other recent PP Q's where the action verb was 'Define', as well as giving suggested solutions alongside it - it should help clarify for your students what's expected of them when they are asked to define!