The Dictionary for Cambridge Math: What Do Examiners Want?

Part I: Wording of Questions

Evaluate: Literally a derivative of the word value, this means your answer must be a number.

Calculate: Usually involves — surprise surprise — calculations on your part, and for questions greater than 1 mark, involves showing your working.

Find: Usually short for “find the value of”, e.g. find the value of x; find 20% of 700. See evaluate and calculate above.

Total: Total means total, the sum of all parts.

Circumference: The perimeter of a circle

Perimeter: The marked boundary of any shape. Try not to involve too many formulas in perimeter questions. Trust your gut. If you have been asked to find the perimeter of three sides of a square, it doesn’t make sense to use your 4l formula.

Term: Any number of numbers/variables clumped together. a, b, ab, 4a, 25fdjksh, are all terms.

In terms of: In terms of x means x must be in your answer. In terms of pi means pi must be in your answer. 3 x pi in terms of pi is 3pi, not 9.425. This sometimes means less work for you, e.g. the area of a circle with radius 7cm is 153.9cm2, but the area of a circle with radius 7cm in terms of pi is simply 49pi. Woo! Less work for me.

Write down. These are usually one mark problems that are either literally written on the page or require a simple inference. Try not to whip out your calculator for this one.

Solve. Similar to calculate, but usually has a variable they want you to find the value of. You are usually solving for something, e.g. solving for x (finding x), solving for y (finding y), etc. If there are no variables, they want a simple answer (some kind of number, e.g. rational, whole, fraction, decimal, whatever).

Given. Never assume something, unless it is given. Sometimes you will see the word “given” on the page. Other times they will write numbers on the page, e.g. angles, lengths, etc. Otherwise, never say “hmm, that looks like a right angle” — unless you can infer it. Never.

Give an example. Give an example means give an example, and that’s what the marks are for. There’s no getting away from it, no matter if you show a page of (irrelevant) working.

State. When you are asked to state something, it does not mean to come up with a constitution for it. (Har-har). It means to write down what the examiner assumes you already know, e.g. state a principle, a law, a formula, a common equation.

Work out. Play an LMFAO song, and see our note on the word evaluate.

Show that. This means the answer is given to you, but you need to show you the working involved to get to that answer, using the information they have given you already.

A general note for Math paper one. It is a fill in the blanks paper. They have even given you the units for each question. There is no room for silly mistakes, like “whoops I wrote the wrong units”. They are telling you exactly what form your question should be in.