Words Commonly Used In Essay Exams

When you take an essay exam it is important to be able to understand what type  of response your professor is looking for in your answer. Some common prompts and their definitions are listed below.

Compare—Examine qualities, or characteristics, in order to determine resemblances.

Contrast—Stress dissimilarities, differences, or unlikenesses of associated things.

Criticize—Express your judgment with respect to the correctness or merit of the factors under consideration.

Define—Write concise, clear, authoritative meanings, keeping in mind the class to which the item belongs, and whatever differentiated it from all other classes.

Discuss—Examine, analyze carefully, and present considerations pro and con regarding the problems or items.

Enumerate—A list or outline form of reply. Recount, one by one, in concise form, the points required.

Evaluate—Present a careful appraisal, stressing both advantages and limitations.

Explain—Clarify, elucidate, and interpret the material you present.

Illustrate—Present a figure, diagram, or concrete example.

Interpret—Translate, exemplify, or comment upon the subject, and, usually, give your judgment or reaction.

Justify—Prove your thesis or show grounds for decision.

List—Present an itemized series or a tabulation.

Outline—Give main points and essential supplementary materials in a systematic manner.

Prove—Establish something with certainty by citing evidence or by logical reasoning.

Relate—Emphasize connections and associations.

Review—Analyze and comment briefly, in organized sequence, upon the major points.

State—Express the high points in brief, clear form.

Summarize—Give in condensed form the main points or facts.

Trace—Give a description of progress, sequence, or development from the point of origin.

Copyrights by The Curators of the University of Missouri, 2006

Photo  from Flickr Creative Commons

Author: DePaul SI

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a program operating out of the Office for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. Supplemental Instruction aims to help students successfully complete historically difficult classes through peer-assisted study sessions.

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