Answer the essay question
Make sure that you answer the question when writing an essay. If you are asked to assess, describe or discuss make sure you do assess, describe or discuss the essay question. When you look at the question set, concentrate on the key verb. For example:

Contrast - Examine differences and explain their relevance.

Compare and Contrast - Examine both similarities and differences.

Criticize - Analyze and evaluate the subject critically, looking for weak points in the proposition. You may need to come to a judgment or conclusion based on your analysis and evaluation.

Define - Describe, explain, and set the limits of the proposition.

Describe - Give a precise picture of the characteristics and qualities of the subject.

Discuss - Debate the pros and cons of the issue in the question, paying particular attention to areas of controversy or conflict.

Evaluate - Assess the proposition by looking at the information and expert opinion. Come to your own conclusions based on the evidence that supports the proposition.

Illustrate - Use examples, analogies, and comparisons to explain the proposition.

Interpret - Explain the meaning of the proposition, commenting on its effect and describing its relationship to data. Give examples. Evaluate its validity

Outline - Describe main ideas, characteristics, information or events

Prove - Support with facts to agree with the proposition.

State - Produce the exact information asked.

Summarize - Give a brief account, concentrating of the conclusions reached from the proposition.

Trace - Describe and analyze the order of events or progress.

Warning: Don’t fall into the trap of writing all you know about the subject — 70 percent will be irrelevant and will not earn you any marks. You’ll also find the irrelevant material detracts from the essential information contained in the essay.

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