Accessible version | Skip to content | Change your text size
Previous pageNext page

Question wording

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

In an exam, you may not do as well as possible if you do any of the following:

  • write an answer for a slightly different question.
  • don't think carefully enough about what the question is asking.
  • give incomplete answers.(e.g. if you describe rather than discuss)

View a list of key direction words used in exam questions

View a list of key direction words in exam questions

ANALYSE Show the nature of a thing by identifying the essential elements and showing how they are related. Weaknesses or disadvantages may come to light in this process.
ARGUE Present the case for and/or against a particular proposition.
COMMENT ON Point out the important features, criticise.
COMPARE Identify characteristics or qualities that resemble each other. Emphasise similarities and also mention differences where appropriate.
CONTRAST Stress the dissimilarities and differences between things, events, problems, or qualities.
CRITICISE Express your judgement about the merit or truth of the factors or views mentioned. Draw conclusions, discussing both the limitations and the good points.
DEFINE Provide concise, clear, and authoritative meanings. Give the limits of the definition, but omit detailed explanations. Show how the item defined differs from items in other classes.
DESCRIBE Recount, characterise, outline, and relate in sequence.
DIAGRAM A drawing, chart, plan, or graph. Diagrams should be labelled and there should be an accompanying explanation.
DISCUSS Examine, analyse carefully, and give reasons for and against. Be complete and give details, usually with a view to assessing how satisfactory something is.
EVALUATE Carefully appraise in relation to some standard, referring to advantages, limitations, and costs and benefits as appropriate; attempt to come to a judgement.
EXAMINE Investigate critically, appraise a subject in detail.
EXPLAIN Clarify, interpret, and elaborate on the material presented. Give reasons for differences of opinion or results, and try to analyse causes.
ILLUSTRATE Use a concrete example, diagram, or figure to explain or clarify a problem.
INDICATE Identify, then focus attention so as to clarify.
JUSTIFY Prove or give reasons for conclusions or decisions.
OUTLINE Present the essential features, showing main points and subordinate points. Omit minor details. Stress the arrangement or classification of things.
REVIEW Examine a subject critically, analysing and commenting on the important or controversial statements.
STATE Present the main points in a brief and clear sequence, usually omitting details or examples.
SUMMARISE Give the main points or facts in condensed form.
word outputDownload a printable version of this page (.doc)
Problems? Questions? Comments? Please provide us feedback.