Answering Exam Questions


Compare is probably the easiest of the key terms to recognize and respond to. Fortunately, comparisons are also common on essay tests, so they're easy to practice. Compare basically asks the writer to take two or more objects, theories, events, concepts, applications, or explanations and show the similarities between them. One warning, though: when teachers use compare on a test question, they also often mean contrast, so don't forget to point out differences after you write out the similarities between items you're comparing.

Writing tip: Depending on the length and complexity of your response, you may find it easier to write everything about item A first and then to use that same sequence to write about item B. If you're not sure you can follow the same sequence in this block approach to comparison, then use a point-by-point method that allows you to make a point about A followed immediately by a point about B. Use clear transitions whether you adopt the block or point-by-point method so that your reader can clearly see how the similarities and differences relate to each item in your comparison.

Specific advice for OT students: The comparisons you're likely to focus on will be of theories or applications. Because theories are more general and applications are more specific, your comparisons may have to deal with both the abstract (theoretical level) and the concrete (specific client treatment). Practicing these complex comparisons will definitely make them easier to write.

Substitute key words: distinguish between (among), show similarities and differences

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