Study Tip: Describe, Explain, Compare, Discuss, Outline

I am sure you have seen these words at the start of short answer questions. Have you taken much notice of them? Do these words actually mean anything to you?

They are called action or reporting verbs and it is worth having a working knowledge of them.

Good answers to short answer questions usually have a structure. For example, an answer to a question about a drug might use headings like pharmaceutics, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics. The detail under each of these headings will depend on the action verb.

The Anaesthesia Training Program Curriculum (v1.6) provides some definitions (p16) but there are other sources for example here and here that are more informative.

Having your own easy to remember definitions will help you in the exam. Here are a few to get you started:

Describe – What

Explain – How and Why

Discuss – Multiple Whats and Whys

Outline – An organised description, usually with big picture points

Taking more notice of the action verbs in questions can help improve the structure of you answers and earn you more marks.

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