Study Skills: Important Keywords To Remember
Good answers to test questions often depend upon a clear understanding of the meaning of important key words. Knowledge of the subject matter or topic you are dealing with is essential, but the way you answer questions asking you to compare contrast or summarise will greatly affect your final marks.
The following words are often used in tests and examinations questions. To help you here are some easy-to-understand explanations of some of the terms you may encounter in your examinations.
1. ANALYSE - Work out the main parts or important features of the material and present them clearly in your answer e.g. Analyse the elements present in the experiment.
2. COMPARE/COMPARISON - Look for those qualities or characteristics that are similar in the subject you are discussing. You may mention some differences in your answer but concentrate on aspects that are much the same. e.g. Compare the suffering of the two main characters in the novel.
3. CONTRAST - Stress the qualities or characteristics that are different in the things you are discussing. e.g. Contrast the luck that both sides had in the game.
4. CRITICISE- State what you think is a fair judgement of the events under discussion. Give points for and against, not just against. e.g. Critise the use of nuclear testing.
5. DEFINE - Explain the meaning in clear, concise terms. Also show the limits of what you are defining and the class or category to which it belongs. e.g. Define the meaning of the term " Photosynthesis"
6. DESCRIBE - Try to give the reader a "word picture" of what you are describing by including the main parts, colors, shapes, sensations etc., as vividly as possible. Provide characteristics and features. e.g. Describe your bedroom.
7. DISCUSS - This term means that you should give a complete and detailed answer. Make sure that you examine, analyse and present all points of view regarding the topic you are discussing. Identify the issues and provide points for and /or against. e.g. Discuss the significance of the title of the story "To Kill a Mockingbird"
8. ENUMERATE - Make a list or outline the main points in your answer. e.g. Enumerate the causes of World War 1.
9. EVALUATE - Present a value judgement, stressing advantages and disadvantages of the situation. e.g. Evaluate the contributions of Mobile Phones in our lives.
10. EXPLAIN - Relate cause and effect, make the relationships between things evident and provide the answer to why or how. e.g. Explain why the subtitle of the book is appropriate.
11. ILLUSTRATE - Use examples to help explain your answer and if possible present a diagram, picture or small drawing. However, usually requires more than making a drawing. e.g. Illustrate the use of motherboard of a computer.
12. INTERPRET - Aim to give meaning of the topic or point of view in the material. e.g. Interpret the results presented in the following table.
13. JUSTIFY - Prove or show evidence why certain decisions or actions have been taken. e.g. Justify the entry of the USA into World War II.
14. NARRATE/RELATE - Tell a story or give an account of events or experiences. e.g. Narrate the events leading to the discovery of the treasure.
15. OUTLINE - Indicate the main points and important details of the material in a systematic arrangement but not an extended account. e.g. Outline the rising action, climax and falling action in the play.
16. PROVE/SHOW - Give evidence or use logical reasoning to establish how true or genuine a statement is in the topic.
17. PROPOSE - Put forward for consideration or action. For example a point of view, idea, argument or suggestion.
18 REVIEW - Make a general survey or examination of the major points in the material. A review can also often be a critical report of a situation or problem.
19 SUMMARISE - Give a brief and full presentation of the main points or statements. Express, concisely, the relevant details. Leave minor details, illustrations and explanations. e.g. Summarise the ways we can preserve food.
20. STATE - Set out the main points in clear, concise expression without minor details or the use of examples. e.g. State what you think is the major theme of the story.
There are other additional key terms that could be applied to examinations or assignments. However, a knowledge of this list will be extremely valuable in helping you decide what to do with a topic or a question. A good idea is to underline or mark the key words before you start to write your answers. This will help you to understand what is required and will also help you to plan your work.
REMEMBER: An answer is satisfactory only if it answers the question that was asked.