The following words are commonly found in essay tests. Understanding them is essential to success on these tests.
Analyze – Break into separate parts and discuss, examine, or interpret each part.
Compare – Examine two or more things. Identify similarities and differences.
Contrast – Show differences. Set in opposition.
Criticize – Make judgments. Evaluate comparative worth. This often involves analysis.
Define – Give the meaning, usually a meaning specific to a subject. Definitions are usually short.
Describe – Give a detailed account. Make a picture with words. List characteristics, qualities, and parts.
Discuss – Consider and debate the pros and cons of an issue. Write about any conflict. Compare and contrast.
Enumerate – List several ideas, aspects, events, things, qualities, reasons, etc.
Evaluate – Give your opinion or cite the opinions of experts. Include evidence to support the evaluation..
Explain – Make an idea clear. Show logically how an idea is developed.
Illustrate – Give concrete examples. Explain with word pictures.
Interpret – Comment upon, give examples, and describe relationships. Explain the meaning, and then evaluate.
Outline – Describe main ideas, characteristics, or events. (not necessarily with Roman numerals and/or letters).
Prove – Support with facts (especially those from class or the text).
State – Explain precisely.
Summarize – Give a brief, condensed account. Avoid unnecessary details. Include conclusions.
Trace – Show the order of events or progress of a subject or event.
Adapted from Becoming A Master Student by David B. Ellis. http://tinyurl.com/2am93mh