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Assessment & Feedback: Understanding your assessment task

Understanding the question

The first step to any assessment is to breakdown the question so that you can understand what is being asked and what you need to do.

You can do this by looking for the How? And the What?

HOW do you have to answer the question? 

Describe, evaluate, identify?

Can you identify the instructions words being used? 

Are you clear on what they mean?

WHAT are the key points you need to include?

The WHAT is the content/ topic –

What are the key words in your assessment?

Key Instruction Words

You are looking for key instruction words also referred to as task words, that can help you to understand what you need to do and what you are being marked on.

Here is an example of some key instruction words and what the action associated with them is:

Analyse Break down into the various parts and their relationships
Assess Decide the worth or value of a subject
Describe Give a detailed account of something
Discuss Look at various aspects of a topic, compare benefits and drawbacks
Examine Divide into sections and discuss each critically
Illustrate Give examples
Outline Explain a topic briefly and clearly
Relate Show how things are connected or similar
Suggest Make a proposal and support it
Summarise Deal with a complex topic by reducing it to the main elements (NB: ‘summarise’ and ‘outline’ are very similar)

Once you have identified the What and the How, your next step is to start planning your assignment. 

Follow this link to learn more about academic writing and the assignment planning process  

Further Reading