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August 2016

Command words: analyze, assess, evaluate...


A lot of students, when getting into an exam, will immediately start writing as much as they possibly can about the relevant topic. We fill the page and are saying to the examiner “Mate. Look how much information I can remember. You MUST give me top grades.”

However an examiner isn’t looking for us to just regurgitate as much information as we can, they want us to use that information in the right kind of context. Therefore students must, first of all, identify exactly what kind of a question they are going to be answering. Look for the key command words which are going to shape our answer. Below is a list of command words with definitions next to them so that when you get into the exam you will be able to differentiate between different command words and be able to give the examiner exactly what they want.

 

Analyze – Break something into its component parts and show how they relate to one another. 

Argue – Present a reasoned case

Assess – ‘Weigh up’ a statement, showing arguments in favor and against

Compare – Identify similarities

Contrast – Identify differences

Criticize – Explain problems, limitations or weaknesses

Define – Say what a word or phrase means

Describe – Set out features or characteristics

Discuss – Examine an issue closely, taking account of differing viewpoints

Distinguish – Describe differences

Evaluate – Make judgments based on evidence

Examine – Investigate closely

Explain – Show how something works, usually by giving a clear and detailed account of it

How Far – ‘Weigh up’ a statement, showing arguments in favor and against, usually showing the lengths to which you agree with a statement

Identify – Name or set out main features

Outline – Set out main characteristics

State – Express Clearly

Summarize – Present principal points without detail

To What Extent – Create an argument in favor or against something, using your own perspective.

 

These are two terms that are sometimes confused:

 

Features – The characteristics that define what something is

Functions – The roles that highlight what something does

 

 

 

 

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