I’ve taken tons of essay exams as an undergraduate and graduate student.
And one of the keys to answering the essay question successfully is to fully understand the question.
I know that sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many students skim the essay question and start writing without paying close attention to the words. And that’s a sure way to get yourself into trouble.
You see, your professor has spent time crafting the essay question. And he or she has used certain words to identify exactly what sort of answer you should provide.
Here are some common words used in essay questions that should signal to you how to respond:
Discuss, examine, and interpret what you know about the subject. Back up your opinion with facts.
Examine two or more things and identify the similarities and differences.
Show the differences.
Criticism not only means giving your opinion, but it also means discussing and examining what you know about it.
Explain the exact meaning of whatever is being asked. Be specific.
List the characteristics and break everything down into parts.
This keyword is often thrown into essay questions all the time. This word entails: debating the pros and cons; comparing and contrasting; giving a detailed account
Make the idea understandable. Simplify and show your Prof that you really know this subject well.
Become a lawyer and argue your case well with facts. Think of objections and shoot them down.
Reveal how the ideas connects to a larger theme
Give a concise account of the subject
Provide an order of events for a particular subject or event
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