Finding Your Way: Analysing Assignment Questions for Success
October 6, 2023
Assessments play a pivotal role in evaluating and measuring a student’s comprehension, knowledge, and progress, providing valuable feedback for both lecturers and students. They serve as essential tools for identifying areas of improvement, guiding instruction, and promoting academic growth (Trumbull & Lash, 2013). As a student at SANTS Private Higher Education Institution, it is expected to complete multiple assessments in a short period; however, completing these assessments can be extremely overwhelming. Therefore, this blog will help you overcome the challenge by providing a step-by-step approach to unpacking a given instruction, question or statement.

When you face an assessment, the first step to success often begins with unpacking the given instruction, question or statement. It is key to grasp the assessment’s expectations before answering the question. This will help to structure your ideas and, in turn, ensure that you provide well-expressed answers (scoring more marks!). To ensure you are on the right track, consider the following key elements in any given question (Dison & Evans, pp. 75 – 77):

Step 1: Instruction Words: These action verbs guide you on what to do. Words like ‘describe,’ ‘explain,’ ‘analyse,’ or ‘comment’ are instruction words. They dictate the approach you should take to answer the question. For example, in the following question, “Explain the features of Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development in two paragraphs”, the instruction words are “Explain“. IDENTIFY and DRAW A CIRCLE around these words to ensure you stay focused on the core subject matter.

Step 2: Concept Words: These words revolve around the topic or knowledge you must demonstrate. They tell you what the question is about in your assessment. For example, in the following question, “Explain the features of Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development in two paragraphs,” the concept words are “Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development”. IDENTIFY and UNDERLINE these words to ensure you stay focused on the core subject matter.

Step 3: Representation: How you present your knowledge is crucial. The question might specify the format, such as list, use bullet points, or write in full sentences. Therefore, you need to understand the expected format and structure your response accordingly. For example, in the following question, “Explain the features of Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development in two paragraphs,” the form of representation is “in two paragraphs”. IDENTIFY and HIGHLIGHT these words to ensure you stay focused on the presentation of the answer.

By breaking down assignments using these key elements, you will gain clarity on what is expected, what knowledge to demonstrate, and how to structure your response. This analytical approach will empower you to tackle assignments with confidence and precision, setting you on the path to academic success. Remember, the first step to answering a question is understanding it thoroughly.

Let us see if you could use the step-by-step approach to analyse the following question:

LIST and DESCRIBE the elements of art.

The answer will be posted in the comment section soon!

Answer:

Step 1: Instruction Words:

Step 2: Concept Words:

Step 3: Representation:

Reference list:

Dison, L. & Evans, R. (2020). R-ALI 110. Academic Literacy. SANTS Private Higher Education Institution. Pretoria: BusinessPrint.

Trumbull, E., & Lash, A. (2013). Understanding formative assessment: Insights from learning theory and measurement theory. San Francisco: WestEd.

Author: Justine Odendaal

Lecturer: BEd Foundation Phase