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Revision and examinations
Revision and examinations

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Analysing and answering essay-based exam questions

For the following activity, you can use questions from a specimen paper, past papers or even questions you have devised for yourself.

Activity 9

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes.

Exam questions for essay-based courses often contain ‘process words’. These require you to organise what you know about a topic in a particular way. The mark you obtain for your answer will, to a large degree, reflect your success in interpreting the instruction contained within the question’s process words.

Using Table 1, check out your understanding of a selection of ‘process words’. These are frequently found in essay-based exam questions. Note down what you think each word means. The meaning of the first process word is filled in as an example.

Table 1
Process wordMeaning
Account forExplain, clarify, give reasons for
Analyse
Assess
Compare
Contrast
Compare and contrast
Criticise
Define
Describe
Discuss
Distinguish / Differentiate between
Evaluate
Examine the argument that
Explain
How far / To what extent
Illustrate
Justify
Outline
State
Summarise
What arguments can be made for and against this view?

Discussion

When you have completed the table, have a look at Table 2 in the next section on ‘Process words’. This shows a completed version of the table. You can use it to compare with your answers.