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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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4.2 Identifying the instruction words

Having a good understanding of instruction words will help you to identify what type of task you are being asked to do, which, in turn, makes it more likely that an assignment answer will be relevant. These words may seem complex but they are very often used in assignment questions. Understanding instruction words makes it easier to understand the requirements of most assignments.

In the next activity you will learn some of the key words used in assignment questions.

Activity 8

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Listed below are eight of the most common instruction words. Match each one with its definition.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Compare and contrast

  2. Discuss/to what extent

  3. Illustrate

  4. Summarise

  5. Describe

  6. Evaluate

  7. Analyse

  8. Explain

  • a.Give details, clarify meaning or give reasons

  • b.Take apart an idea and examine it in great detail in order to understand it

  • c.Give a detailed account of something such as characteristics, a reading or an experience

  • d.Examine something to judge its value, importance, quality, or effectiveness

  • e.Make an idea clear by giving an example

  • f.Give a shortened version of a written or spoken item, stating only the key points

  • g.Look for differences and similarities between two or more concepts or things in an organised way

  • h.Give reasons for and against an idea

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = g
  • 2 = h
  • 3 = e
  • 4 = f
  • 5 = c
  • 6 = d
  • 7 = b
  • 8 = a