Revision and examinations
Revision and examinations

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Revision and examinations

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
Compare and contrast
Distinguish / Differentiate between
Examine the argument that
How far / To what extent
What arguments can be made for and against this view?


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.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371