If you are preparing for CIPS CR exams, probably you have read Principal Marker reports on their website. You may also notice notes on weaker responses. According to our analytics, the weaker responses have the following characteristics:
- Lack of understanding of the knowledge area;
- Lack of details, insufficient length;
- Failure to provide sufficient number of ideas;
- Failure to provide examples;
- Failure to link back to the scenario;
- Inability to link the answer to the question.
With the first three problems, you’ll need to study more rigorously, read more extensively. Preferably, you should study other modules before taking L4M1, so that you have more ideas on the answer. The 4th and the 5th problems can be fixed with better time management and real world experience. The 6th characteristic arises from the fact that students have misread the question. In this post, I will show you how to analyse and understand the question correctly.
1. Structure of a question
A question has at most 4 parts: the command word (the verb), quantitative (the number), object (the ‘what’) and additional command. Among them, you may guest right, the command word and the object are the most important. While each command word has specific explanation which can be found on CIPS website, there’s no summary of common objects in the exam.
2. How to understand a question
2.1. Understanding the command word
The detailed explanation on command words can be found here. In the following table, I am just encapsulating the most common command words.
|Command words||What you should write|
|Analyse, Explain, Discuss, Describe||All these four command words require you to write long description of a matter. A good answer to these command words should include the following:|
– What is the matter? What are its features/characteristics?
– How is it solved/implemented in procurement and supply?
– What are its possible advantages/disadvantages? Why does it have such advantages and disadvantages?
– How to maximise the advantages while minimising the risks?
|List||This command word only requires a brief answer. You just need to write down a list of bullet points|
2.2. Understanding the object
While command words are thoroughly explained by CIPS, they give no instruction on the object. The following table is compiled from our own experience, it is not an official source of material.
|Object||What you should write|
|The characteristics of… / The feature of…||This type of object is straightforward. You will need to list the features of a matter, and briefly explain why it has that feature, as well as how that feature impacts on procurement and supply function.|
|The advantages/benefits of… / The disadvantages/risks of…||This type of object is straightforward. You will need to list the advantages/ disadvantages of a matter, and briefly explain why it has that feature, as well as how to leverage the advantage while minimising the disadvantages.|
|The distinctive features of…||This object requires a comparison between the matter mentioned and its counterpart. A good answer includes:|
– What is the matter? What is its counterpart?
– The features of the matter. Why does it have such feature?
– What does procurement and supply function should do to address each feature?
|The use of…||If you meet this object, you are expected to know the following:|
– The definition of the matter
– Features of the matter
– How to implement the matter in procurement and supply context
– How the matter improves the effectiveness/efficiency
|The impact of…||According to our analysis of principal marker report, while this object is commonly asked in the exam, it is not well answered by many students. To impress the assessor, you should write:|
– What is the matter? Why does an organisation have that matter?
– What should procurement and supply function do to address/align with that matter?
|The way in which…||This type of object is more ambiguous and requires more holistic answer. It often attracts weaker response. In our opinion, better response to this object should include a list of verb phrases/activities, and the reasons behind them.|
2.3. The number and additional command
These parts are straightforward. You should write sufficient points, not more or fewer. Additional command lets you know other expectations from the assessors. Normally, there are only 2 types of additional command: write your own examples or use the examples from given scenario. In fact, even without the additional command, you are expected to write them to gain higher mark.