Writing Exam Tips:Understanding the Demand of the Question

answer writing tips


 Question Directives


Analyse·        This word requires you to break the topic down into its fundamental parts.

·        Once you have done this, it’s also important that you critically examine each part.

·        You need to use important debates and evidence to look in depth at the arguments for and against, as well as how the parts interconnect.

·        Use it to adopt a stand in your answer, ensuring you don’t simply give a narration.

Evaluate·        It is essential to provide information on both sides of the debate using evidence various sources.

·        Then you must state your position basing your arguments on the facts that let you arrive at your position.

·        You may be required to demonstrate the extent to which you agree with the position you stand for.

Justify·        With ‘justify’ question words, you need to explain the basis of your argument by presenting various facts and present your evidence in a convincing way, demonstrating good reasons for adopting your position.

·        Also, you may want to consider arguments that are contrary to your position before stating a conclusion to your arguments.

·        This will help present a balanced argument and demonstrate wide knowledge of the literature.

·        Here, a critical approach becomes crucial. You need to explain why other possible arguments are unsatisfactory as well as why your own particular argument is preferable.

Critically evaluate·        To ‘critically evaluate’, you must provide your opinion or verdict on whether an argument is accurate.

·        This should be done in as critical a manner as possible. Provide your opinion on the extent to which a statement or finding is true.

·        The key to tackling these question words is providing ample evidence to support your claims.

·        Ensure that your analysis is balanced by shedding light on, and presenting alternative perspectives.

·        State your conclusion clearly and state the reasons for this conclusion, drawing on factors and evidence that informed your perspective.

·        Also try to justify your position in order to present a convincing argument to the reader.

Review·        An answer to a ‘review’ question word should demonstrate critical examination of a subject or argument.

·        This is done by recapping or summarising the major themes or points in question, and critically discussing them while giving your opinion.

·        For example, you may be asked to review India’s electoral reform

o   You’ll need to give an overview of the topic and any major arguments or issues that arose from it. You then need to comment logically and analytically on this subject.

o   What do you agree or disagree with? What have other committees said about the subject? Are there any views that contrast with yours? What evidence are you using to support your assessment? Don’t forget to state your position clearly.

·        Review answers should not be purely descriptive; they must demonstrate a high level of analytical skill.

Discuss·        ‘Discuss’ question words typically require an in-depth answer that takes into account all aspects of the topic.

·        You must demonstrate reasoning skills with this type of question, by using evidence to make a case for or against a research topic.

·        Give a detailed examination of the topic by including knowledge of the various perspectives put forward by other views in relation to it.

·        What are your thoughts on the topic. Remember to clearly state your position based on all the evidence you present.

Examine·        A close examination of a topic requires that you establish the key facts and important issues concerning the topic by looking at them in close detail.

·        You should also try to provide some context on why the issues and facts that you have closely examined are important

Define·        Here, you must outline the precise meaning of the subject of the question. If the definition you provide is a contested one then make sure you mention this

·        It is important that you provide more than one meaning if there are several of them as it shows that you are very familiar with the literature.

Describe·        ‘Describe’ question words focus less on the basic meaning of something, therefore, and more on its particular characteristics.

·        These characteristics should form the building blocks of your answer.

Elaborate·        Here, you are required to provide a lot of information on a topic .

·        ‘Elaborate’ questions tend to elicit descriptive responses. Therefore. it’s important to demonstrate that you have done significant research on the topic to support the information you provide.

Explain·        ‘Explain’ questions expect you to basically clarify a topic.

·        When answering such questions, it helps to imagine you are writing for someone who knows absolutely nothing of the subject.

·        And remember two things. To provide details and to give definitions for any key terms when used.

Illustrate·        Such an answer will generally involve the use of many examples, such as tables, figures, graphs, or concrete research statistics and evidence.

·        The aim is to use these examples to demonstrate knowledge of the subject of the question and to further explain or clarify your answer.

Outline·        Outline answer requires you present an organised description of a topic.

·        It is imperative that you provide the main points only as opposed to focusing on the minor details. Remember to present your answer in a systematic and coherent way.

Compare·        When asked to ‘compare’, you must identify any similarities between two or more subjects of discussion.

·        You can go beyond making a basic comparison by trying to understand the roots of the similarities you identify, as well as their significance.

·        Furthermore, you may also want to emphasise any differences, although the focus of your answer should be on establishing similarities.


Few Tips:

  1. When you first read the question, always try to understand exactly what the question means and what it is asking you to do.
  2. Look at the question word(s) and think about their meaning before you launch into planning what to write.
  3. Remember to read the question several times and consider any underlying assumptions behind the question.
  4. Highlight the key words and if possible, make a very basic draft outline of your response.
  5. This outline does not have to be detailed. But if you follow it as you write, it will help keep your response coherent and systematic.
  6. It always helps to have a mentor to assess your answers for any errors or omissions.