Broadly speaking, essay questions can be divided into four types. A different approach is required for the different types of questions.
With this type of essay writing, the writer should provide information on the essay topic without providing any commentary on it. It is unlikely, however, that university students will only be asked to provide a description; this is often just the first part of the question. In responding to these types of questions, all main points should be supported by relevant examples and/or credible evidence. The following are examples of the types of words you are likely to find in these types of questions: define, delineate, describe, explain, list, outline, present, state, summarize, trace.
If you are asked to answer questions on discussion essays, you should list the main points about your topic, analyze them and, if appropriate, discuss the consequences. With these types of essays, you should provide evidence in support of any observations you make. The following are examples of the types of words you are likely to find in questions of this type: account for, analyze, comment on, consider, debate, discuss, examine, explain, explore, illustrate, interpret, review, show.
With this genre of question, the writer needs to select material that they can use to develop an argument or a certain train of thought. Academic guidelines require the argument to be presented from both sides. Generally, you will be asked to draw a conclusion and to support your own viewpoint with reasoning or with discussion on the evidence. Questions related to this essay type are often considered the most difficult. The following are examples of the types of words you will find in discussion essay questions: comment on, criticize, critically analyze, interpret, justify.
With these types of questions, you will be asked to show the likenesses and/or differences between two or more items. Comparison essay questions may require you to describe, discuss or evaluate the topic, depending on the nature of the question. The following are the types of words you will find in these comparison essay questions: analyze, compare, contrast, debate, distinguish, show the similarities/differences.
Please Note: There are some types of essays that require the writer to do several tasks (or at least more than one). You might be asked to describe the theories or main organizational structures behind modern-day management practices and discuss how these are relevant to your field of expertise.