Essay Questions

Essay Questions
Real
Guide To Essay-Type Questions
2R183
1995/02/14
Writing Essays
Prolific Writing
Writers' Block

Author:
Chris Thomas

Date:
1995/02/14


95% of essay questions contain certain words which reveal how much work is required for an "A" grade. For example:

  The neural activity patterns of some species of South American Tree
  Frog is significantly greater than that of the typical European
  computer scientist.  Discuss.

This article presents a fairly comprehensive guide to those key phrases, and the number of words you will need to write in such essay questions.

List

Number of Words: 20

Use no structure at all, simply list the points required. Extra marks may sometimes be given, by some lecturers, for fancy bullets. The shaded blue circle is always a favourite.

Identify

Number of Words: 50

As above, but attempt to link items in sequence, possibly giving a reason why. Bullet points may still merit additional marks.

Outline

Number of Words: 200

Here's where the real work begins. Identify the key points, but this time, say something apparently relevant about each. Crayons or thick marker pens do not usually work well with this question style.

Describe

Number of Words: 600

As above, but think about the exact words your lecturer used when presenting this topic in class.

Discuss

Number of Words: 2000

The most favourite essay question type. The good marks can only be achieved by voicing your own opinion on the subject matter. In the probable case when you don't have your own opinion, use the opinions stated by any of the recommended texts' authors. Be assertive; make it sound like you know what you're talking about.

Explain

Number of Words: 4000

As Discuss, but give more detail, using examples and colourful diagrams. Examiners always favour diagrams which have been given the "3D look." Don't forget the accepted format of essays (however stupid it may seem) which is - introduction, main body, conclusion - which really means, "say what you're going to talk about", "talk about it", and "say what you just talked about."

Prove

Number of Words: 5000

Kak yourself!  This is damn hard.  Carefully examine the question which
should give you the answer you need to prove.  Write down lots of
complicated math formulas, then write the three dots (meaning therefore)
and write down the answer (which you got from the question) and underline
it.  With any luck your exam paper will be in the middle of the pile.  As
the examiner becomes more bored, they read less and less of the answers.
By the time they get to your paper, they will only look at the last line
of your proof.  Therefore, Get Lots of Marks = True
                           ========================

Briefly Waffle

Number of Words: 10,000

Relax, this is much easier than it sounds. Write at speed, anything that comes into your head based on a few key words that you may remember from the lectures.

Waffle

Number of Words: 20,000

As Briefly Waffle, but this time note, that a bit of revision could not go amiss. It's a bummer, but that's life.

Waffle in Depth

Number of Words: 30,000+

This is often referred to in some texts as an ICD or "Information Core Dump." Write down everything you know about anything, making sure to find clever links to totally irrelevant topics.

Note that above statements may be appended or prepended by "in depth" or "briefly." Adjust our word estimate by +/-10% as appropriate.

Waffle is, obviously, a special case.


See also

Subtitle: 
Guide To Essay-Type Questions
Factuality: 
Real
PGG Author: 
Chris Thomas
PGG Number: 
2R183
PGG Index: 
Writing Essays
PGG Date: 
1995/02/14
PGG Xref: 
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