In every subject there is a collection of terms that can be applied to specific topics or ideas in that subject. For example:

There are three main reasons to use terminology like this in your answers:

  1. Marks are often specifically awarded for the mention of a key phrase such as background radiation. You won’t get the marks if you don’t use the keyword. In these situations, use of terminology is a necessity.
  2. Correct use of terminology leads to more concise answers. This is because terminology condenses the meaning of a longer expression into one or two words. For example, it is more concise to write frost shattering than “the stress placed on rocks by the freeze-thaw cycle of water”.
  3. Correct use of terminology enhances your aura of competence by giving the impression of understanding and expertise.

You should create a glossary of important terms for each topic within a subject. This is a good way to keep all terminology in one place, rather than scattered across your notes or other study materials. As an extension to your glossary, you can construct phrases and sentences which intelligently use terminology and then use them in your answers. This is an example of the versatile unit strategy.

An added benefit of terminology is that it acts as an excellent hook into your memory. Reading a single term can unlock many other pieces of related knowledge and bring them into the front of your mind. This is incredibly useful when time is scarce, such as immediately before an exam.

However, few things will expose you as an amateur as much as overuse or misuse of terminology. It is obvious when you cram as many terms as possible into your writing that you do not properly understand what you are talking about. Avoid doing this.

Exam Instructions

Terminology also appears in exam questions. Questions tend to include keywords and specific instructions that indicate what type of answer is expected. Read the full question very carefully and pay close attention to the instructions, because even the most incredible answer will not score high marks if it is not an answer to the question being asked.