ESSAY QUESTIONS (EQ)

Christine. Bauer-Ramazani

To answer an essay question (EQ), students must assess

  1. the purpose of the essay question:

  • factual recall,

  • analysis (explanation of relationships)

  • synthesis (application/transfer of previously learned principles)

  • opinion

  1. How much information to include, repeat, restate (intro needed? details needed?).

The chart below outlines 4 main types of essay questions, the verbs/cues that indicate the type of essay question and its purpose, and the strategy to be used to answer it.

 


ESSAY QUESTION -- TYPE
 
VERBS / CUES DEFINITION / STRATEGY
  1. Factual Recall
   NAME, LIST, STATE, SUMMARIZE,
   OUTLINE
    Restate or summarize from your notes.
  1. Analysis / Explanation of Relationships

  EXPLAIN, DISCUSS  (Main ideas and Major supporting points)

  explain in detail, based on the
            information in a lecture or reading
Note: Do not express your opinion!
     use critical analysis
  use Cause/Effect; (C/E)
  use Comparison/Contrast (C/C)
  1. Synthesis / Application of previously learned principles

    ANALYZE, EVALUATE, EXPLAIN, PROVE, SHOW, JUSTIFY, ILLUSTRATE, COMPARE/ CONTRAST

  transfer the principles or material  
      learned in class to another example or
      situation (synthesis /think-question)

Note: Do not express your opinion!

  1. Opinion

    IN YOUR OPINION, ...

    WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ...?

  State your opinion and prove it with
            examples and/or supporting points by
            referring to information from a lecture
            or reading.

 

 

HOW TO ANSWER AN ESSAY QUESTION
Helpful Hints

  1. Read the questions very carefully at least 2 or 3 times.

  2. Circle  the main verb (= action verb/imperative) in the question and decide on the necessary rhetorical strategy for answering the question (cause-effect, comparison-contrast, definition, classification, problem-solution).

  3. Make sure you understand what type of answer the main verb calls for (a diagram a summary, details, an analysis, an evaluation).

  4. Circle all the keywords in the question.

  5. Decide if you need to write a 1-paragraph or a multi-paragraph answer.

  6. Write a brief outline of all the points you want to mention in your answer.

  7. Restate the question and answer it with a topic sentence (for a 1-paragraph answer) or a thesis statement (for a
    multi-paragraph answer). 

  8. Answer the question according to general rules of academic writing.  Use indentations; begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; support the topic sentence(s) with reasons and/or examples; use transition words to show logical organization; write a conclusion.  Use correct punctuation throughout.

  9. Read over your answer again and check if all the main ideas have been included.

  10. Check your answer for grammar and punctuation.

2005: Christine Bauer-Ramazani; last updated: July 03, 2014