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Essay Exam Key Words and Transitional Terms Reference Tool

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As a continuation of my previous post, 8 Test Taking Tips: Essay Exam , I thought it would be helpful to those who will be facing an essay exam in the near future or who shudder at the thought of taking one to create a quick reference tool itemizing key words and transitional terms.

Key Words Reference

First, identifying key words is extremely important. Key words are the clarifier, the clue as to how the question’s response should be angled.

In “8 Test Taking Tips,” I gave an example of the two key words “compare” and “contrast.” To the unprepared student, they look like the same thing. To the prepared student, one means find similarities and the other means find differences.



Key Word Examples:
ANALYZE-Break into separate parts and discuss or interpret.

COMPARE-Examine qualities or characteristics in order to discover resemblances. This usually refers to similarities more than differences.

CONTRAST-Show differences between two or more ideas, topics, concepts, etc.

CRITICIZE-Make judgments as to a given topic or evaluate its worth by backing up your statement with specific examples.

DEFINE-Give a clear, specific meaning.

DESCRIBE-Give a detailed account. Include characteristics and qualities.

DIAGRAM-Present a chart, plan, or graphic representation.

DISCUSS-Examine an issue and present or argue its pros and cons with details and examples.

ENUMERATE-List several ideas, aspects, events, reasons, etc.

EVALUATE-Give your opinion or the opinion of an expert. Include both advantages and limitations.

EXPLAIN-Clarify and interpret material presented, state “who,” what,” “where,” and “why.”

ILLUSTRATE-Give concrete examples.

INTERPRET-Comment upon, give examples, and describe relationships.

JUSTIFY-Give reasons or prove.

LIST-Present an itemized series.

OUTLINE-Give main points and necessary supplementary material, omitting details.

PROVE-Support with facts or evidence.

RELATE-Show how things interconnect.

STATE-Explain precisely.

SUMMARIZE-Give the main points or facts in condensed form.

SUPPORT-Back up statements with facts and proof.

TRACE-Show the order or progress of events.

This list was excerpted from: see link

Transitional Terms Reference

Secondly, tip number 6 in 8 Test Taking Tips: Essay Exam gave instructions on the importance of using transitional terms or wording that connect your main point and supporting details together in a fluid form. However, too many or too much of the same transitional word can overload and muddle your answer.

I have included a list of transitional terms that may help you:

Accordingly First of all Nonetheless
Additionally Followed by On the other hand
After that For that reason Once and for all
Afterward From now Originally
All the same From this time Plus
Along with Further Primarily
Also Furthermore Related to
And so Hence Secondly
Anyhow Hither to So
Anyway However So far
As a result In addition So therefore
As a final point In conclusion Still
At any rate In consequence Subsequently
At least In due course To begin with
At that time/moment In summary To end with
At the end of the day In the end To that end
At the outset In view of that Together with
Before I finish Initially Then
Before I go Irrevocably Therefore
Besides Lastly Thus
Conclusively Last but not least Thus far
Consequently Last of all Ultimately
Equally Likewise Until now
Even so More to the point Up til now
Eventually Moreover Well
Finally Nevertheless What is more
Firstly Next Yet

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