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Assignment Comprehension

Video Resources

Video Resources

Assignment comprehension 

For more information assignment comprehension, take a moment and watch the following videos from York University and Lund University:

Video one: Transforming essay instructions

Video two: Navigating Jargon

Video three: Interpreting the task

It is important for writers to understand the keywords, pinpoint a question and know the parameters of the assignment.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long is the assignment?
  • When is it due?
  • What format is required?
  • Can I choose my topic or is one assigned?
  • Am I addressing all of the questions in the assignment?
  • What resources are needed to help me write?

When writing an assignment, try to ensure it has a focused and specific topic. The broader the focus, the harder it is to complete.

For additional support on Assignment Comprehension, download the Glossary of Task Words tip sheet or Writing an Answer tip sheet. 

Key instructional words



Account for

Explain the cause of the given topic.


Examine in detail the content or structure of something, usually by breaking it down into its separate parts.


Provide notes on the given topic or visual.


Comment on the value or effectiveness of the subject, including strengths and weaknesses.


You should give a written criticism or explanation, expressing a personal or professional opinion (The context of the question will tell you which is required).


Look for similarities between the two or more items that you are asked to compare. You may also mention the differences. It is important to be clear about what exactly you are being asked to compare.


Look for the differences between the two or more things that you are asked to contrast, and present systematically.

Critical analysis

Do not just describe. You have to consider and evaluate the content of the work and often apply it to your own experience or that of others. You might consider the strengths and weaknesses of the argument.


Make a considered judgement of something by examining the strengths and weaknesses, the advantages and disadvantages, the limitations and the strengths. Remember that you are expressing your own opinion, but any points that you make should be supported by evidence.


Provide meaning by describing the essential qualities using concise and clear language. While accuracy is very important, details are not required. You should also keep in mind whatever makes it different from all other objects or concepts.


Give a detailed account.


For a question which specifies a diagram, you should present a visual representation such as a drawing, chart, plan, or graph. You will usually have to label the diagram.


You should analyze the main issue(s) and carefully examine each part, then offer a final evaluation of the arguments (pros and cons).


You should list one by one, in a concise form, the points required.


Make a detailed assessment of the problem, including both advantages and limitations. Evaluation involves making a judgement about how effective, successful or useful something is.


Give a detailed account of the subject, providing evidence to support your reasons.


You are usually required to provide an explanation, referring to examples. You should also provide your judgment or reaction to the subject.


Comment on the subject, and give your judgment or reaction to the issue.


Provide a sound argument about the accuracy of a particular theory or conclusion. You should include reasons or evidence for your conclusion.


Listing is similar to enumeration. You should present your response in an itemized and concise format.


Systematically present the main points or principles of a subject, omitting non-necessary details and examples.


You need to show or demonstrate clearly your assessment of a subject or principle, providing either evidence or logical reasoning.


Your answer should establish the associations between subjects, and then describe the connections between them.


A review asks for a critical examination. You need to present your analysis of the subject in an organized sequence, including all of the major points.


Express the main points briefly but clearly; details such as illustrations or examples do not need to be included.


Outline the main points or facts, leaving out any details or examples.


Give an account of the development of the subject, from a particular point of origin.