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Learning Resource Centre Guides: Understanding the Assessment Question

Understanding the Assessment Question

In order to answer any assessment question properly you must clearly understand what you are being asked to do.

There are usually 3 main parts to an assessment question

  • What you have to do: The task.  This is identified by the use of instructional or action words such as compare, discuss, analyze.

  • What the main topic is: The topic.  This is the general theme of the discussion.  Once you determine what you have to do i.e. the instructional word, then ask yourself “what do I have to do it to”?  This is generally the topic.

  • What the boundaries or main focus of the topic are. The boundaries.  This is the specific area or limitation of the topic which you need to focus on.


Question:  “Review the art of an international artist whose work has impacted on a New Zealand artist.  Describe the impact on style, materials used and the use of colour.”

Step 1. The task

Place a box around each instructional word.  The number of boxes is the number of tasks you need to undertake.

Step 2. The topic

Identify and underline the topic word(s).


Step 3. The boundaries

Bold the words which indicate the special focus or limitations placed on the topic.

What you will be required to do is

The ‘body’ of this essay or exam question will therefore cover two main sections

1.     Review the art of an international artist whose work has impacted on a New Zealand artist.

2.        Describe the impact [of this artist’s work] on the style, materials used and use of colour [on the work of a New Zealand artist].

Further Learning Centre Handouts relating to this topic:

Instructional Words

Essay Structure