Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Understanding Instructions

To complete a test, quiz, or even a basic assignment, following directions and understanding tasks is an important step in academic success.  If you do not know what is expected of you, strong performance is not likely. Knowing what words mean is critical for students.  The website "About Homework" is a wonderful resource for students and parents regarding this and other topics.  I have taken this basic information from an article titled, "21 Question Words from Tests."  You can view this article at www.homeworktips.about.com.

  • Analyze:  Explain a concept or process step by step.  This type of question is common in all subject areas, but it is most often asked in science and history courses.  An analysis question is usually an essay question rather than objective in nature.
  • Compare:/Contract:  Show likenesses and differences when you compare two events, theories, or processes. These questions typically appear in science, literature, and social studies courses but can also be found in many elective courses as well.
  • Demonstrate: If you are asked to demonstrate, you must provide proof of your answer by using an example. A demonstration could be a physical action, a visual illustration, or a written statement.
  • Diagram: Demonstrate your answer by drawing a chart or other visual element to illustrate your points. These questions are central to many courses, especially math and science.
  • Enumerate: Enumerating is providing a list in a particular order. When you enumerate a list of items, you may need to specify why items go in a particular order. This is often asked for on science and social studies tasks.
  • Examine: When asked to examine a topic, you will use your own judgment to explore (in writing) a topic and comment on significant elements, events, or acts. Most likely you will be asked to provide your opinion and explain how or why you came to your conclusions.
  • Explain: Provide an answer that gives a “why” response. This type of question is great for determining if a true understanding of a concept has been reached.  This is a question that is great for all subject areas but especially in science.
  • Interpret: This is an extremely challenging task as interpreting calls for the ability to read between the lines and draw conclusions based on what you read.  You will be expected to explain the meaning of an act, action, or passage in an interpretation.
  • Justify: If you are asked to justify something, you will be expected to use examples or evidence to show why (in your opinion) it is correct. You must provide reasons for your conclusions and opinions.
  • Prove: To prove an answer, you must use evidence (this could be numbers) or reasoning to solve a problem. Tests that require proof normally appear on science or math exams.
  • Relate: When you are asked to "relate" you are asked to show some sort of relationship between two items or events. This is a task often asked for on literature or social studies exams.
This is not a comprehensive list of task performance terms, but it is a list of the most common question that you will be asked to be able to do throughout high school.  These are critical thinking challenges. 

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